Steal His Style: Exclusive Interview with Costumer Designer from USA’s Hit Show “White Collar”

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This season, fashion has taken a trip in the DeLorean to visit the 1940s, ’50s, and ’60s.  Collections abound with classic ladylike silhouettes and modern versions of the classic gentleman.  One of the best examples of this “Modern Gentleman” is Matthew Bomer’s character Neal Caffery on USA’s hit show “White Collar.”  For those not familiar with the show you need to catch up!  (The complete season 1 is available on DVD).

Here’s a crash course:  “White Collar is about the unlikely partnership of a con artist and an FBI agent who have been playing cat and mouse for years. Neal Caffrey (Matt Bomer) a charming criminal mastermind, is finally caught by his nemesis, FBI Agent Peter Burke (Tim DeKay). Rather than returning to jail, Neal suggests an alternate plan: He’ll provide his criminal expertise to assist the Feds in catching other elusive criminals in exchange for his eventual freedom.” Neal is smart, sexy, charming and a little dangerous!  All the things women love!  The perfect Modern Gentleman.

I spoke with Stephanie Maslansky the Costume Designer for “White Collar” about Neal’s style:

Q: How would you describe Neal Caffrey’s Style?
SM: Neal’s look is rooted in the Rat Pack Era of the mid 1950s to ’60’s. Icons of charismatic cool–Dean Martin, Frank Sinatra , and Sammy Davis Jr, adopted the look. Their appeal was a particular brand of charm and wit–an overall attitude reflected by a new approach to style presenting a fresh, slimmer silhouette.  Today the attitude and silhouette have been refined for modern times.  Neal Caffrey exudes confidence and sophistication and has embraced the style as his creative influence, favoring fedoras, slim ties, suits and shirts tailored to appear custom- made.

Q: Neal’s wardrobe is always smart but manly.  How do you keep the fashion forward edge but not make him look like too much of a dandy?
SM: It’s important that Neal is sharp and sexy, not metro. Neal is comfortable knowing that his look sends the right message. Details, graphics and colors complement one other; no element overwhelms the costume.  T-shirt and sweater necklines are not too scooped and shirt collars are neither too small or too large.  It has a lot with proportion.  Ties, lapels and pant legs are the correct width.  Too wide or too slim can be foppish and distracting.  Pocket squares are controlled.  The fit of everything is the key.

Q: How can viewers incorporate Neal’s style into their wardrobe repertoire?
SM: The Rat Pack look embraced by Neal Caffrey has been popularized- first at the couture level and then by ready-to-wear.  Neal currently wears Paul Smith, Gucci, Dolce & Gabbana, John Varvatos, Thomas Pink, and Calvin Klein.  He wears flat-front trousers and 2-button jackets.  He favors vintage cuff-links and tie bars.  He has a great collection of felt and straw fedoras.  Viewers can also find these looks for less money, if they shop wisely.  Discount stores, consignment and thrift shops, sample sales and flea markets are good places to start.  Department stores have great sales at the end of a season.  Its worth the money and effort to have a jacket sleeve and trouser correctly tailored.

Q: If a viewer was to purchase 1 key piece to get Neal’s style what would it be?
SM: Neal’s Fedora  is his signature accessory.

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