Saying that I am in love with the new Hulu limited series, Pam & Tommy would be a understatement. I was hooked from the first episode. Lily James and Sebastian Stan absolutely killed it in their roles. But above all, I fell in love with the costumes of Pam & Tommy. Costume designer Kameron Lennox really recreated this world and told a story through the Pam & Tommy costumes. Kameron’s tools included an inventory of special thongs, recreations of some iconic looks, fanny packs, and leopard print. I was honored with an opportunity to speak with costume designer Kameron Lennox about her work on this show.
Spencer: Kameron, thank you so much for joining me. I’ve been so excited to finally talk to you about the Pam & Tommy costumes!
Kameron: Thank you for having me!
Spencer: I first would love to just dive into your history as a costume designer. How did you end up jumping into this career?
Kameron: As far as being a costume designer, it wasn’t anything that I ever knew existed when growing up. I think that I just assumed that fashion designers were bringing all the great costumes to life on film and TV.
I started working in retail, working with various designers and clothing companies. I met a lot of stylists and costume designers because I worked in LA. I would ask questions, and I ended up assisting. This was in the nineties, and during that time, the big thing to work on was commercials and music videos. That’s where I met most of my contacts. I worked on the Fiona Apple – Criminal video that was really popular. I worked on Weezer – Buddy Holly. It was a lot of fun, and I had a lot of fun doing it. I was young, but I still didn’t understand the difference between a stylist and a costume designer.
I assisted for maybe twelve to fifteen years, just learning the trade. As I like to say, hands-on in the trenches. Understanding what needs to happen to create these characters through styling. Working on these music videos, I found that I tend to enjoy creating characters more than I like styling somebody just for a photo shoot. That’s when I started to learn the difference between the two because it’s two different worlds completely. I just started doing low-budget films on my own.
I then made the leap to television. A lot of film directors are coming in to do TV. So there is that crossover, which I really like. That’s basically how I got in. I didn’t ever think that that was the direction I was going, but it’s definitely where I am now. I’m very happy to be here. It seems right to me.
Spencer: Oh, I love it. You are amazing at it. And I love how you touched on the difference between styling and costume design because that is such a hot question that I get asked all the time. I really loved your answer.
Let’s get into the costumes of Pam & Tommy and this crazy whirlwind of a story that took place in a not-so-distant past. I find it quite interesting. So much of the show seems to me to be about finding the essence of these two larger-than-life characters and their inspirations. Where do you begin on something like this? It didn’t happen that long ago.
Kameron: That’s a really good question because we all remember them then. And we think that we know them by what we remember, and everything that we knew of them was what was put in the public eye.
It was really important for me to do a more of a deep dive research because of my memory; I was also young. I also thought of people differently. So it was important for me to really refresh my memory but also learn more things about them. I do a lot of research before I start a project, especially if it’s a certain character that is real.
I watched a lot of interviews and built boards. We’re dealing with a specific era. Our story’s taking place over three or four years. I needed to see the long-range trajectory of where they were at that moment in their life. I built boards per year focused on how they looked and where they were in their life. So with Pam, I started in 1989, and I went through to 1999. For Pam, I felt she was the nineties version of the fifties bombshell. What is it that makes her feel that way and present herself that way? So I did a whole board on Brigitte Bardot, Marilyn Monroe, and various beautiful lingerie shots.
During that time, it was Barb Wire and Baywatch. I knew before we even started fittings that we needed to build all this stuff. We built all the Barb Wire stuff. The wedding bikini, we built that first because we knew that was a must. We had multiples of those because they’re being used; they’re in the safe, they were in multiple places. The Baywatch bathing suit, that one took a lot of thought and time. For me, that was the biggest struggle because we were working with prosthetics, and I say struggle in the sense that in my mind it had to be right. It had to fit. A bathing suit moves. There’s only so much you can do to keep it from moving. The whole construction of that bathing suit needed to be right.
The way that Pam Anderson wore it was very different than other people because it was shaped to her body and accentuated certain parts of her body. We had to work very closely with prosthetics to make sure that the construction and the bathing suit, they were going to work together.
Spencer: It’s so interesting. I feel like everyday people who look at the costume design for Pam & Tommy would think it was as simple as buying a swimsuit, but no, there were so many challenges you had to go through. While parts of the show are very fun and colorful, the story is still very serious and dark in many ways. How do you honorably costume a character such as Pam and Tommy without transforming them into a caricature, so to speak?
