Throw a check in your ungrateful bum of a brother’s face and put on your shades, darlings. It’s time to dive once again into the costumes of Feud to see what we can see. As with most shows, once we’ve firmly established the costume design motifs, we wind up just repeating ourselves near the end, but there were two interesting motifs that arose this week and the second one is really odd:
1. Women of Purpose
2. Joan Crawford, Ray of Sunshine
But first, let’s get to Joan Crawford, murderous movie star:
We have no idea if this is based on any actual Crawford look or not, but it works really well both as costume design for this TV show and as stage wear for Joan herself. You’ll pardon the term, but she’s as tarted up as we’ve ever seen her, to an almost gaudy extent – and this is after having seen her with silver powder in her hair. This is indicative of several things; the first being the growing tawdriness of her desperation and the second being the somewhat humble surroundings where she’s appearing. She may be desperate and this may be Oklahoma, but by God, Joan Crawford is going out there looking like a MOVIE STAR.
And also an axe-murderer, but she’s trying not to focus on that part.
Now, onto Motif #1: Women of Purpose.
Costume designer Lou Eyrich has been judicious in her use of black-and-white outfits, but she’s made sure to utilize it as a color motif at least once per episode. It’s pretty much one of Hedda’s signature looks (the other being wild pastels), and both Joan and Bette have gone to that well several times over the course of the series. Note the slightly business-like cast of Hedda’s look, with its lapels and white shirt. This is not a time for frivolities or sentiment. She’s dying and she’s willing to ruin one more life before she goes.
A similar feeling of take-no-shit, sentiment-free, high-contrast is found in Joan’s look when she goes to see her brother. It echoes Hedda’s because it’s a direct response to her threat, but also because it renders her serious and formidable. A woman with a purpose.
And it’s echoed again here, even though Joan is rather wildly overdressed for work in the middle of the day. Even with the fur and the sparkle, there’s a sense (backed up by the dialogue in this scene) of her needing to take charge and dispense with emotional issues. Of course it’s all bullshit on her part, because she’s an emotional wreck and Bette can see right through it, but it was an attempt to project a Hedda-like formidability she can’t quite pull off.
As for Bette, she’s dressed pretty much exactly how Bette dressed, and in keeping with most of her costume motifs; a simple, unfussy New England practicality – all sweaters and flats and pedal-pushers in response to Joan’s furs and jewels and heels.
It’s how she’s constantly distinguished from Joan. A woman of purpose, but also a barefoot artist more interested in the work than the glamour.
The second costume motif of the episode was one so unlikely and ironic that it almost becomes hilarious. Jessica Lange is gunning like crazy for that Emmy and this was the episode where she turned all her acting dials up to eleven. She’s a talented actress in any role, but give her a woman on the edge of her sanity, with a drinking problem and a cigarette addiction, and she’s living in her sweet spot.
Joan is becoming increasingly unhinged and her emotions getting increasingly raw and ugly as she ages and her career becomes more dire, but despite all that…
She’s just a big, bright ball of sunshine throughout it all. As noted before, Lou Eyrich likes to cycle through color stories in these episodes and this one struck us as both funny and a perfect summation of Joan Crawford’s approach to style. It’s all an act, put on for the public. And when you’re seething with rage, jealousy and desperation, it only makes sense to cover it all the harder with bright, sunny colors. If you’re Joan Crawford, that is.
[Photo Credit: FX – Stills: Tom and Lorenzo, FX]