In the second season of White Collar, which premiered last night on USA, master criminal-cum-FBI-consultant Neal Caffrey (Matt Bomer) holds court in the exceptionally tailored suiting and mod-proportioned shirts and ties that helped make the show a sensation in its debut. To mark the occasion, today Gilt MAN is offering items inspired by the show’s wardrobe in an exclusive sale, curated by White Collar costume designer Stephanie Maslansky—and, we’re excited to add, giving away free Brooks Brothers shirts (limited quantities).* Amid the hubbub, we caught up with Maslansky to talk classic cuts, lean lines, and the importance of well-wrought tailoring.
First of all, I have to ask about those collars. Before I’d even seen an episode of the show, the super-slim collars, ties, and lapels I saw on the posters became immediately recognizable. It seemed like a real statement.
The creator of the show, Jeff Easton, has a real appreciation for the look of the Rat Pack in the 1950s and ‘60s. He was really taken by the look of Frank Sinatra, Sammy Davis Jr., and Dean Martin. It was probably more their attitude than what they were wearing.
Well, it seems that a lot is being communicated about (Bomer’s character) Neal Caffrey’s appreciation for the finer things in life, his taste, by the fit of the clothes. It’s interesting and sensible, then, that they would spring from the almost decadent luxury of the Rat Pack.
Absolutely. You hit the nail on the head. Here is a shrewd criminal mastermind who did have a taste for the finer things in life. Right from the get-go Neal had a flair, and an eye for a certain style. He was very much into creating a look for himself. Neal Caffrey is not a fashion follower, but a fashion leader. He got out of jail and was immediately inspired by what he saw around him in New York. The first thing he did is go look for some clothes to wear. He bumps into this lovely woman named June who ultimately becomes his landlady and happens to have all these wonderful clothes that belonged to her deceased husband. So in the pilot, Neal wore vintage clothes from the Rat Pack era. And it looked great. I found though, going forward, that vintage didn’t offer me enough choice. As much as we loved the look from the ‘50s and ‘60s—the slim silhouette, slim ties, similar to what is happening now—there are differences. Nowadays men and women are more fit and conscious of their bodies, and also conscious of comfort—fabrics in the ‘50s were much heavier and itchier. And what is available now really has gone back to that classical look. I don’t know, are we ever going to go back to the ‘80s with baggy pants, huge shoulders, and wide lapels? Who knows. I was really inspired by the colors and saturation of colors available in the ‘50s.
Tell me about your use of color. There seems to be a real evolution there with palette in the second season. A lot of purples—lilacs and lavenders.
Right about that, too. I did start bringing in more color. I wanted to make his wardrobe stand out and put together unexpected combinations. I worked really hard when I was putting together his costumes, grabbing the suit, going through a lot of shirts, and I tried to give different combinations every time. We had a plethora of shirts at our disposal and many, many ties we picked up along the way—which we liked.
Who makes the suits and shirts and ties?
I found that, with the shape of Caffrey’s body, he fits beautifully into Paul Smith, Dolce & Gabbana, Simon Spurr, Calvin Klein, Gucci, and John Varvatos. He’s generally a 38-regular, but sometimes I’ll get him into a 38-short and the suit has that slightly shrunken, modern flair to it. It really kinda works.
As opposed to the Peter Burke character, who, too, does seem to have gone through an evolution (and I wonder if that isn’t a communication of the influence of Caffrey). He began the show as the dogged FBI agent and dressed as if clothes were the last thing on his mind.
Absolutely. He’s an FBI agent and his look is very traditional. When they first meet again he is accused by Neal Caffrey of wearing the same suit he arrested him in five years before. And it’s true; he’s basically been wearing the same suit for years—the same look, the same cut. Never really thought twice about his wardrobe (even though he’s married to a really fashionable lady). His uniform was dark suit, solid shirt, and classic tie. He started spending a little time with Neal Caffrey, and Peter’s sartorial taste has definitely improved. He still wears a lot of dark suits but they’re skimpier, the fabrics are finer.
Tell me about your tailoring.
The fit is something that is very important to me. We spend a lot of time with the tailor. We have a full-time, Savile Row-trained tailor on our staff. It is really, really important, in TV as well as in life, to have clothes fit properly. It makes all the difference in the world. And quality clothing, too—it is a wonderful thing to expand your horizons. Peter Burke started looking at Calvin Klein and Burberry suits—or rather, I brought them in for him—and he loved them. There is just such a difference in the fit. And Thomas Pink shirts…
I’m wearing a Thomas Pink shirt right now! I, too, have learned well from Neal Caffrey.
For a complete breakdown of White Collar‘s season 2 look, and tips on how to bring out the flair in your own wardrobe, check out Stephanie’s illustrated slideshow…