Frank Underwood’s Cream Linen Suit

Kevin Spacey as President Frank Underwood in "Chapter 33" of House of Cards (2015).

Kevin Spacey as President Frank Underwood in “Chapter 33” of House of Cards (2015).

Vitals

Kevin Spacey as Frank Underwood, ruthless and calculating U.S. President

Gaffney, SC, August 2015

Series: House of Cards
Episode: “Chapter 33” (Episode 3.07)
Streaming Date: February 27, 2015
Director: John Dahl
Costume Designer: Johanna Argan

WARNING! Spoilers ahead!

Background

The Week of Weddings comes to an end with a subdued renewal of vows for that coldest of TV couples, Frank and Claire Underwood.

“Chapter 33” is a particularly meditative episode for a show that has found its lead character throw another major character in front of a train. The episode uses the creation and subsequent destruction of a Hindu mandala to tell the story of the unorthodox Underwood marriage. While political murders and extramarital affairs aren’t enough to kill their marriage, the President and his wife find themselves more divided than ever after the events of the previous episode. It’s significant that they return to the original church in Gaffney where their formation was created in order to rejuvenate their relationship, and it’s while talking to Yates in front of their first home together that he can admit:

I can tell you this, though, there would have been no White House without Claire.

Of course, Gaffney was also the place where Frank Underwood was created, and it is here – through the increasingly less biased eyes of biographer Thomas Yates – that he is as removed from his ruthless political self as possible. He is disarmingly introspective and charismatic, pouring out stories and wisdom though it were from a bottle of bourbon in his office.

What’d He Wear?

As a son of South Carolina, Frank Underwood assumes the role of the ultimate Dixie gentleman for his pilgrimage to his hometown, sporting the Southern summer classic of an off-white linen suit. The actual cream linen suit worn by Underwood was custom-made and tailored for the production by the show’s costume designer Johanna Argan.

Mr. and Mrs. Underwood.

Mr. and Mrs. Underwood.

The suit’s single-breasted jacket has slim notch lapels – with a buttonhole through the left lapel – that roll to the top of the two-button stance. It has a welted breast pocket, straight flapped hip pockets, and double vents.

The wrinkles in Frank's linen suit evoke the wrinkles in time that take him back to his roots in Gaffney. (This is a stretch. Linen just happens to wrinkle very easily.)

The wrinkles in Frank’s linen suit evoke the wrinkles in time that take him back to his roots in Gaffney. (This is a stretch. Linen just happens to wrinkle very easily.)

Prior to the vow renewal ceremony, Frank pays a visit to his tailor. The tailor advises, “I want to take the sleeves up a touch,” but Frank refuses. “Oh, I think they’re perfect,” he responds. Of course, the wise tailor was correct as the sleeves – which have roping at the heads and 3-button cuffs at the ends – are certainly too long.

Even the President needs to listen to his tailor.

Even the President needs to listen to his tailor.

Frank’s suit trousers have a flat front and a medium rise to just below his waist. He often places his hands in the trouser side pockets, and both back pockets are jetted – although only the left one has a button. The trousers have a comfortably large fit, as linen is uncomfortable when too tight, and plain-hemmed bottoms.

HoC307FUw-CL1-Trou1

Frank wears a dark brown leather belt through his trouser loops. The belt has a decorative rectangular single-claw buckle in polished steel.

Frank takes Yates to his old homestead.

Frank takes Yates to his old homestead, where both unravel a secret or two.

The styling and tailoring of the suit are very similar to the blue linen suit that Underwood sports when he returns to the Oval Office in the following episode, “Chapter 34”.

Frank’s plain white cotton dress shirt looks stark against Spacey’s warm complexion and the buttery cream linen of the suit. Although white can sometimes be unflattering for this combination, it serves here as a subtle reminder to both Yates and the audience that this man exploring his small town roots can’t cover up his dark, sinister self with just a brightly-colored suit.

Frank Underwood shows just how versatile a white shirt can be.

Frank Underwood shows just how versatile a white shirt can be, looking totally different with off-white linen than with a dark business suit.

The shirt has a front placket and no breast pocket. The collar appears to have concealed buttons that fasten it close to the shirt; at least the right one appears to be fastened while the left one sometimes hangs free. The aforementioned long sleeves of the jacket cover the wrists, but the shirt appears to have plain button cuffs.

Frank’s undershirt is his usual white cotton crew neck short-sleeve t-shirt, which he wears without his dress shirt when visiting his tailor.

Frank follows one of the better-known rules of fashion by matching his belt and shoes; he wears a pair of dark brown leather cap-toe bluchers with brown socks.

