Samantha Bee and the symbolism of a structured shoulder – WWD

When Samantha Bee was testing for her late-night show, “Full Frontal With Samantha Bee,” the Canadian-born satirist, feeling pressure to conform to the nominal precepts of TV show glamour, chose a completely antithetical sartorial statement. to its essence.

“I voluntarily put on a tube dress and very high heels,” she recalls. “I was staggering on set. The heels were so sharp that they pierced the ground and got stuck.

Observing this wardrobe dud, network execs kindly suggested she try wearing what she wore to rehearsals: a blazer and sneakers.

As anyone who’s watched Bee’s TBS show knows, the blazer looks stuck up. And as the show marks its 200th episode on Wednesday, Bee has further galvanized the once pedestrian menswear staple into a symbol of feminist power. Whether it’s firefighter red for a Donald Trump screed, classic black in the wake of the Jan. 6 Capitol riots, or canary yellow to recall America’s corporate record for paid family leave, Bee are a sartorial cudgel for the patriarchy.

“There’s nothing I love more than a great blazer,” she said in a phone call this week from Acela to Washington, D.C., where she hopes to get enough light from the day to film a segment of the 200th episode.

“It’s like armor against the world,” she adds. “It’s protective but it says something.”

Coco Chanel first legitimized the women’s blazer in 1914, when she paired an ankle-length skirt with a tailored jacket. Fifty years later, André Courrèges launched the first trouser suit for women. The 1970s pantsuit – bright prints, belted waist, bell bottoms – gave way to 1980s linebacker shoulder pads.

More recently, the pantsuit has gone through periods of disrepute. Hillary Clinton’s more fussy monochromatic pantsuits have become – for her detractors – a metaphor for her robotic phoniness. But in the post-MeToo era, the female costume has become a symbol of solidarity and action. Think of the sea of ​​white suffragette suits during Donald Trump’s 2019 State of the Union Address.

“It’s a powerful piece,” says “Full Frontal” costume director Erin Dougherty. “Sam feels great in it. It’s nipped in at the waist. It has a shoulder on it. You can feel yourself wearing it. And because of the tailoring and the structure, it gives you an automatic power surge. A feeling of confidence.

Samantha Bee wearing a custom Altuzarra tuxedo.
Cheriss May/Variety

After six seasons, “Full Frontal” has about 100 blazers in rotation. Favorite brands include Alexander McQueen, Tibi, Saint Laurent, Rag & Bone, Dries Van Noten, the classic double-breasted Balmain and Stella McCartney, for the brand’s enduring aesthetic and vibrant colors. There are also occasions that require a tailored look. Bee wore a custom ivory and black Altuzarra tuxedo for his Inaugural Dinner Not the White House Correspondents in 2017, which was featured in the Newseum in Washington, D.C. For the 2018 dinner, they commissioned a custom jacket, designed by Fulani Hart. The fabric is an homage to John Galliano’s newsprint dress for Dior (worn by Sarah Jessica Parker in season three of ‘Sex and the City’).

Bee admits to being somewhat obsessed with her blazers. “I almost have a photographic memory of blazers that have gone down the years,” she says. “He’s so weird. It’s like my one and only special skill.

Several years ago, Dougherty sold around 40 blazers (plus a series of dresses worn by Bee to the press) to The RealReal, with the proceeds going to charity. “I probably got rid of too many blazers,” she laments.

This would include a navy and white polka dot jacket from Akris. “Sometimes Sam will be like, ‘Oh go get the polka dot one I like…'” Dougherty said.

But above all, they clung to “favorite friends,” including a burgundy printed jacquard Dries Van Noten; a bright yellow Stella McCartney; a crystal-embellished velvet Gucci (Bee also wore it to last year’s virtual Emmys) and a Kelly green Balmain, which makes an appearance every March. “Everything can be reused at the right time and in the right place,” observes Dougherty. “And so that’s another reason why I cling to things. Everything has several moments.

For his part, Bee is enjoying the post-Trump moment — even if it turns out to be just an interregnum.

“It was just too much,” she says of doing comedy in such a dark and angry time. “It was literally like a scotch pipe of bulls – t in your face every day. I really regret that we still have to talk a little about him, because he is still a presence that is looming, hiding. But I feel liberated since he is no longer president. We have so much more fun. We live our lives, we are able to look more broadly at the spectacle. It really helped us spiritually, personally.

Bee won’t tease many details of the 200th episode milestone except that she may have gotten a tattoo to commemorate the occasion. The sixth season ends next week; season seven bows on January 20. Bee hasn’t decided which blazer to wear for the December 15 season finale.

“I’m really proud and happy to have arrived here,” she says. “There’s no way you’re putting on a TV show and thinking, yeah, we’re going to do 200. You just can’t think in those terms.

“But I will say we now have an amazing collection of really nice blazers,” she adds. “Even if no one wears them anymore. I will always wear them. I’ll be that little old lady pushing my buggy and cradling a big structured shoulder.

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