Kameron: Yeah, that was very important, and that was a discussion that I had early on was that I didn’t ever want to make it feel like a satire or making fun of them. There were of course some choices that they made that, for the nineties were very like…whoa *laughs* But I wanted to honor her, this is her story and I wanted to take the parts of her that were very classy and timeless.
Pam also had a very classy side. She had great taste in designers. She knew how to wear her clothing. We created the Pam that we know and remembered, but it was never to be made fun of. With Tommy, there are a few things like the leopard bucket that were so iconic to that time.
Spencer: I am OBSESSED with the hat! *laughs*
Kameron: Yeah, he’s a very fascinating person. I will say that in high school, I was a Mötley Crüe fan, and I loved the theatrical makeup. For someone that ended up in costume design, I was just drooling over everything. So to do his boards, it was very different because I had to find out where he was emotionally and mentally. During this time, he was kind of out of that theatrical era. He was out of the makeup, high heels, and big hair. Tommy was kind of at a standstill.
I feel like all the images that I found during this time were a lot of jeans, t-shirts, and tank tops. Music and fashion were shifting. He still had held onto a lot of his rock and roll sensibility. He still wore heavy jewelry, and his belt was this heavy, silver buckle.
We ended up recreating everything that he was wearing at that time and making it with weight and out of steel. That way, Sebastian could feel that heavyweight that I’m sure Tommy was wearing all the time. For example, his big school ring and belt, it was important to offer that to Sebastian, that weight so that he could feel this while recreating this character. That belt, Tommy wore it for many years, and I think he still even has it. We recreated it with the big silver grommets and a big silver buckle. And those were the things that I felt were really important that we had to have these pieces.
Spencer: That’s so interesting to me that you mentioned that you had to focus on a very specific point in time. One would think you could just look up Pam Anderson. And you’d find all your costumes right there. But no, it was very specific to a certain couple of years.
Kameron: Yeah! They were in the public eye for many decades. You really have to narrow it down. Well, at this moment she wasn’t wearing those big furry hats! That was like…1999 and later. That wasn’t when we were doing it.
Spencer: This is interview is already so fun. As you obviously know nineties fashion is very in fashion right now. The difference with this show compared to other shows that are out right now is that this story is actually set in the nineties. I’m guessing you incorporated a lot of vintage pieces into this show?
Kameron: Yeah, I tend to be a purist when I’m doing vintage or period work. I love vintage. I love working with vintage clothes. I feel like it really tells the story. Nineties fashion is definitely out there, but it’s not the same. Los Angeles in the nineties was just a very specific time, and regionally, it was a melting pot. It was also just a melting pot of music. You could see any type of band every single night! There was rap, rock, punk; there was something going on and every night, this kind of cross-pollination of people at all these different shows. It was much different then, and so I tried to incorporate all that into this show.
Most of the work was vintage and we sourced from various vintage dealers, thrift stores, or found in costume houses. If we weren’t building it, we were trying to source the real thing. We did order stuff off of eBay and Etsy when we’re looking for specific things.
Spencer: We kind of touched on Tommy but let’s go a little more in-depth. Costuming, a character such as Tommy Lee, a founding member of Mötley Crüe… This must have been such a wild challenge. There were plenty of thongs, heavy jewelry, rock tees, piercings, prosthetics, and a leopard print bucket hat that should be in a museum somewhere. I feel like the opportunities for Tommy were endless in a way.
Kameron: Yeah! I mean, luckily for us, he’s completely covered in tattoos, so that’s almost like a costume in itself. But for him, you know, as I said, it was a very specific time in his life. He was very casual. A lot of the times he was in board shorts or these black basketball shorts. So we did incorporate that a lot in there just to show his comfort level. He was quoted in his book saying that when he drums, he tries to wear the least amount of clothes as possible because he gets so hot and that he’ll drum in shorts or g-string. A lot of those scenes when he is in the g-string, those were all written in the script already before I came in.
He does wear this black 1930s vintage kimono that has these gold fighting dragons on the back. That was the very first piece I found while on another show still. I found that kimono with these fighting dragons, and it just reminded me of Tommy, just his fighting spirit. I ended up wearing it for like two weeks to really get into Tommy. Craig Gillespie was our director for those episodes. I said to him I would really love to incorporate this kimono somewhere. It’s not written anywhere but it just reminds me of the spirit of Tommy Lee. So he did let me put it on him for the scene when he comes down with the shotgun and a leopard a g-string. I also got to slip it in later in this other scene later in the show, just because it was an opportunity to show that beautiful craftsmanship.
