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Costume Design

MASTERS OF SEX, created by Michelle Ashford, owes much of its stunning visual appeal to the costumes designed by Ane Crabtree.  Chronicling the lives of William Masters and Virginia Johnson, ground-breaking researchers in the science of human sexuality, the series is set in St. Louis in the late 1950s.  Crabtree describes the look of her designs as “hyper reality,” conveying the historical accuracy of the time period -- conservative yet on the cusp of significant social change -- with a modern vibrancy.  Read on as she shares her insight about creating the stunning wardrobe for the principal characters:

"...conservative yet on the cusp of significant social change..."

Q: Tell us about designing the costumes for Dr. William Masters.

AC: Michael Sheen’s character is very much well dressed. He’s a self made person and somehow in his childhood the bowtie was something that he clicked into. An iconic thing, as Michael Sheen would say, to twist his character to perfection. So we use that very distinctly to anchor the character.

Oftentimes you’ll see square upon square on his shirts. The character is sort of trapped within and also it’s about precision. It’s about not letting any of the frayed edges show emotionally. We make everything from head to toe, except for the shoes. We make all the bowties that you see on the show; they’re very specific and very precise.

Q: The character of Virginia Johnson wears some amazing outfits.

AC: The great thing about Virginia Johnson is that she wants more than what the normal women of the 50s wanted. She wants to be a doctor so she tries, maybe through her clothing, that it’s very sort of Bette Davis, very Katharine Hepburn -- very smart … instead of being very pretty. I like to show a little bit of Virginia’s personal history as someone who was in a different place before she entered this hospital. Yes, she is a woman who is from the 50s, but we add touches to her to give a little bit of a quiet flavor. She is someone who is self made.

Lizzy is this beautiful, tiny, sexy woman, so I like to make a lot of her stuff because it’s close to the body. It makes her more of a modern 50s woman -- more alluring.”

Q: Libby Masters is another incredible dresser.

AC:  Libby is this glorious tall creature; she’s very easy to dress. She has beautiful couture pieces that are vintage. Some of Libby’s clothes are just a whisper of a color and that’s also because of her character. She’s someone who’s finding herself, someone who hasn’t had a lot of familial support. She has a certain role to play as a doctor’s wife – someone who is very fine, very elegant – so certainly her clothes need to be indicative of that. I wanted to make sure that everything was just a little hush of a color; nothing too costume-y, but something that rustles when she walks. She’s our sort of quiet beauty.