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“Where can I buy Nicole Kidman’s green coat in The Undoing?” was my first Google search. “Who makes Nicole Kidman’s cape in the auction scene of The Undoing?” came second. And then, finally, my quest turned on the belted textured Bordeaux.
The search results finally came up when I got The Undoing’s costume designer Signe Sejilund on the phone in Denmark. “I get so many emails and Facebook messages exactly like this,” she tells me.
I wait with a pen in hand to record the name of the designer and a link to click "purchase."
“And well, I’m sorry, it’s not possible. I made those three pieces for the character of Grace Fraser. They are now only available in the storage area of the HBO archive.”
The focus on the coats, and on Kidman’s specifically, is intentional. The green—though it might have the appearance of sheared fur, is designed from a heavily textured fabric—not often used in coat design, which was chosen for its striking color, as was the deep red coat. “Grace [Fraser, Kidman’s character, whose husband is accused of murder] is different from the other Upper East Side's very rich women in the show," says Sejilund. "She wears autumnal colors. She is more mysterious and not so easy to read as opposed to Sylvia.”
Sylvia, the high-powered lawyer portrayed by Lily Rabe, is wardrobed in expensively discreet tailored neutrals by designers like Max Mara. “Sylvia is that perfect image of the Upper East Side. Grace is deeper.”
And with each coat choice for Grace, Sejilund took the opportunity to layer tones and textures as indicators of who Grace Fraser is and where she comes from.
“The gloves and the scarves, that’s what truly complete an outfit. For Grace they are her perfection," Sejilund continues. "She has such good taste, she looks like a woman who grew up surrounded by music and art, as we know from the show she did. But along with this perfectionism, comes this wild hair. She is a complex character, and we put all these elements into her wardrobe.”
Character development was one inspiration, practicality was another. “She walks in New York and the show is also about the bustle of the city. She needed heavy coats to get around the city! And she walks by herself.”
Grace’s need to self-protect is evident to anyone who has watched the first four episodes of The Undoing. Sejilund translated the character’s identity as one who was fragile but needed to cover herself—a woman seemingly betrayed by her husband but still trying to protect him—by dressing her in silks and blouses that were somewhat romantic but still very covered up.
“Her wardrobe is very high-necked. But she will wear a silk shirt with a bow against a pencil leather skirt. There is always contrast. You can’t quite figure her out.”
I resisted— as someone who has played The Undoing Whodunnit guessing game with almost everyone I spoke to this week— reading too much into every wardrobe choice, and had a few more questions for Sejilund. First: Grace Fraser’s rings? One on almost every finger?
“You see a lot of those rings on purpose. Her hands are close to her face a lot and I wanted you to see gold next to her wild hair and beautiful skin. One of those rings is the face of a lion. They all look custom. They are by a Danish jeweler named Rebecca Elbek. You can see them on her site! Her wedding ring is classic Cartier, of course.”
And that embroidered cape Grace wears to the school auction, the one I thought might be Dries Van Noten?
“Sorry I made that too,” the costume designer—who has collaborated with The Undoing director, Susanne Bier, for about 28 years—tells me. “It is an almost like a Japanese metallic embroidery. She leaves the event and walks around New York and she needed to have something over the Givenchy gown. Something a little mysterious and not what the other woman would wear. And it needed to work at night, it had to reflect.”
And finally, the visit to Rikers, to visit her accused husband in jail. Why the green coat and not something maybe a bit more subtle?
“That green coat is heavy, and it has a hood. She never uses it but she could. If for any reason she needed to protect herself. But we never had the character use it,” explains Sejilund.
Why, I begin to wonder? Would it be too much of a clue? No luck with any spoilers here.
“We thought it might be too French Lieutenant's Woman.”
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