“Was I hired for a permanent anchor position because I am Black?” Christina Hunter asks UBA board chairwoman Cybil Richards. This is a striking moment in this season of Apple TV+’s The Morning Show. “But you see my confusion right? Because you used a clumsy racist comment to complain about my hiring. Did you think I wasn’t qualified, was that it?” In this scene, Christina (played by Nicole Beharie) expresses how she feels after a derogatory email leak where she was referred to as Aunt Jemima during a live interview offers her a large and influential stage to address racism head-on. For much of the season, Christina has been filling gaps left wide open by her colleagues Bradley Jackson (Reese Witherspoon) and Alex Lexy (Jennifer Aniston). In this scene, she’s advocating for herself in a way that is unique to her character. What’s nearly as important as her choice of words is the maroon dress she’s wearing while doing so.
The Morning Show which focuses on the swift-paced politics of morning television has been largely known for exploring topics like cancel culture and #MeToo. Now in its third season, the powerful Black women in the series are finally receiving fleshed-out storylines, and what’s refreshing about that is viewers get to see what they’re wearing in the office and at home. Costuming which is being helmed by head costume designer Sophie de Rakoff, Debra McGuire, and Beth Lancaster has been excellent this season (de Rakoff runs point on Beharie’s outfits: she has been partnering with Witherspoon on costumes for over 20 years). Newsroom essentials such as suits, bold tops, and minimal jewelry are a given, but this costume design team also successfully elevates things by incorporating brands like Khaite, Alexander McQueen, Frame, and custom suits by Lafayette 148 according to Harper’s Bazaar.
Lancaster spearheads clothing for characters outside of Witherspoon and Aniston as the latter’s wardrobe is executed by McGuire who has been working with Aniston for 30 years. The pieces that are selected for Mia Jordan (played by Karen Pittman) and Christina are playful at times: Christina for example, wore a jade green top one morning while anchoring. “I find it interesting that some of the Black women on the show [are] wearing colorful pieces,” says Charlese Antoinette Jones, lead costume designer for Air and Judas and the Black Messiah. Antoinette Jones mentions that she thinks it’s to further illustrate how they’re the only ones in the room and to emphasize that they stick out.
Mia who is now a producer, typically wears tailored feminine suits and ultra-high pumps in dark tones in the office (these “quiet luxury” staples key in on her confidence and the fact that she’s a sometimes quiet force). There are also instances where Mia is spotted in a silk slip dress in a dark red tone while home during the COVID-19 pandemic, while lounging she also wears a matching two-piece set in the same hue as she dances with her beau, a freelance photographer. Similarly, while at home with her husband and daughter, Christina wore a white wife beater and gray sweatpants. This departure from what viewers usually see both of these women paints a well-rounded picture of who they are: still powerful but just relaxed since they’re both in their sanctuaries, their homes.
“From what I see it’s pretty on brand for the genre and industry they’re representing,” says Ayanna James Kimani a costume designer known for her work on Insecure and Queen Sugar. One morning after sleeping in the office she is shown dressing herself in a patterned cream pussy bow blouse. The rest of this outfit appears almost like armor to shield Mia from any harm or racial microaggressions on set: a chic lengthy maroon leather jacket, a black midi pencil skirt, and black suede pumps. Mia’s character is tough as nails and her costuming led by Lancaster reflects that. In previous seasons, she had to find her voice, and now that she’s found it there’s no turning back.
Christina’s poignant on-air moment alongside Cybil (played by Holland Taylor) proves that the former is so much more than a UBA anchor. Known as Chris by her fictional colleagues, she is a charismatic and grounded millennial figure who is new to UBA’s universe. The confrontational scene with Cybil presents Christina as a character in the series that viewers should begin paying attention to, especially when paired with Beharie’s cutting delivery of her dialogue. This scene is profound too, pointing to the power of the costume design this season. Her ambition is encapsulated by the decision to dress her in the muted hue of maroon for this scene, and it also has deeper inclinations: that’s seen in the piece’s strong shoulders. “I think the dress that Nicole Beharie wears when she’s calling out institutional racism reminds me of a military jacket,” says Antoinette Jones. “She almost feels [rebellious], and she’s taking action.” As Christina sits opposite of Cybil who wears a suit, it becomes clear that this scene is setting up an arc of influence for the former.
The plotline of Beharie’s character is further explored following the aforementioned moment. At the Hamptons house party of UBA CEO Cory Ellison, (Billy Crudup) she shows up in a perfectly tailored, long-sleeved maroon sheath dress with an oversized gold chain necklace. Here de Rakoff subverts the ideal of Beharie wearing a calm tone like cream or pink–and for good reason: she confronts Leonard, the current chairman of the board. She uses this moment to exert the power that she’s stepping into following the interview with Cybil who was ousted from the board. She tasks him with addressing pay equity issues on behalf of her colleagues who cannot afford lawyers to comb through legal verbiage. “Since Jemima-gate, I gained 200,000 followers, maybe I should ask them what they think,” Beharie declares during this scene. Leonard immediately says he’ll bring this topic up at the next board meeting.
While some hues utilized throughout the show for the Black female characters are bright, others are muted. The bolder tones that Christina often wears make for a more saturated color palette: she wears orange, yellow, and green this season. Antoinette Jones feels the darker colors selected at times fit the skin tones of Beharie and Pittman excellently. All combined, the flattering key colors add an air of distinction to the pivotal scenes these women shine in. James Kimani agrees that these key colors also fit the muted tone of the show, she adds that each look, especially the one Beharie wore in her defining scene is similar to what we would see anchors wearing right now. “The palette [in Christina’s confrontation scene] could be a nod to her militant and brave stance in the moment,” James Kimani adds.
In episode seven Christina is slated to wear a Valentino gown designed by Pierpaolo Piccioli. This further speaks to how the costume design team utilizes colors to highlight its characters. “To me, Nicole’s dress was the showstopper of the Valentino Pink PP Collection, and I knew Nicole would wear it in a way that would bring life and movement to both the dress and her character,” de Rakoff shares via email. “In my mind, it had to be this dress. When Nicole first stepped into it, the whole room came alive–she owned it and made it her own.”
With the season finale swiftly approaching, it’s important to note that since all characters are living and breathing in the world outside of the office, their clothes have reflected that well. Most significantly, the costume design team led by de Rakoff has depicted Beharie and Pittman as influential and high-powered Black women. Even in their emotional moments, their clothing speaks to how they must always dress the part no matter what. The distinct decisions made emphasize the racially coded and sometimes chaotic scenes that are the meat of The Morning Show this season. Overall, the modern pieces selected for the series are superb. These Black women aren’t just given scripts, they’re presented in a unique light through their wardrobe which pushes forward the writers’ messaging and each character’s arc.