Did This Designer Actually Dress Claire Underwood?

Netflix says our Alvin Valley story was wrong.

Editor’s Note: After Washingtonian published this article on April 8, Kemal Harris, Robin Wright’s costume designer for the third season House of Cards, contacted us. Harris said Alvin Valley, introduced in this story as “the designer who dresses Claire Underwood,” had not dressed Wright, who plays Claire. Harris told us she was certain none of Valley’s clothes were used on the show.

This claim was surprising, to say the least: Valley—a New York-based designer known as the “King of Pants”—had associated himself with House of Cards at a March 31 trunk show honoring him at Ann Hand, an elegant Georgetown boutique. The event invitation offered a chance to meet Valley, “as featured on Season 3 ‘House of Cards.’” Dr. Jill Biden and model Kelly Bensimon attended.

Other local media picked up on the affair: the Washington Post reported on the event, saying his clothes “have made appearances on ‘House of Cards’ and ‘The Good Wife.'” Hollywood on the Potomac produced a video at the trunk show that intercuts shots from House of Cards with an interview in which Valley talks about being on the show’s set. A publicist for the event offered us an interview with Valley, which led to this story.

After we heard from Harris, we asked Valley through that publicist to tell us which of his clothes were featured on House of Cards. He replied with four images of clothing. When we asked for images of Wright wearing items he had designed in the show, Valley said the show had not “been helpful” in providing pictures.

We then did what we should have done before we published this article: contacted representatives for Netflix, which produces House of Cards. They said Valley’s designs were not featured on the show and that they had no record of him asking for pictures.

When we brought this information back to Valley, his own spokesperson, Kevin Michael Barba, replied with a statement saying Valley “was indeed on the ‘House of Cards’ set in Joppa, MD” in June 2014 and that he had met with “Wright and other cast members.”

In this statement, Barba says Valley “did not confirm that samples sent to Ms. Wright were used on the show, just that pieces were sent to her attention, upon request.”

Netflix has not yet commented on Valley’s statement.

Our original story is below.

Alvin Valley poses for a photo with Jill Biden and Valerie Biden Owens at a Georgetown cocktail party. Photo courtesy Daniel Swartz.

Last Tuesday, designer Alvin Valley made an appearance at a cocktail party at Ann Hand in Georgetown to showcase his spring 2015 collection. Though he works out of New York, Valley has a number of ties to the Washington scene: he was named ambassador for the White House initiative on Educational Excellence for Hispanics; Kick Kennedy, the daughter of Robert F. Kennedy and Emily Black, modeled for his 2015 campaign; and he dressed one of the most widely known Washington women of all—fictional as she may be—Claire Underwood, for Season 3 of House of Cards.

Known for his well-tailored work pants, Valley’s professional, powerful aesthetic was a perfect fit for the impeccably dressed House of Cards leading lady, played by Robin Wright. To find out what it’s like to dress Wright for her role as Claire Underwood, Shop Around got in touch with Valley for a Q&A.

How were you chosen to dress Wright for her character Claire Underwood?

A friend of mine is an assistant director on the show. He loves my collection, and he thought it was perfect for the show and Ms. Wright’s character. He invited me on set and introduced me to Ms.Wright who I found very warm and engaging. I saw her do some scenes and loved how professional and patient she was with the other actors. After that, we talked about fashion and her character. It was a natural fit.

Claire’s look is very powerful. How do you use her wardrobe to create that effect?

Oddly enough, Claire’s character is a woman that I envision as a client of mine. She’s powerful and—though attached—very independent in her thinking. She likes power. The Alvin Valley woman has traditional values, but lives in a more experimental world.

What do you like about dressing a Washington woman?

I absolutely adore Washington women—they have a true fashion sense, just as my clients in New York do. Women in DC tend to have a straightforward business look. One that is no non-sense, conservative but feminine. They look at fashion with a twist, a component that enhances their look—it’s not “the” statement.

What is the “Washington woman” aesthetic?

Straightforward, conservative and feminine.

What are the components of the perfect work pant?

The components for the perfect work pant include versatility—being a part of a beautifully tailored suit during the day, to being the piece that completes the perfect evening outfit. Women today don’t have the time to be changing in the middle of their workday. I am all about bringing a complete look, or uniform, so women can focus on their work and not their outfit.

What are the three things that every professional woman needs in her closet?

A great black suit, an amazingly feminine colorful blouse, and a great tailored skirt.

Want to dress like Claire Underwood? Check out Alvin Valley’s online shop to add some power pants to your wardrobe.

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Associate Editor

Caroline Cunningham joined Washingtonian in 2014 after moving to the DC area from Cincinnati, where she interned and freelanced for Cincinnati Magazine and worked in content marketing. She currently resides in College Park.