Full of twists and turns, moments of intrigue and surprises with the power to get the nation talking – forget the drama of Traitors, it’s what Claudia Winkleman wears to present the show that has millions of us gripped. Are we more excited to see which Fair Isle jumper Claudia styles up next or which contestant will be banished? It’s hard to tell.
Until the show first aired in late 2022, Winkleman was synonymous with the glamour of her sparkling Strictly wardrobe. But now with the second series of the reality game show well underway, she’s become the poster woman for a look that has been labelled everything from “countrycore” to Scottish chic – or as she described herself: a mixture of Ronnie Corbett, Princess Anne and Madonna in her Lady of the Manor Guy Ritchie era.
The woman responsible for crafting Winkleman’s Traitors wardrobe is her stylist of 18 years, Sinead McKeefry. McKeefry is currently spending a significant amount of her time replying to messages on Instagram from viewers desperate to recreate Winkleman’s Highland looks for themselves. “The response has been off the chart,” she laughs. “I knew from last year that there would be a certain amount of interest but it’s at least triple this time.”
This series, the Corbett-Anne-Madonna triumvirate has evolved and the new starting point was Amanda Harlech, the longtime aristocratic muse of Karl Lagerfeld who epitomises upper class rural elegance. “We always have a clear reference,” McKeefry explains. One year on Strictly, it all went very Anita Dobson and another time it was all Elvis.” It was “a very gorgeous black and white Bruce Weber shoot [featuring Harlech] which was on my wall for this season of the Traitors,” she says, “it’s a little bit timeless.”
That being said, things soon took an edgier turn with a look from the second episode of the show which sent huge numbers of us into a tailspin last week searching for kilts and offbeat jumpers. “We thought we’d just see where we went with it, so when we got that jumper from [upscale men’s brand] Kapital, it’s still just an Aran jumper, but it has smiley faces on the elbows which make it a bit punk,” she says, adding that, “people were going wild for it”.
McKeefry is acutely aware of the delicate balance she must strike between creating aspirational, impactful looks for Winkleman while keeping things democratic and relatable for all of us watching. “With the Kapital jumper, you might be thinking: ‘Maybe I’m not going to wear it with a kilt, tights and Doc Martens but I could just throw that on with a pair of jeans’,” she reasons.
And while the BBC and Studio Lambert (which creates Traitors), have given Winkleman and McKeefry free rein on the styling after the success of the first series, “we still have to work the budget,” she admits, summing up the whole approach as: “We balance out Chanel with a bit of Decathlon and something from an old job.”
That’s why you’ll see staple pairs of leggings from Spanx and Commando, which cost between £50 and £90 a pair, worn with designer knitwear by Johnstons’ of Elgin and expensive coats from Holland Cooper or Officine Générale (though McKeefry buys this brand on The Outnet, where it’s significantly reduced).
A Saint Laurent jacket may cost upwards of £2000, but it’s been in Winkleman’s work wardrobe for years. Some of the presenter’s favourite pieces are £18 fingerless gloves bought from Amazon (“Claudia’s always worn fingerless gloves ever since I’ve known her, 10 years ago she bought them as a Christmas presents for me”) and a £23.99 pair of jodhpurs picked up at Decathlon. Another pair of trousers came from Cordings of Piccadilly, a traditional menswear outfitters; “In the wrong hands, that could be quite frumpy but because Claudia has a bit of swag with it, she pulls it off,” McKeefry observes.
“I love high fashion labels like Saint Laurent, so does Claudia, but if I need a jumper I’ll just go to Decathlon and then mix it with some Wardrobe NYC,” McKeefry continues. “If you’re just head-to-toe designer, it’s fine but it can feel too heavy to me, it’s more creative. It’s nice when you find something from Zara, then people can access it.”
And access it they will. “I have friends who work in retail who say people come in asking for the Traitors look. It makes me happy when people tell me they bought something,” she says. When so many of the looks we love on TV are smarter than anything most of us need in our everyday lives, the outfits Claudia wears to stir up drama at the Traitors breakfast table and out and about on missions can be copied for a dog walk or weekend day of errands, no special occasion required. McKeefry even advises patchworking a jumper yourself to emulate the Kapital number, which is now sold out but retailed for £480, and some of the knits Winkleman wears in future episodes have been hand-knitted by someone found on Not on the High Street.
There’s a more sumptuous bent to her round table style, where the mood is darker and more tense. “The round table is a more serious scenario with different lighting, so I go for velvets and laces, a bit more luxe,” says McKeefry. “Anna Mason has made us a beautiful tweed jacket, her tailoring is really stunning, that’s coming up in a future episode and Claudia wore a lace blouse by her in last week’s episodes. We go for slimmer silhouettes, more structured, darker.”
She emphasises again that “you could do a high street version from Reiss. If you buy something like that, you only ever need to buy one black velvet jacket so even if it’s £200, you’re only ever buying it once.”
Last year, Winkleman’s capes and chunky polo neck jumpers were at the forefront of viral memes. And Dawn French channelled her “half woman, half fringe” persona on Comic Relief in a sketch which included lines like: “I’ll be walking round this table saying creepy stuff and looking absolutely gorgeous.”
McKeefry is confident that there’s an equally internet-breaking moment coming up. “If they thought that the polo neck jumpers were funny, this is going to blow their mind. All I’ll say is, it’s from Yves Saint Laurent,” she laughs. There’s also a Chanel piece to watch out for which Winkleman herself proposed as a “massive curveball”.
Do Winkleman and McKeefry prefer the glitz of Strictly or the rural chic of Traitors? “Claudia and I are as fickle as each other. When we’re doing Strictly, it’s Strictly and when we’re doing Traitors, it’s Traitors,” says McKeefry. “But we can be more creative with Traitors, it gives me more of a creative buzz.”