The fall TV season is kicking off and what's classic is current again, especially with all the reboots and revivals. The latest? The return of "Murphy Brown." In the age of the non-stop news cycle, #TimesUp and a media-obsessed 45th POTUS constantly decrying "fake news" (not to mention a power pantsuit renaissance), the revival of the award-winning sitcom starring Candice Bergen is beyond timely. Plus, we're always happy to take in costume design by Patricia Field, who's putting her signature touch on the show, which first aired from 1988 to 1998.
"I love comedy," says the legendary costume designer over the phone, while waiting for Bergen to pop in for a fitting on the Queens-based "Murphy Brown" set. "I love optimism. It inspires me in my costume design. I could never do a war movie or a zombie movie. It's not me. I love the opportunity to show similar optimism in the fashion."
And, let's be honest, these days, optimism sounds divine — especially considering how the show will reflect and interact with real-world current events. In the revival, which starts the day after the 2016 presidential election, Murphy returns to cable news with a show similar to Chris Cuomo's "New Day" on CNN. The glass-ceiling-shattering anchor reunites her old "FYI" fam: former Miss America-turned-talking head Corky (Faith Ford), investigative reporter Frank (Joe Regalbuto) and neurotic executive producer Miles (Grant Shaud, who also plays Charles's lawyer friend on "Younger").
Field — who brought New York street style to the world 20 years ago with her still-copied "Sex and the City" costumes — has creatively interpreted dramatized versions of the media glitterati via fashion throughout much of her career (see: "Devil Wears Prada," "Ugly Betty" and "Younger," on which she consults). But with "Murphy Brown," the visionary costume designer is revisiting characters established over two decades ago and bringing them into 2018 — and with her own distinct approach, of course.
"I try to be classic," says Field, about Murphy and co.'s wardrobe updates. "Even though some people don't think of me as classic — I think they're wrong — but with my twist to it. So that it gives it that originality."
She prides herself on closely collaborating with the actors, as she famously did with Sarah Jessica Parker on "SATC," to make sure they're comfortable in front of the camera feel true to their character. To that end, she took note of Bergen's preference for suits and trousers; no one knows Murphy better than the actress, who won five Emmys for the role.
But Field, who didn't watch the original series (but studied up on a cram package of videos sent by the studio), wanted to avoid easily dated trends, like the big '80s shoulder pads from the original run. "Something trendy [does not stand up] quite as long, you know?" she says. "It has a short-lived life."
Field worked from the original Murphy spirit and aesthetic as a "foundation." The costume team custom-built some suiting, while also stocking Bergen's costume closet with looks by Giorgio Armani, Ralph Lauren and Michael Kors. "Back in the day, she made the red suit famous," explains Field. "Of course, we used a red suit, but it's a different silhouette and it's just accessorized a bit differently."
Murphy also still wears her signature white button-downs, but with a Field-updated open collar. In the same spirit, Field also enjoyed using the suits as separates, styling a white blazer playfully, but still professionally, with a luxe brooch, a breton top, athletic-striped trousers and incredibly chic pumps (above), for instance.
Murphy's leopard-print jacket layered over a bright cardigan and the white shirt (above) boasts Field's innate ability to effortlessly coordinate statement prints and bold hues. "That leopard raincoat jacket is a surprise," she says, about pushing the envelope, just enough. "I try to give her some unusual art print, color or something wherever I can. Wherever it works."
Field is also prepping for a "big formal awards ceremony" featured in an upcoming episode. "I found this gorgeous Michael Kors sequin jacket, but I haven't fit her yet," she says. (Fingers crossed that makes it on camera.)
When it came to refreshing the look of upbeat lifestyle reporter Corky, Field had worked with Ford on the mid-aughts sitcom "Hope & Faith," so the two already established a rapport. (According to the Los Angeles Times, Ford was the one who suggested that Field join the show.) The costume designer enjoyed modernizing Corky's "fifties kind of look," with more streamlined silhouettes, creative colors, pants — a first for the character — and more adventurous footwear, like the red boots pictured below.
Of course, there are some new characters, too. "Murphy Brown" last aired eight years before Twitter existed and nine before the iPhone changed our lives, so clearly the "New Day" crew needs some new media help. Enter Social Media Director Pat Patel (Nik Dodani), who proclaims: "My job is to bring all the olds into the 21st century." And let's just say that Pat is definitely the Carrie of the group when it comes to fashion.
"Oh yeah, he's a lot of fun," says Field. "He is new and we have no history to find any continuity for him. So we have a lot of freedom with him." Pat — and the actor who plays him — enjoy wearing a "mix and match" of vibrant prints, suiting from Topman, sportier elements, like checkered Vans, and vintage finds.
"But all the men, honestly, they love their wardrobe," she says. Field worked off their established aesthetics from the original and creatively pushed the boundaries her way. "Frank, he's Mr. Personality," she says, about Murphy's best friend. "I gave him a little bit more of a sexy look: dark colors and some silk shirts."
As for buttoned-up Miles, Field maintained his "preppy, Brooks Brother-y type," but jazzed it up a bit. "I added little boutonnieres on his lapels and popped his colors more, instead of bland-ing him out," she explains.
Along with breaking boundaries and antagonizing then-Vice President Dan Quayle, "Murphy Brown" gained fame for the frequent cameos from mega-guest stars, including the late Aretha Franklin, Bette Midler and Sally Field, who each played one of the titular character's ever-rotating roster of assistants. Creator and Executive Producer Diane English says the tradition will continue and teased an "enormously famous guest" in the premiere. But costume designing for the guest spots — which are not just one-time-only, but also A-list figures — adds another layer of work for Field and her team.
"It's, of course, an experience because a couple of them are really big time," she says, without divulging any names, of course. "They come with their own ideas and expectations because sometimes they're not actors. They're famous people."
Something to think about ...
"So it's important to make them feel comfortable," continues Field, with a mischevious little laugh. "While giving them a little boost of my own."
Follow Patricia Field on Instagram @patriciafield. 'Murphy Brown' returns on Thursday, Sept. 27 at 9:30 p.m. on CBS.
Top and homepage photo: David Giesbrecht/Warner Bros. ©2018 Warner Bros. Entertainment Inc.