I was pulling together boards once again of him through the years. During that time, he was going through his divorce with Heather Locklear and I was just like trying to piece everything together. I focused on finding the reason for certain things. He still was wearing the leather pants, but he was also wearing boots all the time. I studied the way he wore t-shirts. It seemed like he would cut the bottom off of his t-shirts, so they weren’t too long. Then he rolled his sleeves up to show his tattoos. Things like that I tried to incorporate with Sebastian, and Sebastian got really good at it.
Spencer: You really created a character through costuming, and it was so much fun to watch. I wasn’t going to ask you, but I don’t often get to interview costume designers that work so heavily in g-strings! *laughs* Were they custom made? How does that work?
Kameron: They were all custom made, and we went through many, many patterns. We went into it with this idea that he would just have a drawer full of all of these different colors.
Spencer: There were so many! *laughs*
Kameron: Yeah! The funny thing is I did find a vintage pair on eBay that I went into a bidding war over. Somebody else wanted this pair. But I just wanted to make sure that we got the same rise and cut of g-string that was popular then, because now that they’re definitely smaller and skimpier. Things change over the years.
In the initial fitting that we had, we didn’t have the prosthetic finished yet. So when we went to go shoot the first day and he’s in the prosthetic, my set costumer called me to say we have an issue…the g-string still wasn’t big enough to cover everything. So we had to do an emergency cut. Right at that moment before he went on set, we just had to remake more in all the various fabrics. There was a lot of engineering that went into that.
Spencer: That is great and also really complicated. When people read this and think about it from a costume designer’s perspective, you can’t just whip up a piece of fabric in a couple of minutes, you have a lot to think about.
Spencer: So this was obviously such an intimate project, especially for Lily and Sebastian. How much of this was a collaboration with these two actors and all the other actors on set?
Kameron: I love collaborating with the actors, and if they’re game and they’re open to it, that just makes my job so much easier. In fittings I tend to express my thoughts a lot and encourage others to express theirs as well. I usually gauge when I first meet somebody, like when Sebastian came in for example, show them some things and gauge the look on their face.
I think it’s important that when they come in for me to gauge their thoughts and see if they connect with what I’m showing them, so I know that we’re on the right path. That way when we put them in the clothes and look in the mirror for the first time as these characters, that’s a defining moment.
With Sebastian in our first couple of fittings we had to work through things. How do you feel? Can you do this with the…certain things we had to accommodate. With the g-strings, I had to make sure he’s comfortable in whatever he needs to do. He was open to everything, and it was great.
He wears a lot of tank tops. But we didn’t want him to be wearing them the whole time, even though every photo he’s wearing one… He needed to show some range. So we did pull a lot of band t-shirts that were popular at the time that I knew that he was either friends with or photographed wearing. We made sure that we weren’t using anything that maybe his band had beef with, a lot of research went behind that. There is also a lot of clearances that people don’t realize, whenever you use a band t-shirt or graphic, it’s very complicated. It has to go through a lot of lawyers to make sure that nobody’s going to be upset with it.
Then there were the t-shirts and the piercings. That was another thing. Having a conversation with prosthetics because it was like, okay, well, whenever he’s shirtless, he’s going to have these nipple rings. They’re not real, it’s a prosthetic, but I had to point out you’re still gonna see them underneath the tank top. You’re still gonna see them underneath the t-shirt. So that’s an added thing that they needed to think about.
Spencer: The attention detail though is just so impressive when it comes to your work on this project and the teams responsible for hair, makeup, and prosthetics.
Great costume design, sometimes it becomes a part of the background and make a story feel more real. We’ve talked about Pam and Tommy a lot. There were a lot of other characters in the show from Rand, Uncle Miltie and the entire porn production world. We saw Mötley Crüe, Third Eye Blind, the club scenes in Cancun… You did a lot with these background and supporting characters. So how did you approach it? I mean, you essentially recreated this entire world.
Kameron: Luckily for me I had a great crew of people that lived through that time as well. There was a lot of remember. Let’s start with Rand and Miltie?
Spencer: I would love that!
Kameron: So for Rand there aren’t many photos and references I could find of the real Rand except for the porn packaging.
Spencer: Brilliant. *laughs*
Kameron: Yeah. *laughs* So we kind of had free range with him. I did want to make sure that we showed this opposite of Tommy Lee. When Tommy Lee walks into a room, he’s the peacock in the room. He’s macho and even in a thong he could be intimidating. Then there’s Rand. He’s just a guy trying to get by. He’s just trying to pay his cable bill so he can watch TV when he gets home after work. It’s these simple little things. So I didn’t want to distract too much with his clothing, but I also wanted to show that other side of the nineties.
