When it comes to spinning the yarn on the glamorous looks for new Fox hip-hop drama, EMPIRE (starring Terrence Howard and Taraji P. Henson), costume designer Rita McGhee is the reigning wardrobe queen. With over 25 years under her belt working alongside director Spike Lee and Oscar-nominated costume designer Ruth Carter (Amistad, Malcolm X), this expert dresser tells us how the decadent, dangerous world of music mogul Lucious Lyon (Howard), ex-wife Cookie (Henson), and the family dynasty they’re vying to rule inspired the characters’ unforgettable looks.
Scroll down to learn more about EMPIRE, and shop Cookie Lyon's look. Don't miss EMPIRE starting Wednesdays, January 7 on FOX.
EMPIRE costume designer Rita McGhee
Together, music and fashion play a pivotal role in Empire. That’s why McGhee turned to the icons, like Mary J. Blige, Beyoncé, Diana Ross, and Nina Simone, to hit that high-fashion note.
When styling for the screen, the volatile relationship between music tycoon Lucious Lyon and his ex-wife-slash-con, Cookie, posed an intriguing challenge for McGhee, who had to create signature “power looks” for both. “Energy is important because for the actor, the clothing is part of the story and they need to feel right in them for the character,” she says. “When people identify with the character, the more they start wanting to dress like them.”
Want to dress for the spotlight? Take a cue from Cookie’s fearless style sensibilities. “Her wardrobe is full of bold prints, lots of accessories, animal prints, and furs. The woman who can carry that off is a confident woman,” McGhee explains.
Just in time for your winter wardrobe line-up, choose a luxurious coat like Cookie’s to achieve a luxe vibe.
If you love scene-stealing accessories and bold prints, you’ll be glued to the tube week after week to get a look at Cookie’s statement pieces, like “rings, clutches, and animal prints.”
Colour can define an entire outfit. McGhee tells us why purple is so powerful and pops up regularly on the show: “One fact that stands out and is truly in line with [the lead characters] is the colour purple. Only a Roman emperor was allowed to wear the trabea, which was a toga entirely coloured in purple. Tyrian purple dye was worth more than its weight in gold and therefore came to symbolise both wealth and power.”
“Cookie is that woman you notice as soon as they walk in the room and you want to know her.” Learn her story when EMPIRE premieres Wednesdays starting January 7 on FOX.