I know I say this pretty often, but I have a new favorite show. I cannot get enough of Poker Face, streaming on Peacock. This murder mystery episodic masterpiece created by Rian Johnson starring Natasha Lyonne brings together ten unique films full of interesting characters, colorful sets, and brilliant costumes. Costume designer Trayce Gigi Field designed the costumes for Poker Face and talked with me about her process of creating costumes that bring the characters to life. We explore Charlie’s effortlessly cool style and how her costumes reflect her on-the-go lifestyle. Plus, we have to talk about some of my favorite characters including Chloë Sevigny’s Joan Jett-inspired portrayal of Ruby Ruin, and Cherry Jones’s sinister character, Laura. Make sure you buckle up for the most brutally honest road trip you’ll ever enjoy in this lifetime.
Spencer Williams: I am so excited to welcome my friend Trayce Gigi Field. Hey Trayce.
Trayce Gigi Field: Hi Spencer. I’m excited to talk with you about Poker Face!
Spencer Williams: You can’t possibly be more excited to talk about Poker Face than me. I am obsessed with the show. Honestly, not to be biased, but it’s one of my favorite shows on TV right now. I want to start with Charlie, played by the brilliant Natasha Lyonne. How would you describe Charlie, and how do the costumes support the character?
Trayce Gigi Field: I would describe Charlie somewhere between the desert meets the seventies… meets western. That’s her whole vibe. It’s where she lives. It’s what she embodies, and it’s totally conveyed through her clothing, right? She has her The Big Lebowski sweater, sitting outside of her trailer, with her little boots on. She’s just totally effortless but still really cute and chic.
Spencer Williams: She’s also kind of like a chameleon because she has to hit the road blending in into all these different environments but still remaining true to who Charlie is. What was it like designing costumes for a character who travels from place to place in every episode? To me, it sounds like the costume design dream.
Trayce Gigi Field: This project, across the board, for me was a dream. With Charlie being on the move… I really started with an authentic place with all of my characters, but this one, in particular, was very important for it to be genuine. She’s got T-shirts and old boots in her car. As you can tell from the first episode, she’s not the most put-together person! Along the way, she grabs a cap and sunglasses from the gas station. She’s just trying to be incognito while also remaining very true to herself. Right? Maybe she went to a thrift store and bought a shirt for two bucks. I also am a big backstory person. That’s really like where we started with her. Charlie just remains very true to herself throughout.
Spencer Williams: You brought up something I wanted to talk about. She does rewear a lot of clothing. When I saw her get in her car and just speed off without packing any bags, I thought… “Oh, this is going to be a lot of fun!”.
Trayce Gigi Field: Well, let me be completely honest with you….that is one of my things! I try to base everything in realism. Just because it’s a TV show doesn’t mean that they have to wear a new outfit every episode. That’s not real. That’s not real life. People identify with the fact that she wore the same jeans, she wore the same belt, she had the same shoes. She had some stuff in her car, and along the way, she kind of acquired some things. Don’t you think it’s important that it’s real?
Spencer Williams: I think it’s very important. It made her feel like a real person. I felt like this was someone that I could probably relate to, honestly.
Trayce Gigi Field: That’s exactly why I do it. As a viewer, you want to understand and be able to relate to the characters.
Spencer Williams: I love to talk about sustainability in costume design. Charlie loves a vintage tee. There’s a Fleetwood Mac one that I just would probably murder for, and Charlie would know that I did it. How did sustainability and vintage clothing play a role in your job at Poker Face?
Trayce Gigi Field: In general, I would say that that is extremely important to me, sustainability… I’m a big thrift shopper. I have a master collection of things! Charlie’s pajamas in the first episode paired with the brown robe; that’s a brown-vintage Christian Dior robe I’ve had for 20 years. I am a person that holds onto things, and I feel like a lot of people do. She’s wearing so many vintage pieces, like her belt and the vest that she wears. There’s a lot of reusing and a lot of just having pieces that are vintage that are sprinkled throughout and on other characters as well. It’s really important to me that everything’s not brand new.
Spencer Williams: Before we dive into the other characters, I want to talk about your collaboration with Natasha. I imagine it must have been very close and intimate as she’s a main character and also behind the scenes on Poker Face as well.
Trayce Gigi Field: My relationship with Natasha…I worked with her before, and within two minutes of meeting, there was a lot of love and respect! She’s very instinctual. Natasha is a super cool individual, and she’s incredibly smart. If you’re going to work with somebody like her, I really feel like you better bring your A-game because she knows everything from top to bottom. She is a professional. We both love vintage pieces and clothes. We just really vibe, and I love working with her. It’s a challenge in the way that you just want to do your very best every minute of every day.
Spencer Williams: There are some other characters I want to talk about. I have two favorite episodes, and the first one was “Rest in Metal.” Chloë Sevigny just kills it. Perfect casting.
Trayce Gigi Field: Plus, we had 300 metal background people characters. No big deal. So much sleep! *laughs*
Spencer Williams: Who sleeps anymore? *laughs* That is so much! I love it. How did you come up with Chloe’s look specifically? It’s very… for the lack of a better word, badass.
