Deliciously Macabre: The Costumes of What We Do In The Shadows

It’s September, which in my view, is just October Eve. Spooky season quietly lurks in the shadows, pumpkin spice lattes appear in your local Starbucks, and suddenly everyone has the urge to watch slasher films… or Harry Potter. For me, I can also feel my annual obsession with vampires returning! Luckily for me, I was given the incredible opportunity of speaking with costume designer Laura Montgomery, responsible for the costumes of season three of my favorite comedy, What We Do In The Shadows!

Laura Montgomery is a film and television costume designer based in Toronto, Canada. Montgomery’s costume design credits include, Spiral: From the Book of Saw, Small Town Murder Songs (TIFF Official Selection 2010), When Moses Woke (Gemini Award Winner for Best Direction in a Performing Arts Program), Coopers’ Christmas (TIFF Official Selection 2008), and What We Do in the Shadows S3. I spoke with Laura about the costumes for the third season, What We Do In The Shadows; please enjoy!


Spencer: Hi Laura! I am so excited to meet you! We are such big fans of What We Do In The Shadows here at The Art of Costume and have been dying for the new season! Thank you for joining me.

What We Do In The Shadows Costume Designer – Laura Montgomery

Laura: It’s my pleasure. I’m a big fan of the show too, so it’s a treasured opportunity anytime I can talk about it! 

Spencer: The first two episodes of the third season, “The Prisoner” and “The Cloak of Duplication,” are complete masterpieces, and I am already in love with the costumes! You must have been so excited to take on this project?

Laura: I was really excited! To begin with, I was a huge fan of the movie. I was the assistant costume designer for the first two seasons to Amanda Neale, the costume designer from New Zealand who had been working with Jemaine Clement on projects – she had also done the movie! When I heard that the show would be filmed in Toronto, I knew I wanted to join the team.

We shot the third season during the pandemic in 2020. There were many reasons, but it was just a safer decision [for Amanda] to stay in New Zealand. So I was just thrilled to kind of take on the characters – use what has been established and be able to put my own little spin on things.

Spencer: It’s a brilliant concept, vampires in a mockumentary format, living in Staten Island, New York! Each character comes to Staten Island with a unique background. Nandor The Relentless is from the fictional kingdom of Al-Quolanudar in Southern Iran and a warrior serving the Ottoman Empire; Laszlo Cravensworth was an English Nobleman, and Nadja is a Romani vampire. Though it is the third season, we are still learning about these individuals.

What do your research and creative process look like when it comes to costuming the vampires and creating the costumes of What We Do In the Shadows?

Laura: The research is my absolute favorite part, and this show is great because you don’t have to be perfect about it. It starts with the conceit that you know these vampires kind of got stuck in the period in which they were human.

As you said, Nandor is from the Persian region in the 1400s. Laszlo has a Victorian feel to him; we think he got turned in the mid-1800s. He’s from England, and Nadja has that Greek-ish background. Her story’s a little bit looser. She was born in, I think, the 1600s, but we go a little more Victorian with her as well. The show is contemporary, so that’s when they were born, but we have the freedom to use elements from the 80s – they’ve lived through all the decades. We can say, oh, they picked up this piece when they were clubbing in the 90s, or they picked up something you know they’ve got all these collected pieces.

What We Do in The Shadows S3 – Courtesy of FX

I found it really fascinating last year I did a lot of research into Nandor’s background, and I really wanted to make him as authentic as possible. So I started looking up Persian textiles and a lot of art from that period. I visited a museum in Toronto called the Agha Khan, where they currently have a great exhibition showcasing paintings of this Iranian epic poem. The kings in those dynasties started to get interested in illustrating the poem, so there were many illustrated versions commissioned around the 1400s. So I’ve been looking at those images to bring inspiration, even some of the colors. I was surprised by the way they would wear things the silhouettes.

I was so, so satisfied with the second episode, “The Cloak of Duplication,” in part because of Nandor’s exercise pants that he wears.

Spencer: Ugh, yes, I was going to ask you about those! They were so good!

Laura: One of the producers said that he saw a Twitter thread commenting on their authenticity, saying they’re really Persian. It’s true; they’re from this ancient Persian sport, called Zurkhaneh or Pahlevani. I knew I wanted to get these pants, and we have a couple of Iranian people on our costume team. So I found the pants from a maker who makes them custom in Tehran. I started the conversation with him, and then eventually, someone from our team helped me. So we got them made, and then she had a friend who was in Tehran and would be coming to Toronto, so the friend picked them up and brought them over. It took months, but I was so happy to get the genuine pads and that they were recognized.

