April 20, 2012 01:00 PM

Martin Schoeller/HBO

To dress the part of a fictional Vice President of the United States for the new HBO comedy series Veep, Julia Louis-Dreyfus and costume designer Ernesto Martinez looked to one beacon of style: the First Lady.

“[My character Selina Myers] is not as chic as Michelle Obama, but who could be?” Louis-Dreyfus told PEOPLE at last week’s premiere in Washington, D.C. It was still Obama’s singular style that provided the blueprint for the character’s sexy, yet powerful look, “so we can move it slightly away from the square look — no offense,” Louis-Dreyfus said.

Washington, not known to be the capital of fashion, gets a notch sharper in Veep thanks to Myers’ sophisticated wardrobe. “She’s is a little more cutting edge than normal inside-the-Beltway [people] — but just a little bit more,” Louis-Dreyfus said. “She certainly thinks she’s a lot more cutting edge.”

The actress is personally attached to the First Lady’s style, calling her “my icon, I adore her. Oh, my god, look how she puts the belt around the sweater! I don’t feel as though I’m as cool as she is.”

Louis-Dreyfus’s castmates’ characters are decidedly less cool. Arrested Development‘s Tony Hale, who plays the Vice President’s body man, said that most of the cast members “look like they got their clothes out of Goodwill. It was pretty rough.”

Rough aptly describes Timothy Simons’s White House liaison character, Jonah, who “probably sleeps in his car,” according to Simons. “He wears a lot of horrible cardigans and squared-off knit ties. I just tried to make sure that he had absolutely no sense of style or fashion, because he also then tries to hit on people, which is never going to work for him.”

Veep premieres Sunday, April 22, at 10 p.m. on HBO.

–Helin Jung


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