Sex & Style in the Newsroom

Article excerpt

Byline: Lynn Yaeger

'The Hour' is being called the British 'Mad Men,' with one big difference: fashion anyone can wear.

Is a furtive discomfort with our own lax and shaggy times behind the current affection for the corseted silhouettes of the 1950s and '60s? Ignited by Mad Men, now on seemingly endless hiatus (who can even remember the name of that French Canadian whom Don is engaged to anymore?), this passion is lately inflamed by The Hour, an excellent six-part British series set in the BBC newsroom in 1956. As the Suez crisis flares abroad, inside the Lime Grove Studios a staff of good-looking people are desperate to (1) shake off the government's censorious mandates and cover the news in a fresh, interesting way; (2) figure out who murdered a debutante and some other people; and (3) have sex with each other.

While they struggle with these pressing needs, the men are itching in tweed ulsters and Fair Isle vests and the women are flouncing around in less flamboyant versions of the ensembles we're accustomed to seeing on Betty, Peggy, and Joan. But if the female cast members of The Hour never reach the dazzling sartorial highs of Mad Men--maybe because London in the '50s was just emerging from rationing, while Americans were enjoying a burgeoning prosperity--The Hour's fashions exert their own quieter brand of mid-20th-century allure.

The show's costume designer, Suzanne Cave, explains that though she immersed herself in the period by studying Pathe newsreels and perusing old British Vogues, "we didn't really concentrate that much on high fashion. We didn't want to slavishly reproduce, but rather to interpret, to make the show relevant--not a fusty costume drama, but something a contemporary audience could relate to. …