Spencer: Nandor running on a treadmill was hilarious to me, and suddenly I stopped laughing when I saw the shorts. I just thought, oh my gosh, look at the fabric – look at those shorts!  I’ve never seen anything like them!

Laura: Yes! It started by searching up Persian sports; people still practice it in the modern-day. Also, during the 80s, there was the wrestler – The Iron Sheik. Do you know who that is? *laughs*

Spencer: *laughs* No, I’m sorry! Please tell me! I am pretty rusty on my 80s wrestlers.

Laura: He was from the Hulk Hogan era. So these two roads are what lead me to those traditional pants Nandor wears.

Spencer: That makes sense, and this conversation reminded me of the first season where Nandor applies for citizenship while wearing his 90s basketball jersey from the Olympics, so it makes sense that he would have something that may be a little dated. 

We have to talk about Colin Robinson, an energy vampire who lives in the basement. Colin Robinson is unique because he is hardly unique nor interesting – which makes him one of the most hilarious characters. Can you walk me through Colin’s wardrobe?

What We Do in The Shadows S3 – Courtesy of FX

Laura: Colin was a new concept introduced to the series. For Amanda and Mark Proksch, it kind of clicked into place when it came to the color palette. Colin would always wear beige and keep within that color palette. So that’s where we get the very monotone boring palette. 

What I tried to do this year was elevate the tailoring.

Spencer: Oh, I love that!

Laura: Colin had been picking up things from all kinds of periods, especially the 90s. Knowing this year that he’s about to turn 100, I was able to home in on the 40s and 50s as his era. I started looking at a lot of 40s tailoring. We got a lot of custom pieces done for him this season. I hope it won’t be too noticeable a difference, but we tried to refine the tailoring a little bit.

Spencer: It’s a subtle difference! He’s boring, but also, it’s like it’s still a nice suit, though. He does have a good eye for a decent tailored suit.

Laura: Yeah, I think he would be the kind of person who would really go down a wormhole of the specifics of sartorial details and talk someone’s ear off about things.

Spencer: *laughs* Absolutely; he would! That is a brilliant concept!

Guillermo De La Cruz, everyone’s favorite vampire familiar played by Harvey Guillén, has found himself on quite the journey. It turns out he is the descendant of the vampire hunter, Van Helsing. How do you approach costuming Guillermo – a familiar turned vampire bodyguard? His wardrobe has changed in a more sophisticated way that subtly aligns him with the vampires, without screaming it from the rooftops.

What We Do in The Shadows S3 – Courtesy of FX

Laura: Yeah, he’s always wanted to be a vampire, and this is something that Harvey has brought to the table. Because he wants to be a vampire, Harvey always wants to bring in this idea that Guillermo is trying to dress the part.

The trench coat is something that was introduced in season two. When he had to do the fighting, that was his Van Helsing moment. Because he’s now the bodyguard, we had to toughen them up even more. We introduced waistcoats! We’re trying to keep him that soft and cuddly and Guillermo,  but at the same time, he is the bodyguard now. So he has a leather waistcoat with his Bandelier of detachable stakes.

Spencer: It’s so ridiculously perfect; I love it.

Our favorite vampire roommates have found themselves in quite the unexpected position – now leading Vampiric Council found in New York. This transition immediately gave sophistication to the character’s costumes, particularly Nandor and Nadja, as they are splitting the leadership role. Can you explain the development of these costumes?

What We Do in The Shadows S3 – Photo By Russ Martin – Courtesy of FX

Laura: That was something that came from the writing. The cape is a piece that we’ve had, I think, since season one. But there was a note in the script saying they dress more nicely than usual. We want to keep raising the bar because, in every season, it seems like there’s some sort of fancy thing that happens. 

So for Nandor, that meant the hat. I was seeping the shape of that hat in a lot of paintings. Then for Nadja, it was really fun to blow out the shoulders and make it special.

Spencer: I love it, such an excellent way to start the season. I’m obsessed with these costumes, and I recognized the cape, but just the subtle touch of the hat said everything to me.

