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The Undoing: The real killer of the series is Nicole Kidman’s wardrobe

Ahead of the series finale on Monday, Olivia Petter examines how a show about a brutal murder became a sartorial spectacle

Sunday 29 November 2020 13:17 GMT
<p>The green velvet coat in particular has divided viewers</p>

The green velvet coat in particular has divided viewers

It started with a coat. As Nicole Kidman glided through Manhattan’s crowded streets in the role of Grace Fraser in HBO’s The Undoing, it was hard not to be distracted from the programme’s murder mystery storyline and start Googling “green velvet coat”. But little did Ms Kidman, and the programme’s costume designer, Signe Sejlund, know quite how polarising said coat would soon become.

It’s an item that Ms Kidman wears numerous times in the series. Double-breasted, full-skirted, and with a large hood, it’s a coat quite unlike any other, which is perhaps why it makes sense that it was designed specifically by Sejlund for the show. While some have hailed the coat as “a standout exemplar of autumnal chic”, others have chastised it as “the biggest sin in the programme”. Whichever side you find yourself sitting on the #CoatGate debate, one thing is certain: this coat has caught our attention. And it wasn’t the only item of clothing in the series to do so.

Fashion critics have fawned over Grace Fraser’s luxe bohemian school run ensembles, which comprise everything from silk shirts to jewel-toned frocks, and are bolstered by her fiery red perm. This is quite a feat when you consider that the plot of The Undoing has absolutely nothing to do with fashion. In fact, it’s about the brutal murder of a young mother at an elite New York City school.

And yet, amid the bloodied chaos, fashion somehow takes centre stage. Ahead of the highly anticipated series finale on Monday, we take a closer look at some of Grace Fraser’s standout looks from the show so far.

The green velvet coat

It’s hard to pin down exactly why this one coat induced both the fire and fury of the fashion set. Perhaps its down to its countless idiosyncrasies. Was it the texture? Its odd wave-like pile creates offer a kind of algae-like aesthetic, one that is seldom seen on coats, or anywhere else for that matter. Or could it be that the slouchy hood frames Kidman’s face as she moves from one pained expression to another in her role as the wife of a potential murderer?

Perhaps it was the coat's unmistakable extravagance that proudly displayed Grace’s financial status. You can tell from the sheen of the fabric and the heaviness with which it hangs from her body that it’s expensive.

"I wanted her to be able to walk around New York and stand out and blend in at the same time," Signe told PopSugar of Grace’s unique aesthetic, one that underlies every one of her fashion choices.

"When you do a show like this, it has to be quite cinematic. And I think that's what you get from a coat that has such a volume and such length," she added.

The silk shirt

Luxurious, exclusive, and usually very expensive, silk shirts are the ultimate status symbol. Which is why, for Grace, a high-flying psychotherapist who lives in a Manhattan townhouse with her pediatric oncologist husband, silk shirts make sense. 

The loose-fit captures the same laissez-faire attitude suggested by her green coat, while the deep burgundy shade of this one brings a degree of opulence to the overall look of the shirt, especially when it’s worn with skinny jeans as it is here. This outfit is the ultimate lesson in effortless sophistication, and it’s a sensibility that suits Grace’s character to a tee.

The red velvet coat

Viewers are treated to not one but two fabulous velvet coats in The Undoing.

In several scenes, notably ones when Grace is feeling particularly stressed, she is seen walking with purpose around New York City wrapped in this crimson belted coat. With wide lapels, a textured exterior, and extra-long sleeves, it’s a similarly unique garment in terms of its design and the silhouette it creates.

The colour is important, too, Signe explains how she wanted to fill Grace’s wardrobe with jewel tones to evoke a sense of warmth. "It tells you she's a warm person compared to Franklin, [Grace’s father, who wears] more greys and blues, so [his wardrobe has a] colder tone to it," she said.

The purple smock

Another warm-coloured number that Grace frequents through the series is this full-length deep merlot smock. Complete with bell sleeves and a tight-fitting bodice, it’s a flattering fit that once again offsets the vibrant shade of Kidman’s curls. This is actually one of the few pieces that Signe did not design specifically for the series.

Instead, this dress is from British label Roksanda, which is famed for its sculptural designs that are usually in a single rich shade. With prices averaging at around £600, Roksanda is a sensible choice for an affluent woman like Grace.

However, the look would be incomplete - and noticeably less boho chic - without the loosely tied black floral neck scarf that she wears.

The multi-coloured gown

There aren’t many scenes in which we get to see Grace in her formalwear, but this is one of them. In the first episode, she attends a charity auction in a floor-length metallic pleated gown with a plunging cutout front. Fitted with cape-like sleeves and origami-like pleating, this multi-coloured gradient gown is one few will be forgetting in a hurry.

Not least because the bronze and silver shimmer of Grace’s gown is noticeably different from the monochromatic looks of her fellow school “moms”, whose ensembles are far less opulent.

Again, this piece was not designed by Signe and was instead sourced from Givenchy’s Resort 2019 collection. It was being sold on Matches for £7,101, however, it has now sold out.

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