Trayce Gigi Field: First of all, look at Chloe… very hard to make her look bad! She can wear anything. I based her on Joan Jett. I really wanted her to have leather and these cool belts, things that made her feel like a real rock and roller. The high heels that helped give away the murderer are Alexander McQueen, and there are spikes on them.
Spencer Williams: It was so subtle and perfect. So I will admit I have a huge crush on Judith Light.
Trayce Gigi Field: Who doesn’t? When Judith Light and S. Epatha Merkerson showed up, they were instantly best friends, and they totally set the vibe of the whole episode. It was perfect.
Spencer Williams: It was my favorite. I love these two together. Two murderous best friends, and we even get a flashback to the late sixties. We kind of see how their past informs their present actually in terms of costumes.
Trayce Gigi Field: I love these two ladies. I cannot say enough good things about S. Epatha Merkerson and Judith Light. Their present clothes are indicative of their past clothes. They kept that free, the sixties/seventies-inspired hippie chicness. I don’t know if you noticed, but they are always in the same tones. They play off of each other.
Then we have Charlie wearing her jumpsuit in this episode, and she’s got on the old lady’s cardigan. I got that from Amazon, by the way. Everyone asks me if it is vintage. Then there are the glasses that flip up. Natasha was so into them. It was an organic experience helping these things come to life. I’m so enthusiastic about the process because I could pitch and run with my ideas! Both Rian and Natasha let me do my job, and I love and appreciate them for that!
Spencer Williams: Episode eight is wild. Very wild! The Orpheus Syndrome.
Trayce Gigi Field: Yes! Natasha wrote and directed this episode. It’s from her very intellectual mind.
Spencer Williams: There are two points in this episode I want to talk about first, starting with the horse. We have to talk about the horse!
Trayce Gigi Field: When this episode was first floating around while we were shooting, I heard that Phil Tippett was going to do all these creatures seen in the episode. He worked as a creature designer on Star Wars. So I thought, “Cool. Clearly, I’m not going to do the horse if they have Phil Tippett coming on.” One day on set, Natasha said, “Trayce, you know, you’re making the horse, right?” No problem! I’ve built things like this in the past, so it’s not like I didn’t have any experience with it, but it needed to have all these elements. It needed to be lightweight since when we were shooting, it was very hot. It has to look sinister. It has to look like it’s part of this world. There’s also a lot of physical comedy in it, so I need to make sure that it’s durable and like you’re able to move around inside.
I came to Los Angeles and talked to one of my favorite builders, and I told them all the things I needed. After it was made, I put it on and sent a video to Natasha. She loved it. I brought it back to New York for a fitting well; originally, the head had to come off. I had built a version where the head came off, but it didn’t really like it. I had Natasha try the one where the head doesn’t come off, and we’re doing the fitting, and she puts her head through the armhole, and it’s hilarious! This totally works. That is exactly how she did it in the episode. It just goes to show you those fittings are the moment where everything comes together.
Spencer Williams: The way that she popped her head out… It’s so good. Now we have to talk about who I believe the scariest villain is… Cherry Jones’s character, Laura. She was sinister, but the costumes were top-tier.
Trayce Gigi Field: She is so diabolical and sinister. I really just wanted to convey that through her clothing. It had to be very polished, chic, diabolical, and refined. I stuck with creams, tans, and grays – my go-to when I’m trying to do something a little chic. The dress that she wears at the end is actually Carolina Herrera. As soon as I saw it, I knew it was the one. It really just inherently felt right. It’s almost like a work of art. It gave me all the right feelings. She’s one of my favorite characters that we got to dress.
Spencer Williams: It’s funny because she’s the villain in this story, but I felt like she could almost be a villain in any story. She’s the perfect villain, and the costume really adds to it. It’s just brilliant. Finally, the public is all a buzz about the finale dress.
Trayce Gigi Field: It’s incredible how many people love this dress. Let me tell you the story. So I read the script. She has to blend in with the bridesmaids at the bachelorette party. Charlie has to be able to run and be able to go into the water. It also has to have a little bit of sparkle and feel like it came from Sterling Sr. The costume needed to have all of these things, and it also needed to look good. This is the first dress that I bought. It’s the first dress I tried. I told Natasha this was the one! Doing our due diligence, we tried on 50 other dresses and came back to the very first one.
I needed three or four of these for Natasha and her stunt double. I did cut down the neck a little bit because we needed to get the cell phone in and out, and I shortened it a little bit. It moved, it stretched, it ran. She had to crawl underneath the house. Female characters are always running around in bikinis and hot dresses, doing all these stunts in high heels, while the men get to run around in maybe a suit or jeans and a t-shirt. Women are so amazing and incredible that they are out there just doing these crazy stunts in heels and in tight dresses. So I would just like to shout out all the ladies who have done this because it is not easy, but we make it look good.
Spencer Williams: Trayce, you killed it. I just love this show, and I’m so happy for you.
Trayce Gigi Field: Thank you so much for having me, Spencer!