Advertisement

Here’s How Alan Cumming’s Wild Outfits Came Together for The Traitors

Getty Images

The Traitors is full of twists and turns. The Peacock series is basically a murder mystery dinner party staged for reality-TV cameras, and the second season was packed with quotable players, shocking boots, and unexpected betrayals. But nothing caused more jaws to drop than the wild outfits that host Alan Cumming strode into each episode wearing—head-to-toe maximalist camp, dripping in out-there accessories like Scottish scarves, bright opera-length tartan gloves, berets, brooches, capes, and canes.

Alan Cumming’s known as an adventurous dresser, a champion of the wild style era of menswear, but these ensembles really took it up a notch, and gave the show a jolt of twisted creative flair. Even the show’s cast started stepping it up to match.

“Alan is the one we’re all dressing to impress,” said one of the show’s eponymous traitors, Parvati Shallow, of Survivor fame. “We’re dressing to try to get his attention and his seal of approval. Because Alan’s wardrobe is so fire. Oh my god, his accessories, his little pouf of hair, he’s perfect.”

Cumming’s wardrobe was the result of a carefully considered collaboration with a stylist, Sam Spector, who worked closely with the show’s host and production team to develop a “Bond villain” character for season one. In season two, they created series of looks that closely coincided with every episode’s themed challenge.

Beginning with the “amazing archive” in Cumming’s closet, Spector built out ensembles for the Traitors host that drew from royal funerals, Sex and the City, Etsy, Scottish dandies, and more. He shared with GQ what it was like to create one of reality TV’s truly iconic new characters.

GQ: How'd you get into styling for The Traitors?

Sam Spector: I was the fashion editor for Out Magazine and Esquire and I went off on my own years and years ago, before the celebrity style thing blew up. I had male and female clients but I decided to focus on mens and be the best mens stylist that I could be. I got a call right before Traitors season one from Alan's manager, people I knew through the industry had recommended me. I didn't know anything about it at the time, none of us did. I work on so many things that come and go and didn't expect this much success and fanfare, but it's been such a treat and so creatively inspiring and amazing to work with Alan on creating this amazing character.

It really is quite a character. He's playing an amped up version of himself, but as the conductor of a Clue game in a 19th century castle. How did you put it together?

Before season one, Alan and I had a call and he used the word “dandy.” It was the perfect inspiration, we took that to the network and everyone was on board. I created moodboards and used my menswear background to work in a Scottish dandy Laird and traditional Scottish menswear. I also wanted to work with Alan's punk downtown New York vibe. We had a Bond villain in our heads during season one, but it’s ever-evolving in season two. For the funeral episode, for example, I used images of women at British royal funerals over time—even the queen. Luckily, Alan is interested in going there. He pulls off these crazy and sometimes androgynous and sometimes wacky looks so well. All the credit goes to him—I'm just a little piece of this puzzle.

<cite class="credit">Getty Images</cite>
Getty Images

Any specific images from the mood board that really came through?

I was inspired by Sarah Jessica Parker's wedding look in Sex and the City, with the teal cape around her arms over her wedding dress. I used that for inspiration for Alan's cape in the funeral episode, I wanted something super dramatic. I loved that that's an iconic moment in women's fashion and that I could use that on a male in a network reality show.

Can you talk about your use of his Scottish background?

I had to do a lot of research on Scottish menswear through history—tartans and all the accessories, like the sporran and the kilt socks and how they're worn. Do they need to match? I want to be respectful but also have fun with it. I start every season in Alan's closet because he has such a great archive of Scottish clothes. Now we're sort of running out of it, but I often start with the kilt and work from there.

Do all the clothes come from his closet?

No. We start there, just because he has such a great archive. I take it all to my studio, everything I think would be appropriate, then I work it into each episode. Some looks have one piece from his closet in them, like the red kilt look, where he's wearing the blue pussybow blouse? That kilt was his, so we built off that. Some of the looks, like the scarecrow look, has none of his, that's 3 different blazers chopped up to make one because I wanted the mix-and-match plaid vibe. The funeral look is all new. Most of it now is all new because we've run out of pieces.

<cite class="credit">Getty Images</cite>
Getty Images

Anything you pulled outside his closet that really hit?

