Ratched: Smart suits, hot lips & TV’s most stylish show

It’s the must-watch series that’s making the beautifully tailored 1940s fashionable again. The award-winning costume designers behind Ratched reveal why the clothes had to be as breathtaking as the plot twists.

Sarah Paulson Ratched
Her wool crepe suit certainly cuts the ‘don’t mess with me’ mustard. Image: Netflix

From Sex And The City and Mad Men to Killing Eve, we’re accustomed to taking style cues from TV shows. Rare is the woman who hasn’t craved Carrie Bradshaw’s shoes or Villanelle’s suits. However, regardless of how many boxset icons we’ve had crushes on, we’ve never coveted the wardrobe of a monkey. But then, this is a devilishly stylish one.

Sharon Stone Ratched
The glamorous mother and ‘daughter’ team – heiress Lenore Osgood (Sharon Stone) and her monkey Miss Petunia – were styled in coordinating colours and jewellery. Image: Netflix

Called Miss Petunia, the monkey is just one of many chicly dressed characters in Ratched, Netflix’s autumn must-see. Created by Ryan Murphy, the screenwriter behind American Horror Story and Glee, it’s a prequel to One Flew Over the Cuckoo’s Nest, the acclaimed 1975 movie of Ken Kesey’s novel in which Nurse Ratched first appeared.

Sarah Paulson Ratched
‘With Nurse Ratched (played by Sarah Paulson), her colour palette depended on her scene – whether she was trying to comfort or intimidate,’ says costume designer Rebecca Guzzi. Image: Netflix

Ratched is essential viewing for anyone with a love of fashion, plot twists – and monkeys. Dressing Murphy’s stellar cast – Sarah Paulson in the title role, Sharon Stone, Cynthia Nixon – is Emmy-winning costume-design duo Lou Eyrich and Rebecca Guzzi. It may be argued that the clothes are the real stars of the show.

Ratched nurses
The nurses’ blue hues were picked to give the asylum a chilly edge. Image: Netflix

Bring on the fabulous 40s!

The series is set in the late 1940s, so is awash with full skirts, cinch-waisted jackets and chic jewellery. Costumiers Lou and Rebecca were hugely inspired by Christian Dior’s iconic New Look collection from 1947, famed for its tiny-waisted bar jackets. The show used a mix of vintage and custom-made pieces to achieve the look. ‘If what we wanted didn’t exist, we had to make it,’ Rebecca explains. ‘We cast our net worldwide. Fabrics were the trickiest part.’ For jewellery, Ebay and Etsy were trawled for hours.

Nurse Ratched
Nurse Ratched at her foreboding best in a navy caped suit and sharp green accessories. Image: Netflix

Nifty shades of…

From the deep red lips to the striking hues of the nurses’ uniforms, it’s all been thought about: ‘We usually tried to contrast the clothes with the colour of the sets,’ says Rebecca. Blues and greens in the asylum scenes add a chilly undertone, while Nurse Ratched’s off-duty looks are sharp and foreboding. Highlights include a mustard wool crepe suit with matching hat, and a caped navy suit with green accessories.

Ratched cast
To give the scenes visual punch, ‘We tried to contrast the clothes with the colour of the sets,’ says Rebecca. Image: Netflix


Sharon Stone
‘Dressing Sharon as Lenore, who is impossibly chic, was a lot of fun,’ says costume designer Lou Eyrich. Image: Netflix.

From must-watch to must-wear…

‘People take visual clues from everywhere,’ says Lou. ‘Right now, as well as Ratched, there are a ton of TV shows set in the 30s and 40s – Sky Atlantic’s Perry Mason, Netflix’s Hollywood – and they will all be influencing fashion, especially since lockdown, when we’ve been watching more TV than ever. I’ll be fascinated to see next year’s collections. I bet we’re going to see a lot of [TV] influences.’

Sophie Okonedo
Sophie Okonedo’s character has multiple personalities – as Ondine she is all big jewellery; as Charlotte, she’s more soft blouses and skirts. Image: Netflix

Of course, it doesn’t need to be 40s head to toe; after six months spent in leisurewear, the formality might be a bit too much of a shock, adds Lou: ‘It can just be bits and pieces – a brooch, or tights and a heel.’

Judy Davis and Cynthia Nixon
A bold choice for nurse Betsy Bucket (Judy Davis, right), while Gwendolyn Briggs (Cynthia Nixon) gets a more muted teal. Image: Netflix

All eight episodes of Ratched are available to stream now on Netflix.

Report: Laura Craik