Drama Style Review: The Prime Minister & I
This is one of the shows that in my personal blog commentary I ended up commenting on clothes a lot. Like any good drama, the clothing is used to set up characters visually, just as the writers are doing through scenes. Though this show was by no means deep, it was heartfelt, and had a very grounded sense to it.
Partially because of the characters (have you ever met a more common-sensical hero?), but level of attention to things like clothing help make the world more real.
Let’s start with our Titular Prime Minister. As the grounded one, he actually changes the least over the course of the show. He’s well-dressed from the start. (Secretary Seo probably colluded with his wife to create this look.)
The structure of his suit is deliberate, though it’s not particularly loud. Because he’s not a tall man, they choose to buff him out around the chest with not just a suit blazer, but a wide tie (always tasteful) and often a scarf lining the coat for an extra layer.
He’s often in navy or lighter greys, because though occasionally demanding he’s not particularly stern. They also had to make sure to accentuate any youthfulness to him. In the scene when he gets “street clothes” to go into the club after his wife, we actually see him being both handsome and looking a little dated for his clothes. Suits do not do this.
We can see that he’s handsome because he’s got a fashion-aware choice of colors to his still-classic suit with tie and tiebar.
Then, we have the cameleon Yoona. At first I was a little skeptical, at her somewhat clothes-horse look. As the drama settles in, though, I realized that they use this to show Nam Da-Jung’s way of throwing herself into her role. As a paparazzi urban-hunter type reporter, she is both stylish and rough-and-ready—boots, distressed jeans, jackets.
The jarring notes, then, of her ridiculous “housedresses” show that she’s trying hard and it’s a little too hard. Kwon Yool rightfully cannot stand her pink-and-bunny-fur nightmare vision of what a cute but responsible housewife wears. And then she goes for Sound of Music on chaebol wife steroids…
(images from Korean Drama Fashion)
It’s an outward expression of her determination to make the relationship work, and also make the family work.
She settles into more of those neutrals, and outfits made up of actual chic clothing turned into a more traditional skirt-with-blouse look. It’s not an accident that when she runs away to stay with her dad she always reverts to jeans and sweaters, putting off her image. When she just visits him, she’s wearing First Lady outfits.
The other major character with an emotional barometer built into their clothing is Team Leader Kang.
Aside from his permanent face of woeful prettiness, he also wears a lot of black. It suits his position, as a starter aide, to be in only black with white, but he also wears out a series of navy, with choke-hold black turtlenecks, or tighter-wound scarves than the Prime Minister, and not in contrast colors.
As he truly falls for Da-Jung, some color enters, but still in a monochromatic scheme.
I specifically noticed, then, the scene in which he first wears a tweed in lighter tones, like in the photoset’s second row. It was not a particularly intense scene, but I thought “he’s made a clean breast of it and now is relieved”. His brother’s not recovered, but he knows that Kwon Yool is a good man, that he’s going to stick by him. That he’s not going to steal Da-Jung from him.
It could be a black moment for him, all discovered, all his ambition lost, but his dress tells us an important thing: no, his life has been black. He’s now in alignment with what he knows is right, and he can breathe.
I could be reading a lot into it, but seriously, who goes from all black all the time to a lovely Harris Tweed without a serious philosophical watershed?
I do love those lovely driving gloves, though I didn’t get a decent screencap. Is he hiding his intentions, as is apparently the symbology? I think he’s still in his maelstorm of “do I tell, I think I’m wrong” so it’s quite possible.
It’s interesting, from my perspective as someone studying emotional health, to note that he gets physically sick at his darkest moment. That Da-Jung comes as the only person he can rely on. This rings true to me—he’s so upset and conflicted that his body just gives him notice. And I think that though not much happens in this scene, the fact that he both doesn’t try to get Da-Jung on his side, or even make a move on her, is one of his critical moments of realizing that he wants to do the right thing.
After all, he really does admire Kwon Yool, even if he hates him for it. That’s why he keeps on setting out tests in watching how he acts as Prime Minister, to see what he’s really made of.
This is now too long, and I didn’t get to Secretary Seo, who is probably the best-dressed of all. I will note that I may have been looking for it, but she *does* start wearing flowy-er clothing as she leaves Kwon Yool. She dresses professionally once aide to the brother-in-law again. Her pantsuit as elected representative in her little moment in the epilogue? Does a much better job than the scene of establishing her as an independent woman, once again on her feet, and come into her own.