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They all have cleavage

Sarah Arthur has every reason to feel a bit chuffed with herself this month. As costume designer and stylist for Footballers' Wives she is responsible cartier love bracelet silver for the near iconic status of Tanya, Chardonnay, Donna and Jackie   our favourite trophy women. Every week, seven million viewers rush to their TV sets, not really to see if Tanya is actually a lesbian, or if Donna is still shagging that Italian, but to gawp wide eyed at their fabulously common, outrageously tarty, totally OTT outfits. It's as close as we'll ever get to shopping with Posh, having dinner with Nancy, or spending a night out with Louise Redknapp. It's Dallas in Essex. "For the first series, I had to literally beg, borrow and steal," says Arthur. Many of the clothes were high street   Zara, Warehouse and Topshop, with shoes from Ravel, Sasha and Barrett. "My intention had been to borrow from the best designers, such as Prada and Gucci, but they slammed the door in my face. The people at Versace were downright rude. No one wanted to know. I got quite depressed about it."

Not so for this series. The list of designers involved reads like a schedule for London Fashion Week   Amanda Wakeley, Betty Jackson, Maria Grachvogel, Kyri, Ricci Burns and Joseph for the girls and Ozwald Boateng, Timothy Everest, Mark Powell, Paul Smith and Kenzo for the boys. "I was really able to push the boat out this time," says Arthur gleefully in her lilting Welsh accent, "because so many designers were keen to lend their clothes, dresses worth thousands of pounds."

You can see what she means in a forthcoming episode where Tanya and Jason renew their wedding vows. We see Tanya dressed in a tight, beaded Scott Henshall dress with a stiletto and football boot stitched into the bodice. "I wouldn't have dared go for that in the first series. Now all the outfits are more flamboyant, especially for the men."

Boring brown and beige have made way for bright green and purple striped suits and shimmering silk shirts and matching ties. "The boys loved it. Gary Lucy, who plays Kyle, took a bit of persuading into his Ozwald Boateng sarong for the christening in last week's episode, but once it was on he felt totally comfortable. In fact, he's taken home lots of his outfits."

No prizes for where the sarong idea came from. The influence of Posh and Becks is everywhere   from the diamond cross necklaces from Boodle and Dunthorne, to the bustier tops by Kyri and Maria Grachvogel evening dresses. "We looked at the Beckhams' wedding and their World Cup party," says Arthur. "Victoria loves Kyri's bustier tops and she's modelled for Maria Grachvogel before."

In the name of research, Arthur, who began her career as a costume designer with the BBC over 20 years ago, also persuaded one real footballer's wife, who wishes to remain anonymous, to give her a personal tour of her wardrobe. "There are specifics you need to get right," she says. "These girls like their labels to be obvious, such as heavily logoed handbags by Louis Vuitton, Gucci and Chanel. Then there are Cartier watches and diamond studs   for the girls and the boys   plus flashy underwear by La Perla and Agent Provocateur.

"Many real footballers' wives have children, so when they drive them to school, they'll wear a Juicy Couture tracksuit and light makeup. But for lunch, they'll change into a suit, perhaps by Whistles, and apply the lipstick.

"For the gym they'll change again: everything is tight, their bodies are well honed," she continues. "Then in the evening, it becomes a very competitive world and out come the designer frocks: Versace and Gucci, with Jimmy Choo and Gina Couture on their feet." Arthur has made the TV girls less homogenous than their reallife counterparts, matching their styles to their characters. They all have cleavage and a St silver love bracelet Tropez fake tan, but Tanya, the scheming cocaine fuelled witch of the series, will wear bright red to Chardonnay's warm orange, and hard grey to Donna's soft beige. "Donna is wholly different to Tanya," says Arthur. "She's younger, from the north of England and wants to be an athomemum, so I opted for an understated look with Whistles trousers and tight Warehouse T shirts. Then when she started to have an affair I razzled her up with some flashy Morgan and Joseph."

The cast, she says, are a dream to work with: "The girls all have great bodies, great style. They really know how to wear the clothes, how to walk, how to sit, cross their legs. And they trust me   if something doesn't look right, I'll always find something else. After all, they're appearing in front of millions of viewers and, of course, vanity is going to play its part." Bizarrely, Versace, Gucci and Prada still refuse to lend Arthur their clothes, despite all the free press they get.

"Perhaps they don't want to upset their real clients," shrugs Arthur. "Maybe Victoria Beckham wouldn't appreciate her latest D suit being worn by Tanya. But I'm hoping that will change."

Meanwhile, Arthur hunts down fake Louis Vuitton handbags in London markets and gets her Versace from Bicester Village, a designer outlet outside Oxford. "I get all last season there at a fraction of the price," she says. "And I also stock up on Donna Karan, Whistles, Karen Millen, Nicole Farhi and Paul Smith."

The fashion police may sneer at the likes of Tanya and Donna but there is no doubting the power they wield in the real world. As Arthur is quick to point out, Chardonnay has become the most popular name for baby girls. Why wouldn't it follow that women will also dress like her? And after all, Arthur says, "It doesn't always take lots of money to dress like a footballer's wife   all you need is some fake tan, a good hairdresser and a quick trip down a London high street."

Footballers' Wives is on ITV, Wednesdays at 9pm.

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  • Created: May 22
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    They all have cleavage
    Sarah Arthur has every reason to feel a bit chuffed with herself this month. As costume designer and stylist for Footballers' Wives she is responsible...
    May 22
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