• Fashion

Dressing for “The Undoing”

The Undoing is set in the heart of New York City. The main characters, Grace and Jonathan Fraser, – played by Nicole Kidman and Hugh Grant – live on the rich Upper East Side, where women and men take luxurious designer brands for granted as part of their wardrobe. But Danish costume designer, Signe Sejlund, wanted Grace Fraser to have her own very special look and went boho-chic and Seventies-tinged for the therapist, who seems to know what is good for other people but not herself. Along with director Susanne Bier, also a Dane, she brought her own touch to the costume design and gave it a bit of a subtle Scandinavian. We spoke to Signe Sejlund by phone from Copenhagen.

“Her hair is wild and red and almost functions as a costume,” says Signe Sejlund about Grace Fraser’s curly red hair. “This picture is from a very important day in the story. Grace is at a fundraising meeting and it is the first day she meets Elena; it’s one of the first outfits we see her in. So, I needed to tell the audience who this woman is but without saying too much about her. Even though Grace grew up in the Upper East Side of New York and is so very rich, she comes from old money and grew up in this world, so she does not have to show off. She has a very particular individual style, which is a tiny bit bohemian. I dressed her in purple because I used autumn colors as it is winter in New York at the time. Her jewelry is also different from what most women in this upper-class world wear and again, she has her own way of putting things together.”

Signe Sejlund enjoyed working with Nicole Kidman, who was an easy collaborator.

“She is such a beautiful soul and she is very easy to work with. She just gets it. You have a fitting with her, and she looks at you and understands where you want to go, and this is wonderful.”




“I wanted her to almost look like a Greek goddess,” says Signe Sejlund. “I needed to make ten of those dresses because of what happens to the poor woman in The Undoing, so I could not find a secondhand dress for her, which I would have preferred. This dress could look like a secondhand dress in my opinion. Elena needed to be extremely sexy and at the same time, her dress needed to reflect that she is entering a world that she is definitely not a part of. Her jewelry is really inexpensive, and I think the necklace cost about $10 and the dress is $150, so it is cheap but because she has this gorgeous body, everything looks amazing on her. Her hair is wild, and she almost looks like a savage.”




“This red fake fur has so much shine in the fabric that she can stand out in a crowd when she is walking in New York. The color works well with her hair. I wanted to make a jacket with that fabric but I could not find enough of it and so I found a Max Mara coat and took several coats apart in order to remake it into a different cut, so it is way longer than the original Max Mara coat. It is amazing what this coat does color wise in the daylight.”


Hugh Grant as Jonathan Fraser, a well-known oncologist in the high society of New York, is however less flashy. “Hugh’s costume could have been a little more colorful but he is a classic kind of guy and this jacket looks great on him. The fur trim on his collar makes it a little more interesting than a normal coat. Hugh hates fittings, I have to say, and I don’t blame him. But he is a lot of fun and we ended up having a good time.”




“Ismael’s character is working class and the family does not have a lot of money. He wears plaid shirts, jeans and a Lewis jacket with a fur trim. Ismael is so gorgeous and beautiful, so I was trying to not make him look too flashy. When they are at home, it is very colorful in contrast to the Fraser house for instance, and he wears those colors too, which is not the case in this particular picture though. The boy is wearing the school uniform, which is usually very well fitted, but his is not well fitted because he does not really belong there.”




“She dresses securely as the business woman she is. She is the classic Upper East Side lady and dresses as one would expect. She has a great career and she is wearing Max Mara and very expensive designer brands. She is very high-end. Her jewelry is mainly Cartier.”




“We shopped for the cops in Bloomingdale’s,” says Signe Sejlund. “That is just how it should be. Cops don’t make a lot of money and we shopped as if we were policemen when we went shopping for them. Michael Devine is actually a police officer in real life as well as an actor, so when he said that he was dressed correctly, I saw it as a great compliment. Detective Mendoza is only wearing one shirt the whole time, so I imagine he has 20 of those. For these detectives, you should not even notice what they are wearing as it should just be very subtle. It is about making those two a couple – the same yet different. They should be the perfect match.”




“She is trying to hold on to herself here and she is wearing a shirt that covers her neck and a suede skirt that kind of protects her. Still, she is sexy, gracious, intelligent and strong, yet fragile. All the silk and the movement in her silk is interesting to use and at the same time there is something that protects her. Donald’s character Franklin would order all his clothes from Saville Row in London and he will wear the same suits again and again and orders them from the same tailor year after year. If you would look into his closet, he would have 50 shirts from the same brand and the same colors. He is in blue and grey and blends into his own house. He is the patriarch of the family and he is so very wealthy that he does everything he wants. He wears the colder colors and she wears the warmer colors.”




“Catherine needed to be extremely professional and is very good at her job and she dresses quite conservative,” says Signe Sejlund about the Danish actress’s costume. “She does not really care about her outfit as opposed to the other lawyer Haley Fitzgerald , played by Noma Dumezweni, who is very specific in terms of what she is wearing and very mysterious and unpredictable. Catherine is wearing a little heel in the courthouse, because high heels are not really allowed. She wears a Hugo Boss suit and I think she has about 20 outfits in her closet that look more or less the same.”




“That coat has a big huge hood in the back and the fabric has so many green colors in it,” says Signe Sejlund, who designed the coat for the show. “Grace has a lot of walks in New York and the green coat both blends in and sticks out – for instance, when she walks in Central Park. New York plays a big part in this show and New Yorkers are very well-dressed. As a Dane, I see New York with different eyes, and I think that I have been able to give New York another look, by giving Nicole clothes to wear that look a little different from what you would expect from a woman like this living in New York. I also think Susanne has created a little different New York look than we usually see.”