Costume designer for ‘Empire’ talks about dressing fearlessly

EMPIRE: Cookie (Taraji P. Henson) shows up at Empire in the "Outspoken King" episode of EMPIRE airing Monday, Jan. 14 (9:00-10:00 PM ET/PT) on FOX. ©2014 Fox Broadcasting Co. CR: Chuck Hodes/FOX

Cookie (Taraji P. Henson) shows up at Empire in the “Outspoken King” episode.

Rita McGhee is now the former costume designer for “Empire” but she worked there long enough to earn her first Emmy nomination. A circuitous chain of events had her sitting front row at Missouri Style Week judging a fashion design contest. Before she arrived, I talked with her by phone.

She was tentative, partly because “Empire” was already in her rear-view even though the show is on the rise and audiences were chomping at the bit for the season premiere. But talking to her I was surprised that her philosophy for dressing the characters of the show was so matter-of-fact. She wasn’t interested in creating a stand-out character, she was interested in being true to each character. It’s interesting to think of because every day we dress, we are creating a character. I mean, think of it, if you could dress in whatever you wanted and no one knew who you were would you be wearing what you’re wearing today.

Clothes speak.

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