When the she-wolves of Wall Street climb the corporate ladder, they do it in chic yet sensible footwear — spiked heels and patent leather pumps are no place for the boardroom.
“Shoes on Wall Street are plain — nothing too outrageous,” explained “Equity” costume designer Teresa Binder-Westby in an interview with Footwear News.
The drama, which debuted nationwide on Friday, follows an investment banker (Anna Gunn) who tries to maintain her ethical grounding while facilitating the launch of a startup’s IPO. Along the way, she finds friends and foes in her ambitious assistant (Sarah Megan Thomas) and a prosecutor investigating corrupt practices (Alysia Reiner).
It was Binder-Westby’s challenge to bring to the big screen a realistic look at what female power players wear from head to toe in the corporate world. Of course, with a touch of aspirational-focused style.
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“These women were in a primarily male-dominated work environment, and I was looking to show different levels of financial gain through their occupations,” she explained.
Binder-Westby said she spoke with real-life female Wall Street executives and observed their ensembles to get a sense of how they view fashion.
Often, they stick to the same styles.
Fashion is not a “driving factor” in their world, she explained. “The truth is, they don’t have time for it. Women at this juncture in their lives have a work uniform — they have 40 pieces in their closet.”
Here, Binder-Westby reveals her fashion philosophy behind “Equity.”
FN: How did you differentiate between the women’s footwear styles?
TBW: “I started with Anna and put her in YSL, Gucci, and one of the chunky booties was Vince — so that she could look like a rooted character. I wanted the femininity of a woman who is on the top of her game on Wall Street, but not sexy. She’s sitting at the table with men, but I wanted her to seem strong and grounded in her values and with her worth ethic.
“Alysia (Reiner) wore SJP, Isola and Pour la Victoire — they can be interesting and strong. She wasn’t in a heel or bootie because she worked at the D.A.’s office. Even at the top of her game, she’s still a worker bee.
“Sarah [Megan Thomas] was climbing the corporate ladder with impending motherhood and the doom about that because that could set her back at work. I looked at her as a protégé to Anna. So I put her in Prada pumps, SJP shoes, Ferragamo loafers — you don’t want to out-dress your boss. As you’re climbing that Wall Street corporate ladder, I found the women at the top are wearing Dior, Armani, St. John’s [Knit], so I put Sarah a step down – in Dolce, Theory and separates. Anna was structured, refined and sophisticated. With Sarah I showed she was looking to achieve that lifestyle but had to be careful in what she had to wear.”
FN: Were there any challenges in the production?
TBW: “Interestingly, Anna hurt her ankle a few weeks into filming. Heels became an issue for her, so I felt like she needed more support — even with an ankle strap to keep her in place.”
FN: What as your favorite standout style moment?
TBW: “I like the white and black piece at the end. Naomi [actress Anna Gunn] was coming to her own terms. She had to get to the breaking point as an ethical woman in the business — when she got there, she was able to embrace her feminine side. At that point I put her in a heel to meet with her mentor. I could show at that point a softer side — that there’s more to life than making a deal. We borrowed those shoes from Anna; they were Christian Lobuoutin.”
FN: Where did you source the wardrobe?
TBW: “The budget was very modest; I had $20,000 to dress all those women. I had more money to dress boxers in films than these Wall Street women. Some of the shoes I got were on loan from consignment shops — I rented it from the consigner and gave them percentage. Sarah Megan Thomas ended up buying some of her clothing; I think she ended up wanting the Prada pumps she wore. Even some of the jewelry was loaned — on Alicia, her husband ended up buying her some. They were real diamonds.”
FN: Were you able to tap into any brands for partnerships?
TBW: “People stepped up because of what the film was about. Juan Carlos Obando was all about the workingwoman being sophisticated while having femininity — and to have Ysola shoes sent to me — people supported it when I said what the script was about.”