Costume Design at the Emmys – The Art of Costume Roundtable

Spencer: Hi everyone! Thank you for being here. Congratulations on joining The Art of Costume team!  With everything considered, It’s been an excellent year for costume design – specifically in the world of television. The Emmys are right around the corner and there are so many excellent designers nominated within the costume design categories. I know I can speak for all of us when I say each and every one of these designers are incredibly talented and all just as deserving of an Emmy this year. First I would like to hear from each of you why you wanted to join the team and have there been any shows this year that have left an impression on you? Csilla, why don’t you go first?

Csilla: Thank you, Spencer. I am currently studying costume design, and I wanted to join the team to be among other like-minded people and share our love of costume. Euphoria has been on my mind ever since I first watched it. The whole concept and visual world of the series feel very close to my heart. Unorthodox hits on a different emotional level. I spent the first few minutes concentrating just on the costumes of the show. I was uncertain what period this story was taking place in, and it made the whole concept of the isolation so striking. The wedding scene was so beautiful, uncomfortable, and terrifying to watch. I am a huge fan of both of these series. 

Spencer: I totally agree with you Csilla. Especially when it comes to Euphoria-that show was so good I still find myself thinking about the costumes, colors, makeup, music… everything! Elizabeth, how about you?

Elizabeth: I studied costume design in college and I also joined the Art of Costume team to share my love and admiration for costumes with others. This year’s nominees are incredible; there were three that stood out to me, The Marvelous Mrs. Maisel, Carnival Row, and Unorthodox. The costumes brought you into worlds that we don’t typically see or create a new one in Carnival Row’s case. 

Spencer: It’s so good to have you with us Elizabeth. Candice, turning it over to you.

Candice:  I have always loved costume design and used to scrapbook every magazine article about costume designers I would come across. I wanted to join the team to share my love of costume design, like Csilla, with like-minded people. Schitt’s Creek was amazing and as I re-watch the series I fall in love with the costumes even more. Carnival Row was visually stunning and while watching that series, I remember just saying out loud to myself just how much I loved the costumes each episode. The episode from Killing Eve that was nominated was my favorite episode in terms of costumes from the entire season. Of course, I also want to recreate every look from the Marvelous Mrs. Maisel.

Spencer: I couldn’t agree with you more when it comes to Schitt’s Creek, but we will get into that a little later! Last but not least, Jada I would love to hear from you.

Jada: It’s so important to surround yourself with people who can challenge and push you to try new things and be the best that you can be. That is what The Art of Costume does! I’ve learned so much from the team and can’t wait to see what’s in store. My connection to costume design is that it’s been a part of me ever since I was younger. I went from making my own Halloween costumes to being on the theater costume crew. Ironically this has been a great year for television especially since most of us have been quarantining and were able to binge-watch so many series over the last few months. Even though I haven’t seen some of the shows nominated, the costumes from Euphoria, The Marvelous Mrs. Maisel, Pose, and Schitt’s Creek has definitely left me intrigued and wanting to binge all of them! 

Pose, Season 2

Spencer: Thank you Jada, and thank you to all of you for being here. I can’t tell you how happy I am to be having this discussion with each of you. We really have created a great team, and I am so thrilled about our future together. Well, let’s get started then! We are going to go through each of the four costume design award categories. First, let’s talk about the Outstanding Period Costumes category. What a fabulous lineup of shows! The Crown, Hollywood, The Marvelous Mrs. Maisel, Mrs.America, and Pose. Any thoughts?

Elizabeth: I started and finished The Marvelous Mrs. Maisel this year and couldn’t believe I had waited so long to watch it. The story of Midge Maisel trying to shake conventions of the fifties to live her own life is fascinating and engaging, but the costumes bring you into her world. With many period pieces, the costumes can act as props to tell you when and where you are. But with Mrs. Maisel, the costumes are a huge part of what brings you into her world with eye-catching designs and bright colors that tell you everything you need to know about that scene and the characters in it. 

Candice: I loved the Old Hollywood take on the 1940’s costumes in Hollywood. The color palettes and silhouettes of the era that were used made the entire season visually stunning. The attention to detail on recreating as close as possible the historic events that are infused into the story-line as well as designing the fictional narratives still staying true to the era and glamour of that time. The ’70s is usually my least favorite era, but the costumes in Mrs. America have made me reconsider that particular stance. 

