If you turned on Fox News any time during Roger Ailes's tenure as the chairman and CEO, you've seen the look: perfectly blown-out hair (usually blonde), a jewel-toned dress that hints at cleavage without really going there, lots of leg. Before he was ousted—the events of which the movie Bombshell, now in theaters, is centered around—Ailes famously issued a short-skirt dress code for the female anchors, among other problematic commentary on their appearance. (They wear pants now.)
It's all so ridiculous and dated that it sounds like a joke—which, of course, presented an interesting challenge for Bombshell costume designer Colleen Atwood. How do you create the "Fox News Look" without making the women look like a complete caricature? Turns out, you...watch a lot of Fox News.
Here, Atwood breaks down her process.
Glamour: So, tell me about the research you did going into this.
Colleen Atwood: Well, it was a lot of watching tons and tons of news footage and looking at pictures of news people. And then I went to a couple of news offices and walked through them. I also hung out a little bit outside of Fox News in New York, just watching people come and go to work to get the vibe for Margot Robbie's character.
And then I went to work. We had a lot of footage we had to match on the actors, so I made a lot of clothes for the movie that actually matched what people wore. I also took from what I saw and created the rest of their on-camera looks based on that. There was a great interview of Gretchen Carlson at home that happened after the whole thing, and she was in a soft cashmere-looking country vibe. So that gave me an edge on Nicole Kidman, for when she wasn't at the station anymore.
When you were going into the newsrooms and observing outside of Fox News, was there anything that surprised you? Or maybe challenged a preconceived notion you had going into this?
Well, the news rooms I went to were smaller. I never went to Fox News—that would have been not allowed. The way people dressed didn't surprise me; I was more intrigued by the way the news all happened. But the people were a little more casual than I thought they'd be, to be honest. I thought they'd be more professionally dressed, and they were more relaxed in their attire than I expected. But I also wasn't at Fox, which may have a stricter dress code. I don't know.
Were there any particular challenges doing this film?
We didn't have a lot of time, which is always challenging. Also, transforming a guy like John Lithgow into Roger Ailes is always...you want to get it right. You don't want it to be cartoony. You want it to feel like a human being. That journey is always a challenge because have to refine what you start with a lot of times. You tend to start with it bigger than it needs to be and then pull back and get it to look more realistic. Nicole also wore a weight suit in the movie, because she's much smaller than the character we were depicting. We built all the clothes over that body instead of Nicole's normal body, which isn't normally what you do in a movie. With Charlize, it was so many changes because Megan is in it a lot. On the page, it didn't feel like the number of changes it really was once we got into to doing the movie. So those were the biggest things to get right. It was fast paced. We changed the characters a lot of times, three or four times during the day, just to keep pace with the story. It's good because it doesn't make it boring, that's for sure. You're always doing something. With this cast, they were just such powerful performers that we moved through the material quickly.
How much Fox News did you have to watch coming into this?
A lot. More than I've watched in my entire life. It was very compressed. You know, we had loops of it. You just kind of got used to it in that way, which was funny.
How would you describe the quintessential Fox News look—for women especially?
The look I was going for was a dress that's body conscious just enough. It's not too short, but short enough that when they sat down, you got a shot of someone's leg. Necklines were inviting, but not obvious. It's sort of like sexy without being obviously sexy, which Roger really understood—that it's good to leave enough to the imagination, but suggest. That was where we went with it.
I love the scene where they go into the dressing room and you realize there's a Fox News anchor uniform.
That came from a real picture that I saw, a real research picture of somebody in their office. It seems that those people don't work in those clothes all day long, so that was sort of how they did it.
Do you have a favorite look or scene?
The scene in the first trailer of the three of them in the elevator is so powerful. I really like that a lot. And I think that the devastating scene of Margot and John is an incredible scene in the movie. You know, it's a movie that's not about clothes. They just have to be believable. So it's not like I had a big costume moment in the movie, but I really enjoyed working on it.
Margot's character goes through the biggest story arc with her character. Is there any way you translated that with her clothing?
I tried to. She starts as coming from the South, so I made wraparound dresses that kind of looked like what somebody who doesn't know better thinks is really classy. Simple, younger things. And then, she's a quick study, so when she looked around her and saw what everyone else was wearing, she gradually stepped it up. She always had the little slightly Christian vibe to it. There's a modesty and restraint to her, and I think her performance reflects that. It helps make the moment that she [has with Ailes] even more horrible.
I'm curious with the shoes, was there a specific heel height or anything in sourcing those?
High. Nothing was under three inches, let's put it that way. Margot's had a slight platform, because she was standing next to two women who are six feet tall in their bare feet. Charlize and Nicole were in three-and-a-half inch, and Margot was probably in three-and-a-half inch but with an inch platform. They were in very high shoes, and they all wore them really bravely the whole time. Sometimes people are like, "Oh God, do I have to wear those?" But they were great. They went for it. They were so into it, and their support of each other was tremendous.
Anna Moeslein is a senior editor at Glamour.
Originally Appeared on Glamour