Costume designer Kelli Jones walks a fine line when it comes to dressing motorcycle matriarch Gemma Teller Morrow (played by Katey Sagal) in the FX drama “Sons of Anarchy.”
“Gemma is my favorite character because it’s a mix of keeping it sexy biker but not slutty,” Jones tells Zap2it. “She’s the matriarch, but some of those women do dress a little over the top. I need her to look sexy and rock ‘n’ roll without going too over-the-top with a little too much skin. Everything head-to-toe with her is very specific, from where the sleeve is on the arm to how low the top goes.”
Jones’ staples for Gemma include leather jackets and vests — mostly from Royal Underground by Nikki Sixx and Kelly Gray — and skinny jeans and killer belts. She also wears Frye boots and crocodile and chain-link heels by Mary-Kate and Ashley Olsen’s line Elizabeth and James.
“Those Olsen twins can knock it out of the park when it comes to shoes,” Jones says. “I think I’ve used a couple of their shirts — it’s just on the edge of rock ‘n’ roll that’s pretty cool. … I cannot have her look like a hooker, but it still has to be something that’s pretty wicked.”
Jones does a fitting with Sagal before every episode, and her attention to detail is on display in these examples of Gemma’s look:
“Here we did a lace camisole underneath and cut it down a little in the front. Her cleavage is enough. … She looks in charge without looking over-sexualized or too risque. I didn’t want to do solid black underneath, so I did lace so you saw the flesh underneath. The director said it was his favorite outfit he’s ever seen on her. I believe the jeans are Citizen. The thing about Katey’s shirts is that we piece together a lot. This season I made a lot of the shirts myself. I will take a sleeve from one shirt and the body from another.”
“This outfit was for a charity event she had to go to. Basically, there are times when her and Clay and the boys have to incorporate themselves but still be in their world. It’s a beautiful color. To go into a small community and a charity event that’s run by the people who run the city you are not going to go in all black. She normally is in grey and black. Lawyers wear that shirt under a chocolate brown business shirt but she wears it with a crocodile belt and a lace camisole. Her jeans are Seven and her heels you can’t see are six-inch shiny Elizabeth and James stilettos. The belt had to be crocodile and the rest had to be edgy. The accents make up her wardrobe more than the actual pieces. Elie Tahari is the shirt — the only piece she’s ever had from that line. I found it on a rack with business suits.”
“This jacket is Royal Underground. All the ones that have the fleur-de-lis on the zipper are. … I do a lot of tank tops that have basic neutral graphics in basic black and whites but not with words on them. I’ve done a $10 tank top and a black camisole underneath it and the black jacket. You don’t need anything else with that jacket. You can get tank tops in the mall that are $9.99. You would never wear them alone because they are so cheap and probably don’t fit right. She probably has about 20 or 30 of those in her closet. She is wearing the jacket with sleeves zipped up and just enough showing. … So many people in that world dress inappropriately for their age.”
Jones also shops for Gemma everywhere in Los Angeles from Angl and Clik B at Sherman Oaks Mall to Barneys and Nordstrom to Politix at the Beverly Center.
“If I’m spending any money on her, it’s her jacket and belts,” Jones says. To me, you can have a $500 shirt or a $10 shirt and if it’s altered it fits just as well. You spend $30 on a good alteration and then you have a really killer piece for your wardrobe.”
For Gemma’s jewelry, Jones likes to piece together necklaces. Most of her earrings are Lucky, and bracelets usually feature some sort of hardware.
“Basically I look for small, round charms and chains and put them together for a layered look. Those pieces are pretty much staples and I like the layered look so she’ll wear two or three. I never want to cover her scar so the shirts are low and the necklaces are a little higher. I’ve gone to different places to get those. They are all tarnished looking — nothing is too silvery.”
People have been so receptive to Gemma’s wardrobe that Jones is working on an “SOA” line that will be sold in department stores next year.
Eight pieces are available on the FX website this month, including four from Gemma.
“I blog about the show and all the clothes that are going to be on the website,” Jones says. “The jacket Gemma wears this year is more closed at the top and then flares out at the bottom so you can see the belts because they are so amazing. The belts make those outfits most of the time. There’s a black jacket that is available as part of the line for $250 and a belt that I made for $90. They are unique pieces. … Next season there will be many more pieces and hopefully an entire line for the stores.”
Jones also is designing an “SOA” jewelry line with Morgana McNelis.
“One of the necklaces is a half-moon that Maggie [Siff, who plays Tara] wears,” she says, “and the other is a mushroom ring that has a little stone in the center that is really pretty. It’s all being manufactured locally in Los Angeles.”