‘The Dropout’ Reflects on Elizabeth Holmes’ Style Evolution

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‘The Dropout’ Reflects on Elizabeth Holmes’ Style Evolution

It essentially started with the turtleneck.

In Amanda Seyfried’s first fitting for her role as Elizabeth Holmes in “The Dropout,” the show’s costume designer Claire Parkinson focused on the infamous Theranos founder’s trademark top: a black Issey Miyake turtleneck to her idol Steve Jobs. pulled from the uniform. The shirt doesn’t appear until halfway through the Hulu series, scheduled to premiere on March 3, but, Ms. Parkinson said, “we needed to figure out where we were building.”

She had found a vintage Miyake turtleneck and dupe from dozens of other brands. In the end, she went with a semi-synthetic number from Wolford.

“There was a whole lot of vibe to it that she could play with,” said Ms. Parkinson, referring to the fiddling and finger-worrying she exhibited throughout the series, her jaws curled and eyes wide. Even as her voice deepens and her posture straightens, Hulu’s Elizabeth Holmes continues to look awkward and ugly.

“While I was applying her makeup, I would make Amanda accent her face,” said makeup artist Georgie Douglas, who reinterpreted Ms. Holmes’s Lumpy Mascara and Cakey Foundation.

Such details were essential to the creation of Ms. Holmes’ identity in Silicon Valley, from her initial investor meetings to her fraud trial, where she showed up with beach waves and a diaper bag. (Ms. Holmes was found guilty of one count of conspiracy and three counts of wire fraud, and will be sentenced in September.)

Elizabeth said, “Elizabeth Holmes is dressing herself, and we are dressing her as she is dressing herself.” Meriweather, the creator and executive producer of “The Dropout,” is adapted from the podcast of the same name. “There’s always a lot of emotional weight behind what she wears.”

The costume team crafted Ms. Seyfried as pieces that featured Ms. Holmes or were true to the location and time period of the story, from her Houston childhood in the 1990s until 2015, when the Stanford dropout Has become a biotech titan of billions.

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Her wardrobe is full of poorly fitting and unflattering secondhand pieces, which Ms. Parkinson, who was nominated for two Emmys for her work on “The Politician,” from eBay, Etsy, Depop, Poshmark and Costume Warehouse in Los Angeles where he and his wife live part-time. Items are monotonous, labels are practical: Banana Republic, J.J. Crew and so on.

Anna Ariola, a former Apple designer who worked at Theranos for some time and staged an image intervention with Ms. Holmes when she was his boss, met with the show’s writers’ room. “She told us the story of how when she met Elizabeth, she was wearing a Christmas sweater,” Ms Meriweather said. “We pressed him and we were like, ‘Real buck sweater?'”

It turned out that Ms. Ariola meant the Fair-Isle and snowflake patterned pullovers that appear on the show, before she swapped out for a shiny black replica of a Patagonia vest, hand-crafted by Ms. Parkinson’s team Was.

While the overall look of the production is immaculate and heavy on earth tones, Ms. Parkinson allowed the surrounding cast to stand out chicly in contrast to the central figure. Elizabeth’s mother Chanel and Tory Burch (Ms. Parkinson’s inspiration for her was Princess Diana), George Schultz (Sam Waterston) has a “beautiful bespoke” suit, and Ian Gibbons (British chemist played by Stephen Fry) wears sweaters and trousers. that telegraphs taste and integrity. “Every single character had a huge closet,” said Ms. Parkinson.

In her fitting with Ms. Seyfried, Ms. Parkinson sought to present something counterintuitive about the fit. “Most people look good in black,” she said. “So how can we not make it look good?” Her solution was to play with clumps, billowing and wrinkles.

Elizabeth’s wardrobe becomes more polished (with Gap, with Gucci!) as the show progresses, but the pieces still sit awkwardly on Ms. Seyfried. “My goal here was to show that it really is a dress,” said Ms. Parkinson.

She was hired to work on the show in March 2020. Due to the pandemic, filming did not begin for a year and a half, over which Kate McKinnon took the lead and Ms Seyfried stepped in.

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Separately, Ms. Parkinson married; Bought an 1860s home in Litchfield County, Conn.; and dealt with a case of COVID-19 in March 2021, which forced her to pull out of a project that was shooting in Atlanta and be replaced by her sister, Lily Parkinson, who was also a costume designer and personal stylist , forced to send.

When “The Dropout” began shooting in June 2021, Ms. Parkinson had spent more than a year contemplating Ms. Holmes’ inner life and outward appearance. Wearing a uniform in the form of armor has long been a favorite tactic of women seeking respect under the male-dominated patronage of Silicon Valley. While men are encouraged to telegraph their non-conformist credibility through sweatshirts and soccer slides, women face pressure to pull together, yet fashion agnostic.

Victoria Hitchcock, a Bay Area stylist, keeps a list of chic yet smart designers she recommends for female clients, including Row, Stella McCartney, and Saint Laurent. “I also have a list of designers I wouldn’t recommend wearing to my clients,” she said. “Things that are ultra-feminine and flowery” are not a big no-no.

“I’m wearing an Ulla Johnson blouse right now, but I wouldn’t put it on someone who wants to communicate confidence and wisdom,” said Ms Hitchcock.

Ms. Holmes’s uniform of choice, which would become a punchline, began as a sartorial Soylent for someone who couldn’t be bothered. The clothes were a nuisance to her, with a pre-turtleneck scene involving a pesky bra strap and a pair of scissors being dramatized to a point.

“‘Why’ was a word I kept asking myself,” Ms. Parkinson said of her time researching Ms. Holmes. “I was always like: ‘Why is he wearing that? They were all confusing choices.” But one image seemed most natural to her: Ms. Holmes at Burning Man, wearing a heavy coat with a furry collar and big pink sunglasses.

“The thing I liked about it is that it’s a dress, and it almost looks like she’s comfortable in it,” said Ms. Parkinson. “She is completely happy and in her own world.”

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