Power Suits, Fluidity and Fashion in 'The Politician'


Ryan Murphy is the modern Midas of über producers and showrunners. Not only that, Murphy has managed to capture and elevate the varying queer experiences in most, if not all, of the shows he’s produced to date. After the revolutionary first two seasons of Pose, which made history a few weeks ago when Billy Porter became the first openly gay black actor to win for Outstanding Lead Actor in a Drama Series, it didn’t go unnoticed when Porter listed whom he’d like to thank for helping him get there, pausing in the speech to use some very important repetition: “Ryan Murphy, Ryan Murphy, Ryan Murphy.” 

With Murphy released from his super production deal with Fox, he’s now got full creative control in a new production deal with Netflix. And girl, this is what we need right now. Fans have been eagerly awaiting the premiere of Murphy’s latest, The Politician. Oof, and did he deliver. We’ve already seen think pieces on what this show is reflecting as far as the current political climate, the Paltrow stans who just refuse to go away, what the show has done for LGBTQ+ representation, specifically in the careful nonchalance we should be giving all of us who identity as queer, queer, queer. But I’m here to talk about the power suits, ok? 

For anyone who had to wear a uniform while they were in their formative years: I truly mourn for you. Because what is so enthralling and even endearing about fashion in these years is that it stems from pure creativity and experimentation. And the costume designers on The Politician set knew exactly how to get it right. 

The characters in The Politician are mostly rich, white, and blonde, (this seems like a strategic move on Murphy’s part i.e. politics in general) which means the only characters effectively looking like shit are Infinity Jackson and her Adam Driver-looking boyfriend Ricardo. Besides these two, these Santa Barbara-ites are pulling out all the wealthy AF stops in their wardrobes. But what is particularly interesting about their fashion choices is that they reflect the individual fluidity in their sexual and gender identities, and many of them morph as their preferences and desires are illuminated. 

By character, here’s who has us particularly shook by their garb. 

Payton Hobart, played by Ben Platt 

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Payton’s wardrobe is at first quite preppy, implementing pastels, polos, and sweater vests as he tries to hide his relationship with crush-of-the-century, River Barkley. Even Payton’s car is somewhat a part of his style, a classic and no doubt wildly expensive european convertible, often fitted with only one red leather seat (a metaphor for his internal loneliness). However, there are some turns taken in his wardrobe at especially telling plot points. He’s a consummate turtleneck enthusiast, switching effortlessly from mock to full (really, a masterclass) especially post-breakup with the self-proclaimed ice cold bitch, Alice. His clothes in the season finale reflect his new New York persona as an alcoholic piano player and very single bisexual person--dark clothes that don’t see him as meticulously put together because what would be the point?

Hobart Highlight: My favorite Hobart fashion choice in all of season one is his tailored-to-perfection red suit on the day of the presidential election. No one wears a suit like that unless they’ve already planned an acceptance speech. 

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Georgina Hobart, played by Gwyneth Paltrow 

First of all, ugh, Paltrow is ageless and this is perhaps the perfect choice of actor for a WASP with a heart of gold and a longing for a simpler life with her androgynous horse trainer. Georgina has some of the most show-stopping fashion of all the characters, (Paltrow’s husband is Brad Falchuk, hello?) and this shows through in her grappling with the ultimate question: to be or not to be rich and depressed? Georgina’s hyper-straight looks are opulent. It’s clear she owns everything. In fact, in most scenes, Georgina is wearing a ring on every finger but her thumbs. Her look at the charity gala, at which she starts her affair with Brigitte, is out of a period piece. In fact, she wears many a gown when she’s in the presence of her very straight and very short husband. When she’s dressing for herself we see her more casual, albeit still looking just as expensive (that yellow kaftan in the first episode?). She commands a room -- after all, it is her riding pants that convince the apathetic voter to even try to get to the polls. 

Hobart Highlight: Georgina trims roses in the Hobart’s lush garden while wearing a full-length sleeved ball gown in power red complete with a wide-brimmed hat to protect the goods. Honestly, I saw this look and thought I should just see myself out. 

McAfee Westbrook, played by Laura Dreyfuss 

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McAfee’s outfits are literally why I’m writing this. I needed to tell someone about the range of feelings I have about her suits. McAfee seems nondescript when she’s surrounded by much louder characters--with races to win and people to fuck over and pay off (although Dreyfuss did have the honor of getting paid to be yelled at by Bette Midler). As low key as she may seem, her outfits are anything but. Not only is she rocking the suit better than anyone on screen, (sorry to the Hobarts) but this is couture, honey. We don’t learn that McAfee is secretly hooking up with Payton’s vice presidential opponent, Skye, the nonbinary and honestly pretty sociopathic achiever that will stop at nothing, until close to the climax of the season, but even before that we knew she wasn’t straight. Those suits are for the fluid only. Bright, subdued, patterned, belted, short, or billowing, McAfee always arrives looking like the imaginary girlfriend I want to share a closet with. She’s also the only one bringing in especially bright and transparent sunglasses to tie everything together like we’re not already here for it. Whether she completes the look with platforms or sneakers, McAfee has my vote and she’s not even running. 

McAfee Highlight: I’m still very fucked up by the double-breasted pastel pink suit with wide pant legs worn in episode six, though it can be argued that I still haven’t gotten over the patterned suits with shorts, either with a light blue mock turtleneck underneath, or a t-shirt that says “Give a Damn.” I give a lot of damns. 

*Please respect my privacy at this time, I’ll be grieving these lewks until season two. 

Dakota is a poet, journalist, and right in the damn center of the Kinsey scale. Follow her on Twitter: @Likethestates.