If you don't know her name already, actress Caitlin FitzGerald, who stars on one of television's buzziest shows, needs to be on your radar. "When I tell people I'm on Masters of Sex, there's an awkward moment where they're trying to decide if I'm a porn star," says FitzGerald of her role on Showtime's hit series about 1950s groundbreaking sex researchers William Masters and Virginia Johnson (the second season premieres July 13).
Lounging on the roof deck of the Ace Hotel in downtown Los Angeles, Calif., the actress, 30, looks anything but X-rated in a fitted Elizabeth and James blazer, J. Crew boyfriend jeans and Vince ballet flats. Between sips of coffee, she entertains questions about her different roles, among them her début performance playing the rear end of Bessie the Cow in a community-theater production of Jack and the Beanstalk. She's at peace with that choice: "As they say, 'There are no small parts, only small actors.'"
As Libby Masters, a new mom and wife to Dr. Masters (Michael Sheen), FitzGerald has learned a lot about infants on set. "They bring in six babies for a scene, so if one cries, they swap it out with another," she says. "The other day, a baby fell asleep in my arms, and something flipped inside me. The emotion was intense." Right now she is content with her Norfolk terrier puppy, Charlie. "Since I'm bicoastal, it's good that he's small so he can travel with me."
FitzGerald, who grew up in Maine, boasts an intriguing pedigree. Her aunt, Frances FitzGerald, wrote a Pulitzer Prize-winning book about Vietnam (Fire in the Lake); her late grandfather was a deputy director in the CIA during the politically turbulent 1960s. "There's family lore around him," she says, showing off his Omega Constellation watch on her wrist. "My aunt picked up the phone once, and it was JFK on the line."
On the red carpet FitzGerald turns to designers such as Gary Graham, Katharine Polk at Houghton, and Emilia Wickstead. "I love classic pieces with a contemporary edge," she says. "I never want to wear the safe choice—that's no fun." When it comes to her style on Masters of Sex, its a whole different story. Her character is clothed in historically accurate costumes (down to the undergarments) that represent her goal to be a model wife in a world and a society that expects her to have perfect manners, dress and social skills. As a result, her costumes are feminine, soft, pretty and accessible, but with just the right touch of melancholy.
This story originally appeared in our July 2014 issue. For more features like this, subscribe to InStyle now.
1. A Meaningful Accessory
“This linen suit was amazing—I’m pretty sure it was vintage,” FitzGerald states. “I love the fragility of this top and my grandmother—my father’s mother—always put gardenias around the house, so I loved wearing one in my hair, this gardenia.”
2. The Perfect Vintage Frock
“This is from the scene where I tell my husband William that I’m pregnant,” FitzGerald tells InStyle. “The candy-stripe fabric of this vintage dress is incredible—and the circle skirt. We just don’t construct clothes like this anymore. What’s so amazing looking at these 1950s clothes is that they’re all in such good condition and nowadays our clothes don’t hold up like that anymore. The fabric is not as good, it’s not as plentiful, and the construction is not as good.”
3. Libby Masters in Disguise
“I’m actually wearing the hat backwards. The director wanted it that way and we ended up going with it.” FitzGerald says. “Libby’s pretending to have a whole different life, so that hat feels like a disguise.”
4. Something Sexy
“That was made for me by the costume designer and from a pattern. From an old pattern. I think we made it—based it on a vintage bathing suit,” the actress shares. “And, I’m wearing—I’m pretty sure I’m wearing on my feet, if they’re included, vintage jellies.”
5. Doing the Tango
“This vintage look was so perfect in the house against the orange curtains and it made for the perfect dancing dress,” says FitzGerald. “I loved the dancing. We learned to tango in two hours, late at night on an empty stage on the Sony lot. It felt like this secret part of Libby—maybe she once dreamed of being a ballerina. It felt like such a private thing that she allowed him into so it was really intimate and wonderful.”
6. Wearing the Pants
“This is the only time I wear pants in the first season and it seems like the perfect moment for it. She’s usually much more girly,” FitzGerald says. “I love these gardening gloves. There’s a whole story as if I’ve just been outside and found this dead bird. In some ways, this is the scene where Libby tells her greatest secret which is that her mother died and her father abandoned the family. So, it felt nice that she wasn’t overly done up, that it was simpler.”
7. A Turning Point
“They built this for me based on a 1950s pattern. What’s kind of amazing about it is that it looks like a cake,” she says. “It almost hides the pregnancy in this weird way. It hides everything—there’s this denial of sexuality and a woman’s body. You’re just looking at it, and you can’t quite tell that my character is 8 months pregnant. This episode is a major turning point for Libby.”