vaqstyle 2017-02-07, 04:18
Apple Tree Yard: the story behind Yvonne Carmichael's polished working woman wardrobe
The fundamental premise of Apple Tree Yard, the BBC drama which reaches its climax tonight, is that Dr Yvonne Carmichael was just your standard high-flying, middle-class woman until something extraordinary happened to her.
All the pointers are there in the wine nights with her closest girlfriends, her elegant but not overly pristine home and her wardrobe of trench coats, professional tailoring and statement scarves. While Yvonne's look may not have the determinedly sharp and sleek hallmarks of, say, The Fall's Stella Gibson or House of Cards' Claire Underwood, it is a fascinating exercise in creating what costume designer Ray Holman calls "a normal, middle-aged woman" albeit one for whom her clothes are evidently important, if not an obsession.
"We wanted to create the idea of a woman with a full wardrobe - one which consists of old things and new things from professional pieces which are tailored and things for around the house," Holman explains of the strategy he cooked up with actress Emily Watson, who plays Carmichael. "It’s a collection of clothes she would have built up over ten years."
As you would expect, Holman scoured all the shops one might imagine Yvonne popping into on her way back from a meeting or whose websites she might browse as a break from writing her latest paper on DNA. "I went to House of Fraser, Hobbs, L.K Bennett, Phase Eight, Next and even good old Marks and Spencer," Holman remembers. "But I also wanted some special pieces in there too like the Max Mara coat. I even dug into my own storage and got out some older things like pashminas and old knitted cardigans. Then I had some skirts made which suited Emily’s figure specifically."
The story of Holman's first stroke of inspiration is aptly reminiscent of how a cultured woman like Carmichael would shop. "The first time I contacted Emily was actually a phone call while I was in New York. It happened that on the same day, I went to the Metropolitan Museum of Art," says Holman. "I went to the museum shop and in there I found the scarf which Emily finally wore in the Apple Tree Yard scenes. I took a picture and sent it to Emily and said ‘I think this could define Yvonne’."
Indeed in the earlier episodes, scarves are very important. Yvonne wears prettily patterned ones to work as carefully thought-out finishing touches to her professional look. As well as the Met Museum one, Holman says Ted Baker was another favourite destination for picking these up. But she also snuggles into scarves when she's at home, typing her secret diary on her computer or hanging out with her kids. Those ones had a more sentimental, cosy feel with Holman bringing in pashminas from his travels to India to give the sense of something collected over the years.
Yvonne's illicit affair also dictated plenty of the wardrobe decisions. "The use of cardigans was very important, so they could be undone during the passionate scenes," says Holman. "We wanted to reveal a tiny bit of flesh but not do nudity, so cardigans were a way to do it very carefully."
While Yvonne is not seen strutting around in her bra and knickers, underwear was still crucial. "It’s part and parcel of the woman isn’t it? So we started from scratch with that," Holman explains. During a couple of long costume fittings, Holman and Watson went through bras and knickers to make sure "the details were right." "We asked ourselves, is she wearing tights or stockings here? Is this a knickers moment or a Spanx moment?" he says.
The L.K Bennett black and red sheath dress which Yvonne wore on the night which began with the Apple Tree Yard sex scene and culminates in George Selway raping her was crucial. "That’s her Going Out dress and showed an optimistic start to the night," Holman says. "It’s a combination of the colour and the cut which made it special; in her normal work day she wears skirts which are a-line so they move and bounce. But I think this is the only time she wears a fitted skirt, to make herself feel good."
Another pivotal scene is the dinner party which Yvonne and husband Gary attend in the weeks following her attack. For this, it was all about "making a big effort". Despite the trauma she is still suffering, Yvonne is putting on a brave face to hide her anguish from the world, and her clothes - a floral printed knit and a smattering of jewellery - are a vehicle for showing that. "The reason we chose that printed jumper was because it was half way between being miserable and being dressed up," says Holman. "In our heads, Emily and I thought it had taken a lot to get to that point but we knew she had to present herself well."
In last night's and tonight's scenes, Yvonne is in court and of course her look has altered to reflect the crisis-mode she finds herself in. "She’s being very respectful in court," Holman reflects. "She wears her softly tailored jackets which are smart and professional but not too dressed up. I used to be the costume designer on Silk so I know how lawyers advise their clients to dress in a sombre manner."
He says it is Yvonne's feet that we should look to for the surest sign of how her life has changed in tonight's nail-biting finale. "In the first episode, she is wearing her glamorous Russell and Bromley high heels to work," he says of her 'Woman who has it all' look. " But in court, it's mid-heeled, sensible shoes from Marks and Spencer."