SPOILER ALERT: If you haven’t been watching Breaking Bad, stop reading this post immediately and only return to it once you’ve caught up.
Anna Gunn should have won the Emmy for Best Supporting Actress in a Drama last night for her portrayal of Skyler White. I can’t decide whether Gunn is a C or D cup, but I wish all characters with cleavage were portrayed with this much intelligence and strength.
Skyler began as Walt’s devoted, clueless wife, but her character–and therefore the show–improved dramatically when the writers had her see through Walt’s “fugue state”, figure out that their friends weren’t paying for his treatment, and, finally, determine that her husband was a drug dealer (or a cook, as he corrected her). We learned at the beginning that she finished New York Times crossword puzzles, and we saw her fake contractions to force the hand of the jewelry store owner who accused her of shoplifting a tiara.
This is no helpless woman. Walt had to hold her back from confronting the boys who mocked Walt Jr. at the clothing store, and when she attributed Walt’s strange behavior to marijuana purchased from Jesse Pinkman, she drove straight to his home to tell him to stop selling drugs to her husband. Here is a character who sees a problem, identifies her options and takes action (which is why it is so excruciating to watch her reduced to simply waiting for Walt to die in Season 5).
I was so captivated by Anna Gunn’s portrayal of Skyler White’s strength and depth that I barely paid attention to her wardrobe. The biggest costume change I noticed was her transition from stay-at-home-mom to corporate bookkeeper. Mr. Campbell, on the other hand, kept asking, “What’s with all these low-cut tops? What’s with all this cleavage?”
How had I missed all the cleavage? In studying the episodes for this post, however, I realized that Skyler White’s cleavage isn’t constant. It’s strategic. Would you expect anything less of this character?
In Season 2, Episode 7, Skyler applies for a job at Beneke Fabricators.
On her first day of work, she shows a clear understanding of the role that camisoles play with wrap dresses. Here, she thanks Ted Beneke, aka “Mr. Grabby Hands”, for giving her the job.
Skyler begins to leave the camis home.
Skyler performs a special “Happy Birthday” for Ted at his office birthday party.
Before the kiss.
She’s back to wearing camis.
Once her brother-in-law Hank is shot and she pushes Ted out of her life, it seems like we will never see this much cleavage again. By Season 4, Episode 9, she is all business at the car wash when Ted arrives to request her help with his IRS audit the next day.
Her arrival at the audit is the cleavage climax of the series.
Skyler isn’t trying to seduce the auditor, and he isn’t tempted. The brilliant writers of this series wouldn’t stoop to such a tired cliche. Instead, they had Skyler play to every stereotype of a blonde woman with big boobs showing lots of cleavage. The IRS agent isn’t distracted by her boobs. He simply believes that someone with those boobs really would depend on “the Quicken” to tell her that electronic payments should be included as income. By the time she pats Teddy’s leg at the end to explain that he gave her the job, the auditor believes he understands the situation perfectly.
This YouTube video skips some of the good lines, so if you have access to the actual series online, watch Season 4, Episode 9 at 18:34 remaining.
To understand the amount of thought that goes into the costume design for this series, check out this photo tour with Kathleen Detoros, the costume designer for seasons 1-4. If Vince Gilligan refused to give Walt a hat until the perfect moment, you know they approached every inch of Skyler’s exposed cleavage with just as much consideration.
After this incident, Skyler’s looks vacillate between tailored career woman and casual mom. Anna Gunn continues her stellar portrayal of a strong and brilliant character, but for the remainder of Season 4 and throughout Season 5 so far, she hasn’t needed to use her cleavage.
Instead, she’s just trying to survive and to protect her family. Rather than the vibrant problem solver that we saw at the beginning of the series, we now see an exhausted warrior in Season 5.
Of course, now that I’ve read the following from an interview with the Season 5 costume designer, Jennifer Bryan, I’m going to have to take yet another look at these episodes to see what else I’ve missed.
I sometimes will use the clothing almost as an armor, as a protection from whatever adversarial thing is happening in that character’s life. And for me, I just look at her business clothes as armor for her husband’s drastic change. And her palette also over the season you’ll see shifts. I mean, I can’t reveal to you where it ends up, but if the viewer watches, they’ll also see shifts as she goes through what the writers have in store for her.