The funeral look's my favorite because there's so many layers. There's the shirt off the rack. We worked with Atelier Cillian, this young mens brand, and he made us a kilt and we used a piece—a tweed black blazer from his collection—and accessorized it with the cape and the hat. We embellished a lot of suits with netting for the episode with the traps. For the the log cabin episode, I added sticks to the blazer. I loved the bird calling episode, and added a wacky bird to a beret and used an ostrich feather shirt. I just love how wacky and silly and campy his clothes are. I’ve seen them all, and still, every time he shows up on screen, I start cackling.

<cite class="credit">Getty Images</cite>
Getty Images

So everything is meticulously plotted out to connect with each episode?

Everything's super planned. I start with a mood board. We talk it through with producers. Then I shop it. I see what I can get off the mood board. Then we fit everything with Alan. Like the log cabin thing. I had the sticks in the studio, I show Alan that we're going to apply the sticks to the lapel and we do that between fitting and filming and then we send everything to Scotland. I actually went to Scotland for a visit mid-season during filming and all the looks are up on the wall, very well prepared, and they don't really veer from there. If there's mud or rain, we include extra boots and wellies and coats so they can add those at the last minute, but I include them on my look book. This is the raincoat you'd wear with this look, this is the boot you'd wear with this look. There was a mosquito outbreak, so had leggings to go under kilts in case he was getting bitten.

Phaedra and Parvati told me that breakfast was like a fashion show, with everyone competing for the best outfit, but nobody could top Alan.

I'm cognizant that they're aware of the level to which Alan's dressing and they're starting to dress like him. I want Alan to be next level, and the cast is always trying to play catch up to meet his style. In season one, they obviously had no clue what he was going to wear but, in season two, the contestants were aware of his look, so they're bringing elements of it. You see the women like Phaedra and Kate wearing leather gloves, like we introduced on Alan in season one. I want next season to be next level and have them be wowed even more so they're always trying to play catch up.

Can you give us any preview of what next level might look like?

We're still in early conversations about what the missions will look like. Season one was just about the dandy James Bond villain. In season two, we were inspired by each mission for the clothes. In season three, I'm going to do the same, but it'll be as whimsical and wacky as possible.

Alan seems really into his clothes for the show, they seem to amp up his performance. Does he have favorite outfits?

There's an amazing synergy on this show and it sets it apart from other shows. The location, the castle, the music written for this show, the costumes, the production design, the Land Rovers, the missions being so well designed. It all adds up and helps him get into character. The clothes are definitely a part of that, but the show has amazing synergy in all those elements. In terms of his favorites, I think he loves them all. The funeral was definitely one of his favorites because he had so many layers to play with. I love that he's able to take off the cape for the round table and it was still equally dramatic.

The accessories really take it over the top. Some of the moment memorable moments have centered around the capes, brooches, opera gloves.

Just wait, I'm doing crazier opera gloves next time. In the latest episode, there's a mesh glove with a garter and a jeweled spider on it. We had them custom made to his size. The first season I had vegan leather gloves made for Alan because he's vegan. I had to source vegan leather in the colors that I wanted and then have them made custom for his size. It's not easy to find opera gloves for men made in royal blue or kelly green vegan leather.

So you make some of these pieces yourself?

A lot of his pieces are found ready to wear, then I've embellished them or cut them up to make them into different pieces. But I just saw the Christian Siriano show and sent images to Alan saying, “You need this for season three!” I'm inspired by all different things. I was just at a vintage store and saw amazing pieces that would be perfect for him, but I just have to figure out how to work them into each specific missions for specific episodes.

I lost my mind at one Alan look in particular: the one with the kewpie doll blonde bang coming out of a blue beret. I have to ask you about it.

Ah yes, the red kilt with matching red opera gloves. He wore this Orttu cape over it and a blue pussybow shirt with the blue beret. I can't take credit for the hair, because I did not tell the hair stylist to do that, but I think it was perfect. His groomer in Scotland deserves a lot of credit, too, for that little piece of hair. That made me cackle when it came on. Everything was working together, it was perfect.

Someone needs to start an Instagram with the fashion credits for these looks.

Not to give away my secrets, but a lot of it is from Etsy—just random people across the world who have created things. Like the bird on the hat I found on Etsy and I just ripped it off another hat and attached it to his beret. It's a crazy game that we play, of trying to find these little pieces.

Originally Appeared on GQ