A Murder Mystery With Clothes to Die For
“The Traitors,” a new reality game show, hinges on startling revelations. In episodes of the series, which is framed as a whodunit, cast members are regularly “murdered” (kicked off). Others are “banished” (also kicked off). But some of the most astonishing reveals have nothing to do with the plot — and everything to do with what outfit the show’s host, the actor Alan Cumming, will appear in next.
There are pink plaid suits. Herringbone tweed capes. Sleek little kilts. “Perhaps, rather alarmingly,” Mr. Cumming said, “the vast majority of the clothes were mine.”
Some fans of “The Traitors,” which premiered this month on Peacock, said Mr. Cumming’s knack for turning natty looks became a favorite part of tuning in. “I really appreciated that he was dressing in so many colors,” said Catherine Maddox, 39, a lab manager in Boston.
The series, which is based on a show from the Netherlands, arrived in the United States after a British adaptation (not hosted by Mr. Cumming) became a surprise hit last year. Contestants on the American version are a mix of celebrities made famous by past reality shows — including Arie Luyendyk (“The Bachelor”), Cirie Fields (“Survivor”), andKate Chastain (“Below Deck”) — and people who have yet to earn their 15 minutes of fame.
Mr. Cumming, whose demeanor is at once macabre and flirtatious, presides over them as they compete for a cash prize on the grounds of Ardross Castle, an estate in the Scottish Highlands once owned by an heir to the Lea & Perrins Worcestershire sauce empire.
Many of the clothes Mr. Cumming wears on the show came from his own closet.Credit…Photographs by Euan Cherry/Peacock
The set was meant to evoke “Clue,” the murder-mystery board game turned movie, said Mathieu Weekes, the production designer of “The Traitors.” To freshen up the 19th-century castle, his team decorated it with ruby red dining room chairs, a crimson love seat, an emerald couch and other vibrant furniture. “Our first reference for color was the film ‘Knives Out,’” Mr. Weekes said. “We wanted to make it feel quite quirky.”
Rarely do reality show sets “have this vintage maximalism,” said Rachel Trombetta, an architectural researcher who works in film and TV. Mr. Weekes, the production designer, said that the set of “The Traitors” was “quite different to create” than those of previous reality shows he has worked on (among them: “I’m a Celebrity…Get Me Out of Here!”) “We wanted to break from the norm and try to give it sort of its own identity,” he said.
Setting the show at such a spectacular location meant its host needed a wardrobe that would “relate to the craziness of this beautiful castle,” said Sam Spector, who styled Mr. Cumming for “The Traitors.” Thankfully, Mr. Cumming, who is Scottish, had a closet full of suits, kilts and plus fours that could serve as a foundation for the aesthetic he and Mr. Spector wanted to achieve. “We talked about trying to make this sort of dandy,” Mr. Cumming said, “this eccentric Scottish laird.” Or, as Mr. Spector put it: Sherlock Holmes, with a touch of “villain from a James Bond movie.”
Robin Emry, a 31-year-old researcher in London who has seen both the British and American versions of “The Traitors,” described Mr. Cumming’s wardrobe as “Vivienne Westwood meets Vincent Price.”
To make Mr. Cumming’s clothes pop even more, Mr. Spector accessorized the host in fly plaids, a type of Scottish scarf worn over one shoulder, hats, capes, sashes and opulent brooches, which tied many of his outfits together (literally and figuratively). Some of his accessories, like a pair of blue opera-length gloves, were made especially for the show.
“The gloves are just hilarious,” Mr. Cumming said. He wears them with what he called “a little policeman’s cape” and a porkpie hat — an eccentric get-up that even he said pushed the limits of an already theatrical wardrobe.
“It’s the most mental look,” Mr. Cumming said, “but I love it.”