Some of the stuff was very Seinfeld feeling, the white sneakers and the light washed jeans. And that was just, you know, what do we call it? Normcore?
Spencer: I love that word.
Kameron: There’s so many cores right now. The other day I heard Pamcore and I was like, whoa, we’re onto something here. But now for Rand, just this idea of this blue-collar worker. He probably buys his stuff at Sears. Some Wrangler jeans for comfort. He still tucking in his shirt, you know, he’s probably been told his whole life tuck in your shirt.
Spencer: It’s all very durable.
Kameron: Very durable. The Jean shorts were a must because I just remember guys wearing those. It’s just fascinating to me. I don’t have any critique of it. It just…it just reads a very specific character in my mind.
Spencer: It’s definitely a choice.
Kameron: It’s a choice. It’s a little hot today, but I still got to go to work. I’m going to wear my Jean shorts. Even with his socks, we hand put holes in them.
Spencer: I actually love that. Putting holes in his socks gives me a lot of joy. I do a lot of Fantasy/Sci-fi interviews and usually the aging and dying is pretty obvious. For this show I didn’t know where that came in, but yeah, socks.
Kameron: Yeah. Little details like that, I feel really tells a story about a person. Also the difference between him and his coworker was that his coworker had clean socks. It was a little story detail that we added. Like he has clean white socks on, but then Rand had these. I don’t know if anyone caught that!
Spencer: Oh wow I missed that! I have to say, it was so funny watching Nick Offerman and his transformation. It was just perfection.
Kameron: I love him so much. He was so patient; we had this first fitting with him and I was just like…I’m going to go crazy with this guy! Like we could do whatever we want because he was a character. The real person was a character. But once again, you can’t find anything on him except for his pornographic videos. I wanted to think about this deep valley porn producer that maybe has a little flare. The first meeting we had… I mean, we went crazy. I was just thinking he was still stuck in maybe the seventies and the eighties.
I did a whole board on Max Baer Jr. He was an actor and was in The Beverly Hillbillies. Later he became a porn producer so there’s some loosely based references in Miltie. He always had this fanny pack and was always wearing these really crunchy track pants, but like a t-shirt tucked in and this gold chain, and he had a black mustache. It was a whole thing and it was just so mysterious to me. He was also always wearing sneakers.
Then we had these shirts that were a nineties version of a Hawaiian shirt, and a sixties version of an appliance shirt. He wears a lot of them in the show and there was this idea that he was just a workhorse. He’s not trying to be fashionable. It was more like he got up, got dressed, and went to work. Nick was was just so willing. He was so game for all of it and I really, really loved Nick Offerman.
Spencer: Who doesn’t love Nick Offerman? Then we have this entire world full of rockstars, clubbers, and residents. How did you approach all these characters who might not even have any lines?
Kameron: The Cancun scene was very Girls Gone Wild, I was thinking of these college kids going down to Cancun to party for spring break. That was pretty much the direction for all that background.
Spencer: I love it.
Kameron: Mötley Crüe was a lot of fun. I have a crew member who is a huge Mötley Crüe fan. I mean, she has tattoos and everything. We would meet a lot, and she pulled some images, and we just kind of went through it. Some of the stuff we built there, there’s some flashback to them in the eighties. It was just a lot of exchanging photos and ideas, sourcing, and recreating it. But that was a lot of fun to do it. We just wanted to make sure it was as authentic as possible. It was all vintage pieces and some customized stuff.
Then with Third Eye Blind… *laughs* That was fun too. Beause it was once again, simplifying this rock. Mötley Crüe, when they come in it is definitely Nikki Sixx and Tommy Lee, the Terror Twins. Then we have Third Eye Blind that looks like college students, with polo shirts, jeans, and sneakers, except for one guy has a furry jacket on. We just incorporated a little of a different scene that was going on.
Spencer: It was like such a crazy parallel, like a mirror. These two worlds looking right at each other.
Kameron: Yeah! Like I said before in the nineties, Los Angeles was such a melting pot. There was just so much going on and a lot to see. So we tried to show that part of Los Angeles.
Spencer: Well you created so many iconic looks. I don’t often ask a designer what their favorite costume is. That’s way too difficult. However, was there a costume that you did, in that moment you finally saw it come to life, that you were just so proud of?
Kameron: That’s a good question! When I think of Lily as Pam, there are two moments where I had these, “We did it!” moments. The first one was this flashback to her very first Playboy shoot and we created a younger version of Pam based off of all our research. We found a lot of images from a very young Pam doing her first shoots.
