Director Ryan Murphy’s Impeachment: American Crime Story on FX premiered this week, serving up a delicious opening for a scandal that has all the right aesthetics.
I will admit, I had been counting down the weeks until the series premiere, mostly because I’m interested in how Murphy portrays the leading ladies of the Clinton impeachment — Linda Tripp, Monica Lewinsky, Ann Coulter, Hilary Clinton, Kathleen Willey, Lucianne Goldberg, and Paula Jones.
Fierce whistleblower Tripp, played by the impeccable Sarah Paulson, undoubtedly is stealing the show just as Paulson playing Marcia Clark ran away with Murphy’s The People v. O. J. Simpson in 2016.
Keep in mind, it’s 1994; so everything you currently understand about fashion in this God-forsaken year has yet hit the mid-1990s zeitgeist. With that said, there’s a certain Dillard’s quality to Tripp’s wardrobe.
At the start, Tripp wears a white and dark green checkered skirt suit. The skirt suit is the staple of this series, as it should be. Skirt suits, and power dressing, have become a highly underrated look and there is rarely a scene where one does not make a cameo.
For Tripp, the skirt suit with large shoulders, pearls, rounded shades, and a trench coat atop is a bit of a uniform but in a multitude of colors and fabrics. In one scene, Tripp blends a Slim-Fast smoothie while ready for work in a skirt suit.
Later, she demands paperwork be stapled, not paper-clipped. She even makes sure that her boss at the White House Counsel’s Office, Vince Foster, has his M&Ms with his lunch. In another scene, she’s appalled that then-First Lady Hillary Clinton is using the communal bathroom in the West Wing rather than a private vanity.
Even while executing the most mundane tasks, Tripp is serious and her skirt suits embody that sense of solemnity. This is a lifestyle for her and how dare anyone try to demean it. The definition of power dressing.
Clinton, played by Edie Falco, is only quickly shown in a black skirt suit with a patterned scarf thrown around her neck, chunky gold earrings, and harsh lipstick. Even with only a glimpse, you can feel the male energy exerting from this woman’s aura.
Following Vince Foster’s death, that same serious tone comes out in Tripp’s all-black wardrobe — the first time we see her in such a dark color. Later, she wears a bulky pale pink skirt suit that matches her feminine desk, lamp, and gold picture frames.
When Tripp is reassigned to the hideous Defense Department offices, it’s almost like she cannot believe things could be this ugly. The dark, yellowy tones of the White House are suddenly replaced with grey cubicles. Her looks become stricken with beiges and browns.
The gloom of it all, around the time when she meets Monica Lewinsky, is even more intriguing than her better days at the Counsel’s Office. Why is the fall always funner to watch than the rise to the top?
Also, I’m baffled at how accurate Paulson’s wig for Tripp is. How is it that in 2021, director’s fail to depict Princess Diana’s locks (see the trailer for “Spencer” and the movie “Diana”) but Tripp’s blown-out waves are a skip in the park?
Kathleen Willey, who also accused former President Bill Clinton of sexual harassment, is played by Elizabeth Reaser and could not be further from Tripp in terms of aesthetics. Willey’s wardrobe is stripped right from Donna Karen’s 1994 Fall collection and her hair is so undone it’s like she just wakes up looking this way.
She has the quintessential makeup of the mid-1990s with dark brows to match her dark red wine lips and she’s always in black stockings. She’s pretty, but not a knockout. Her grey and black skirt suits hit above the knee and they are cut closely to her waist.
Willey’s look tends to blend in with the dark lighting of the series, but it’s a fresh break from the loud suits of Tripp. These opposites are magnificent in scenes together.
This take’s me to Ann Coulter, played by Cobie Smulders. It’s only accurate to reality that Coulter is the hottest (and sharpest) of the women portrayed in Impeachment.
Coulter, of course, has better hair than the blonde wig they put Smulders in, but it’s a nice try. In one scene, pouring wine, Coulter is in black tights, a black mini skirt, and a silver silk blouse. The tights and mini skirt could not be more spot-on.
I’d argue Coulter wouldn’t ever wear such a blouse. A quarter sleeve black blazer with a creme cashmere would have been more fitting.
Paula Jones, played by Annaleigh Ashford, could be one of the most impressive cast members in the series. In terms of appearance, her southern big brown curly hair and overly caked makeup are accurate to her earlier days in the Clinton scandal.
Jones’ look lends itself to the show’s depiction of her. She’s a victim, at least in the first episode, but never really wanted to be.
She has to put on the most serious ensemble she owns — a black turtleneck, black blazer, and gold earrings — for her press conference, but ‘Does she even really want to be doing this?’ you start thinking to yourself.
She is the one character who seems to be consistently put in the most uncomfortable environments. The first time we see her is at her home in California, she’s in sweats. Every time after that, Jones is with attorneys in dark rooms or in front of the media. Her overdone wardrobe reflects that sense of internal struggle.
If you have no other reason to watch Impeachment, it should be to see Margo Martindale play literary agent Lucianne Goldberg who is the series’ comedian.
In the best line of the night, a waiter asks Goldberg to put out her cigarette to which she replies “Oh fantastic, the whole earth is becoming Berkley, California.” While waiting to meet Tripp for lunch, Goldberg sits on her cell phone with one hand while smoking in another.
And her hair is childlike, a platinum blonde with a single barrette holding back her bangs. What is it about older women with girlish hair that is so cute? That contrast between old age and childhood always draws people in. It’s fascinating.
Goldberg, in another scene, sits on her couch while answering a brassy gold rotary phone, wearing an orange caftan. In a series about Washington, D.C., she’s the closest we’ll get to a glamour puss.
Lastly, there is Monica Lewinsky, played by Beanie Feldstein. The real life Lewinsky played a part in the series’ making, so expect an angelic portrayal of her.
Lewinksy, ironically at the center of the storyline, lacks any sort of aesthetic depth. Why is she depicted as being obese? Was Lewinksy really this plus size and weight-obsessed at the time of her affair with Clinton?
Her workout look comes off like Tracy Turnblad going to aerobics. Even when she is more accurately shown in a red lip, half-up-half-down do, and a black skirt suit, none of it feels genuine. It feels like a rewriting of history, not a dramatic interpretation.
For being the central character, she’s a sideshow compared to the others.
John Binder is a reporter for Breitbart News. Email him at firstname.lastname@example.org. Follow him on Twitter here.