Strutting around the old family home...

Strutting around the old family home…

Even the President’s watch adheres to the earthtone guidelines of the outfit. Spacey, an IWC ambassador, wears only IWC wristwatches in his role as Frank Underwood, and this watch appears to be a yellow gold IWC Portuguese 7 Day Power Reserve with a white dial and two white sub-dials, worn on a dark brown leather strap. This watch first appeared halfway through the second season when Frank Underwood was still Vice President Frank Underwood.

Frank wears both his class ring and his wedding band, and it’s worth noting that each ring holds regional significance in this episode. His class ring from “The Sentinel” is based on the gem-less, heavy 10-karat gold ring worn by graduates of The Citadel, a military college in South Carolina. The year “1981” was seen inscribed on Frank’s ring when he buried it in “Chapter 18”, eight episodes before receiving a replacement from Claire as a pre-birthday gift. He wears his Sentinel ring on the third finger of his right hand.

On the third finger of his left hand, Frank wears the plain gold wedding band that he first wore when marrying Claire in that same church in Gaffney.

Go Big or Go Home – Wedding Edition

Not quite a wedding since they’re actually renewing their vows (and a lot of good that does), the Underwoods return to the same church in Gaffney, South Carolina where they were originally married 28 years earlier.

The "happy" couple.

The “happy” couple.

How to Get the Look

Frank Underwood is certainly more at home in a dark political power suit, but he knows he has to play the part of the authentic Southerner when returning to Carolina. Plus, cream linen is very comfortable in the heat of a Dixie summer.

HoC307FUw-crop2

  • Cream linen custom-made tailored suit, consisting of:
    • Single-breasted jacket with slim notch lapels, 2-button front, welted breast pocket, straight flapped hip pockets, 4-button cuffs, and double rear vents
    • Flat front trousers with belt loops, side pockets, jetted back pockets, and plain-hemmed bottoms
  • White cotton dress shirt with concealed-button collar, front placket, and button cuffs
  • Dark brown leather cap-toe bluchers
  • Brown dress socks
  • Dark brown leather belt with polished steel single-claw buckle
  • IWC Portuguese 7 Day Power Reserve wristwatch with round gold case, white dial with two white sub-dials, and brown leather strap
  • Gold “Sentinel” class ring
  • Gold plain wedding band
  • White cotton crew neck short-sleeve undershirt

Do Yourself a Favor and…

House of Cards was one of the early shows to help establish Netflix as a TV force to be reckoned with, but traditionalists can still pick up the first, second and third seasons on DVD. And keep an eye out for season 4, premiering on Netflix on March 4!

The Quote

Hard work is only worth it in the right conditions.

Footnotes

Appropriately enough for this Presidential post, I’m in Washington D.C. for the weekend with my sister and her husband to see Oh Hello at the Warner Theatre. For anyone who doesn’t know, Oh Hello finds Nick Kroll and John Mulaney reprising their Kroll Show characters as two cantankerous New Yorkers who try much too hard to “prank” their guests with Too Much Tuna.

5 comments

  1. Johanna

    Hi, this was sent to me by my assistant who got this from a friend. I’m the designer for House of Cards and I custom made Frank’s suit. It was not purchased from Ralph Lauren. It was made in house with custom fabric and tailoring. So I’m not sure what you mean when you say confirmation. It’s frustrating for designers when misinformation is given especially relating to their work. If you have any fact checks about the wardrobe on house of cards please email me at this private email address. Thank you for your interest in our show.

    Like

    • luckystrike721

      Thanks Johanna! I’m away right now (in DC, actually), but I quickly revised the post from my phone. When I get back to my home computer, I’ll dig up the source sites I had found originally and send them to you so they can be corrected as well. I will be in touch soon, but I appreciate you reaching out and your fantastic work on the show.

      Like

  2. mickc

    Great series, and great clothes! Brilliant that the show’s designer takes the trouble to post a response.
    And btw, a really good site about clothes and design.

    Like

  3. Omar

    Could be something like magnetic collar stays( http://wurkinstiffs.com/collections/power-stays) rather than concealed buttons. The screen worn collar is very straight and some shots even show what appears to be a rigid collar stay, which wouldn’t be present on a concealed button collar. A concealed button collar, at least all the ones I’ve seen, have a soft collar like any button down collar with no collar stays pockets. A magnetic collar stay uses a ferrous stainless steel collar stay with a button sized neodymium magnet used inside the shirt to keep the collar tight and where you want it.

    Here’s a pair in use.

    Like

  4. Pingback: Inauguration Suits of Every U.S. President | BAMF Style

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