Jada: Although I haven’t seen The Marvelous Mrs. Maisel I have read about it, including Candice’s article on the costume design, and must I say that the costumes are absolutely marvelous! The 1950s-1960s era of fashion is hands down my favorite era of all time and Donna Zakowska does a fantastic job of bringing that to this show. I love how the costumes are so vibrant and lively. You can really tell how much thought and creativity goes into each one of the looks.

Spencer: Lots of love for Donna Zakowska and The Marvelous Mrs. Maisel in this group. I love it! Personally, I had two favorites this year, The Crown and Pose. I thought the costumes for The Crown this season were just incredible. Amy Roberts did a wonderful job. I can go on and on about the perfection that was the wardrobe for Helena Bonham Carter as Princess Margaret. I think that was the best part of the whole show honestly! Then, of course, I love Pose. Analucia McGorty blew me away once again with the costumes for Pose. They remain true to the NYC Ballroom scene of the early ’90s, yet they always feel new, exciting, couture, and inspiring.

The Marvelous Mrs. Maisel

Now it’s time for the Outstanding Fantasy/Sci-Fi Costumes, my personal favorite. Carnival Row, The Mandalorian, Westworld, The Handmaid’s Tale, and Watchmen. Does anyone have any favorites?

Elizabeth: With Carnival Row, being an original screenplay with no source material to compare it to, costume designer Joanna Eatwell helped create a whole new world. The look is entirely original with rich colors and attention to unique details while still grounded in reality with silhouettes influenced by late-Victorian and Edwardian fashion. 

Candice: I agree with Elizabeth. I loved Carnival Row’s mix of period pieces and fantasy. It did a great job of cohesively blending the designs and species of the characters. When it is a fantasy show, you do not have to be historically accurate in the period pieces used and I love how they incorporated the Edwardian Fashions. The Handmaid’s Tale’s costumes evoke such strong emotions with the colors and design. 

Jada: I spent most of my childhood time playing Stars Wars Battlefront with my cousin. With that being said The Mandalorian would have been one of my top choices, but I’m going to go with The Handmaid’s Tale. I love how iconic the red cape look is. There’s so much research that goes into the costumes in this show to display the character’s emotions. Even the smallest of details add so much meaning.

Spencer: Jada we totally got to link up and play some Star Wars Battlefront sometime. I am the best pilot in Pasadena *laughs*. This category is also another hard one. I am undecided once again, between Westworld and The Handmaid’s Tale. Shay Cunliffe had the incredible task of not only dressing a futuristic, more fashionable world- she also had to turn back time and develop costumes for an entire simulated world based upon Nazi-occupied Italy during World War II. From beginning to end, the costumes for Westworld are just…beyond. Then there is The Handmaid’s Tale, designed by one of my favorites, Natalie Bronfman. The costumes of The Handmaid’s Tale are imperative to the story. I love the costumes for this show so much because they are so symbolic, through their silhouettes, colors, textures. The Handmaid’s Tale serves as a masterclass when it comes to storytelling through costume design.

Westworld, Season 3

Moving on to Outstanding Contemporary Costumes. This is the most packed category of them all in my opinion. Euphoria, black-ish, Grace and Frankie, Schitt’s Creek, Killing Eve, Unorthodox, and The Politician. I mean, there are so many good shows!

Csilla: For me, Euphoria stood out the most. There was an amazing collaboration between the costume and makeup department, they truly created something unique and the whole show played on a different, fresh perspective. The stories of these teenagers were beautifully present through the evolution of their styles. I really enjoyed this stylized version of contemporary fashion. I loved every frame of that show, so fingers crossed for them!

Elizabeth: Every nominee in this category is incredible. However, the costumes of Unorthodox caught my eye immediately. With so much of the story taking place within a New York City Hasidic community where the way of life is vastly different from most viewers. While it could be hard to bring people into that world without exposition; however, Unorthodox manages to do just that. The costume is a huge part of this, with no detail of the community’s stringent dress code or its religious significance overlooked. This accuracy tells you immediately who the people in this community are and what is important to them.   

Candice: This is a hard category for me because I loved the brilliance of Schitt’s Creek and how the costumes truly defined the characters. Unorthodox allowed us to see into a community that we normally would not be allowed access. The details that went into making sure that the Hasidic Jewish community was represented correctly while still working to convey a visually compelling story is a true testament to the costume designer’s talent. I love the character’s costumes in Grace and Frankie and how each one has their own distinct style but they still blend together in this hodge-podge of a group that wouldn’t normally gather together except for their circumstance and family. The Politician truly redefined the “Power Suit”. Black-ish is iconic and whenever I watch the series, it makes me wish I could be as cool as costume designer, Michelle R. Cole, and the characters she designs. 

