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Small Screen Style: House of Cards

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A woman who makes badass decisions needs a badass wardrobe

As the intriguing, alluring wife of Kevin Spacey’s machiavellian politician, Robin Wright gave us 2013’s best dressed woman. Anna Hart is happy to see her again...

By far the most interesting thing about House of Cards’s scheming politician Frank Underwood is his wife, Claire. Two series in, we’re still desperate to understand Claire’s devotion to her slimy, philandering and often unlikable husband. What on earth has Frank got, that can captivate a woman of taste, style and substance like Claire?

Her cropped ice-blonde hair, her faultless way with a shift dress, her expertly chosen YSL and Mulberry handbags; this stone-cold fox is a mistress of minimalism and a masterclass in professional dressing. Her flawless wardrobe makes Wright mesmerising to watch, and it’s all too rare for a female character over the age of 40 to be given the opportunity to glow like Claire Underwood does. But Claire’s impeccable sense of style serves a deeper purpose: while we might question her broader tastes - in husbands, in employees she fires, in surreptitious hand-jobs - we never for a second doubt that she has it. No, Claire has good taste by the Mulberry-bag-ful; she knows what she’s doing.

In a conventional drama, the villain’s wife tends to be powerless to some degree; psychologically or physically trapped and at least partly kept in the dark. Claire, by contrast, is a power player, and we know that she’s looking at Frank with her eyes wide open. Every time she strides onscreen in an elegant camel cashmere coat, or a strapless metallic evening gown, we’re reminded that Claire is a woman who makes decisions. The right ones. She’s not one of life’s snivelling drifters; like Frank’s former lover, Zoe Barnes. Clad in her armour of cashmere and Calvin Klein, Claire is angular, enviable and untouchable. Sympathy, concern or pity would just rebound off her.

Claire’s immaculate taste is part of what makes House of Cards such thrilling, disconcerting viewing; it probes our understanding of right and wrong just as effectively as Frank’s unstoppable and undeserved ascent. We might not understand their decisions, we might even call these decisions morally wrong, but we also know that in this murky political world, Frank and Claire are always right.

Watch House of Cards on Netflix

Photos: Rex Features

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