So we tried to recreate it with the lingerie, and I was able to source all this very beautiful, authentic vintage lingerie from a local costume house called Palace Costume here in Los Angeles. There’s a moment where she’s in this brown lingerie set and it’s just the most iconic, beautiful moment. Seeing it just took my breath away. Her hair is exactly like a young Pam. Like everybody just did an incredible job. She doesn’t have her prosthetics, it just really looked like her, and it just was just so mind-blowing. And so that was one moment where I was like, okay, yeah, we nailed it.
Then the other moment was the Jay Leno interview. Alongside Barry Lee Moe (hair department head), David Williams (makeup department head) and Jason Collins (special makeup effects designer) we all discussed as a team that we were going to try to recreate the same look from the taping. That meant that the dress needed the same neckline, the prosthetics needed to look a certain way, everything had to be right.
I was able to source this 1993 vintage couture runway Versace dress from a vintage dealer from a vintage fair. And it was one of those moments where, when I found. It was just like, what is this? It’s this boned corseted top that had this very square neckline. And these straps with these little bows in the back, I mean, everything about it was just breathtaking, and it had these slits that went up to your thigh.
It was that moment where I was like, this is the dress! However, we need to make it fit. We’re going to make it fit. Because we did have the prosthetics, but in our storyline, she was also pregnant. So then we also have a pregnancy belly to think about. And I wanted to make sure that everything she wore when she was pregnant didn’t look like just a big ball.
We needed to really show things. In the interview, she’s also wearing this necklace, which Pam never wore jewelry. I think that she was very smart about that because she didn’t want to take away from anything that was going on. She didn’t wear rings. She didn’t wear anything. It’s almost like her body was the accessory, se knew that she already had what she needed. But in this interview, she is wearing this beautiful garnet cross. So we did find a vintage beautiful garnet cross and Barry put her hair up the same way as the original interview. It was just one of those moments that when she walked to go do her scene, we all just thought she looked incredible.
Those were the two biggest moments. I feel like for me, where my heart was just pounding, fluttering and just very, very excited to see..
Spencer: Thank you for sharing that. I can see how passionate you are and I got chills just listening to you talk about those moments! So cool!
As a final question, you talked about how Lily and Sebastian really transformed into their characters when they got into their costume, prosthetics and jewelry. Overall, how essential is costume design for storytelling in not only television, but film, theatre, and music.
Kameron: I mean as you just described it there. For these actors to really feel like they’re coming across as these characters, it’s really important that they feel these characters in their clothes. And when they look in the mirror, they see these characters’. Costume designing is more important than people think. It’s not just putting on a pair of shoes or a pair of pants. It’s also, how do you feel in those shoes? Can you do your scene in those shoes? Do you feel like this character in those shoes? How does it make you walk? How does it make you stand?
You know, that’s another thing that I bring up in fittings. I always say “move do a high kick! Whatever you need to do to make sure that when you go to do your scene, nothing is going to keep you from doing it.”
My husband is an actor, so it’s something that we talk about a lot. I feel like it’s the first thing you see in a person. If you’re in a wide shot, you’re going to see their costumes. Sometimes you want the costumes to disappear, and that’s actually an art in itself. I don’t think people really understand, or they really take for granted that ability to make somebody feel like they’re this character, but not hog the scene.
Spencer: It transports the viewer into that world as well!
Kameron: Yeah. Also with costuming, we are the closest thing between the director, the storytelling, and the actor because we’re creating this character with them. We’re taking what the director and the script says, and then we’re creating something. We are the thread between the actor and the story. A simple white t-shirt for example, that’s a choice but the person wearing a white t-shirt, we’re still going to make sure they’re comfortable and covered, even though it doesn’t show that on screen.
Whatever the story is telling, it is a very important part of the process. We’re also the first people they see in the morning. So we’re the ones that are going to make them feel good. If they’re bummed about what they’re wearing, or their shoes don’t fit, then that can lead to other problems.
Spencer: This conversation reminded me about that terrible scene from the show, I am sure there is a better metaphor, but when they’re adjusting Pam’s swimsuit on the beach. It’s daunting, but it really was an example of the absolute power costumes and costume designers have over a story. It blew my mind.
Kameron: Yeah, because it does move. If you think about Baywatch, you always see her running.It just meant somebody was there constantly adjusting her bathing suit. There’s only so much you can do.
Spencer: Kameron, thank you so much for talking with me. I am a big fan of the show, and I’m a big fan of you. I’m just so excited to see what’s coming up next for you. So thank you for joining me.
Kameron: Thank you so much for having me!
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