Aug. 17, 2012
BBC America’s first original scripted series, “Copper,” follows police detective Kevin Corcoran (Tom Weston-Jones), an Irish immigrant and Civil War vet, as he patrols the Five Points district of New York City. A huge production in regards to cast size, Costume Designer Delphine White used broad color schemes and class lines to tackle the 1864-set drama, which premieres this Sunday, August 19th.
Set design for the Five Points hood followed a warm-hued color scheme to signify the vitality of the crowded district. White matched the setting with singular ensembles in warm browns and sepia tones (cutting her initial 6,000 costume estimate down considerably).
“Logically, they would only rotate an outfit or two,” White says of Five Points’ impoverished masses. “So they didn’t need [extensive] wardrobes constructed for them.”
In contrast, New York’s Uptown neighborhood was re-created in icy tones, and characters from higher social and economic stratum―like elegant British ex-pat Elizabeth Haverford (actress Anastasia Griffith) and entrepreneurial madam Eva Heissen (actress Franka Potente) were afforded various, sumptuous looks. While combing New York City’s museums and public library reserves for her research, White found that mid 19th century American styles typically trailed European fashions by two years and that by 1864 analine dye was available―so the designer had greater (and historically sound) liberties with the construction and color of Elizabeth’s worldly fashions.
“We gave her a flatter front and oriented the hoop slip (crinoline) more toward the back. This was the very beginning of the movement in the skirt toward a bustle shape,” White says of Elizabeth’s dresses.
“Necklines were generally cut higher―in order to emphasize Elizabeth’s face, we generally tended to cut with a more open neckline in some of the clothing.”
White says designing for madam Eva Heissen was a joy because the character wears many hats and in turn has adopted an incredibly diverse style. The Bavarian immigrant possesses business savvy and a strong patron base, giving her access to a range of stylish fashion purchases and gifts―as well as suitable occasions to wear them. “She runs the bordello, she negotiates at the bank,” White says. “In the show she visits New Orleans and brings back some of that fashion flavor with her, as well.”