Jada: This category is so hard because each show brings something new and interesting to the table. Black-ish introduces heavy topics yet always brings comedic relief. Lily Tomlin and Jane Fonda’s chemistry in Grace and Frankie is everything I need and more! However, my vote goes to Euphoria. I love the idea that Euphoria challenges societal norms in fashion. The costumes are so aesthetically pleasing with a striking balance between fantasy/illusion and contemporary design. You can’t forget the makeup looks! They’re so bold yet deep and convey messages about each character’s feelings and personalities.

Spencer: Okay I can hardly wait to talk about Schitt’s Creek. Schitt’s Creek is one is of my favorite shows. The costumes play a large role in that choice. Debra Hanson, the costume designer for Schitt’s Creek, has such an eye and really brought these fascinating characters to life. I am such a fan, and I personally would love to see the finale season of this show celebrated at the Emmys. I also want to mention costume designers Claire and Lily Parkinson who served as costume designers for The Politician. I will forever be obsessed with the colorful wardrobe created for this show, specifically for characters Dede Standish and Hadassah Gold (Judith Light and Bette Midler). They deserve awards for those costumes alone! Finally, Euphoria was beyond fantastic. The costume design of Euphoria by Heidi Bivens captured the street style trends of today’s youth so perfectly. Years from now when e are looking back at this time, we will refer to Euphoria to explore fashion trends of the decade and I assume these costumes will be setting trends for the years to come.

Schitt’s Creek

Finally, let’s move into the Outstanding Costumes For A Variety, Nonfiction Or Reality Program. This category includes Dancing With The Stars, Drunk History, The Masked Singer, RuPaul’s Drag Race, and Saturday Night Live.

Jada: I’ve watched Dancing with the Stars and Saturday Night Live ever since I was young. I love how fun, expressive, and representative Rupaul’s Drag Race is. One of the major parts of the show is the costumes, which makes it an even tougher decision. But if I had to choose, I would vote for The Masked Singer. The time and effort put into each and every one of these one-of-a-kind costumes is extraordinary. Plus the ability to make each of the costumes ready to perform in takes a lot of talent. Their hard work has definitely paid off.

Candice: It is truly fascinating, how the Dancing with the Stars’ costume designers can create such beautiful costumes that have to work on a dance / technical level in such a short period of time and how those costumes perfectly convey the contestants’ themes before a note of music or dance step is even performed. However, I did love Drunk History’s episode Fame, as it was one of my favorite episodes. The simplistic design of the unitard costume representing, Masterpiece, the poodle,  worn by Ken Marino, and the Catwoman scene was comedic gold.

Spencer: I always have a special place in my heart for RuPaul’s Drag Race and the work of Zaldy Goco. However, this year I have to agree with Jada on this one. Marina Toybina’s costume design work for The Masked Singer is beyond impressive. So much work goes into these costumes. These characters that Marina has had to make are so creative and innovative, then she takes these unique ideas and turns them into fully functional performance-based costumes. So much technology is infused within them. The textiles are extravagant. Everything about these costumes just brings me such joy. I am in awe and I think it would be so deserving of Marina to take home the Emmy this year.

The Masked Singer

 Well, team, this has been so fun! Thank you again for joining me. I am so blessed to have you all apart of the team, and I look forward to the great work we will do together. Most of all, thank you to the readers for following along with us. We are beyond thrilled for all of these talented costume designers and are cheering on each and every designer nominated this year. See you all at The Emmys!


Thank you to The Art of Costume contributors, Csilla, Elizabeth, Candice, and Jada for joining me. Get to know the extended team by clicking here!

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After graduating from the Fashion Institute of Design and Merchandising with a degree in Fashion Design, Spencer realized that his love for fashion was not entirely found on a runway, but seen on screen through film and television. As a Los Angeles event planner, Spencer began to organize panels of costume designers benefiting students who were fascinated by costume design. As Spencer’s connections within the costume design field began to grow, so did his love for the craft. Then in 2019, Spencer decided it was time to share his love for costume design on an international level and launched The Art of Costume.

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