Laura- Oh, just wait. I have a favorite costume coming up, and there’s another character’s costume. I just think it’s so hilarious.

Spencer: This isn’t fair; now I am going to want to do this interview all over again in a few weeks! You’ll be hearing from me!

I was excited to see Kristen Schaal return to reprise her role as The Guide, aka as The Floating Woman. I am absolutely in love with her costume! Can we just talk about this costume for a second?

What We Do in The Shadows S3 – Courtesy of FX

Laura: In the beginning, I think she only had one or two costumes when we saw her in season one, but already she wore the hat really well. It was a French hood with a veil that she wore in season one. I just decided; she’s obviously a fashionista. So for this season, she has a whole closet because she’s in, I think pretty much every episode. I wanted to play with the silhouettes – she has a lot of structure with a mix of 1600s meets very modern. There were a lot of designer influences – a lot of Alexander McQueen and Gareth Pugh.

Spencer: I must mention the physically younger generation of vampires we saw in Nandor and Nadja’s first official Vampiric Council business outing. A group of vampires calling themselves the Council of Vampires shows themselves to be a minor problem for the official Vampiric Council. From a costume point of view, I thought these scenes were so interesting because they were vampires in more contemporary fashion – wardrobe-wise. Yet they still had that vampire look – how did you approach these scenes from a costume perspective?

Laura: That is such a fun thing about the show is that we have our vampires, but then there are also these contemporary characters. These new vampires, they were young. But then there’s always that idea of how old were they when they turned? So it was very fortunate because the 90s are really in style right now. The 90s are back, and that’s when I was a teenager, so I feel like I know that era so well. It was so fun to see Urban Outfitters have all this stuff I was wearing in high school.

The show is not trendy at all. We always say there’s a fine line, they’re not cheap, but it’s tacky. Our main characters look a little dated compared to the 20s vampires; this was the first time we got to do something a bit more trendy.

What We Do in The Shadows S3 – Courtesy of FX

Spencer When I saw them on screen the first time, I was like, whoa whoa, who are they and what are they wearing!

Laura, I am already in love with this season and the costumes of What We Do In The Shadows. I am so excited to see what’s next and I am also happy to have learned that you will be continuing forward as costume designer into the fourth season as well! I know you can’t reveal much about what’s to come – but I imagine there is a lot to look forward to!

Laura: Everyone says that the scripts are even funnier, and I don’t know how that’s possible. We just started pre-production now, and we start shooting soon, but the scripts are great from what I’ve read!

Spencer: Oh gosh, I am so excited. Until the next time, thank you so much for joining me; I can’t wait until we meet again!

Laura: Oh, you’re welcome! Thank you!

See the costumes of What We Do In The Shadows on Thursdays on FX. Next Day FX on Hulu.

Jeriana San Juan and The Costumes of Netflix’s ‘Halston’

This year, audiences were blessed with a real Netflix treasure, Halston. Netflix’s Halston is a masterpiece, strengthened by the performances, sets, music, but most of all, the costumes. Costume designer Jeriana San Juan is nominated for a 2021 Emmy, and wow, talking about well deserved! Let’s dive into the costumes of Halston and why I think the costumes by Jeriana San Juan are some of the best I’ve ever seen. Included are some quotes from my interview with Jeriana, which can be heard in the YouTube video below or by listening to The Art of Costume Blogcast through Apple Podcasts, Spotify, or wherever you like to listen!

Jeriana San Juan was the costume designer on this project, but she also worked as a consultant, a real inspiration to actor Ewan McGregor. You see, Ewan had to become Halston in every way possible, meaning he had to know what it’s like to be a fashion designer. “We worked together on how to pull fabric off the roll, how to manipulate a model wearing clothes,” Jeriana told me in an interview on The Art of Costume Blogcast. Jeriana continues by saying she also showed Ewan “those little details like how a designer works, where your eye goes to and when, how you reflect in the mirror for the whole image.” I love this story because it highlights the magic and worth of fashion and costume designers.

One of my favorite parts of this show had to be Krysta Rodriguez’s interpretation of Liza Minnelli. Who doesn’t love Liza with a Z, not Lisa with an S? Krysta’s performance was perfect, but then paired with the brilliant costuming of Jeriana San Juan…a match made in heaven. I loved every look from the “Liza With a Z” performance to Liza’s rehearsal outfit in France. Honestly, I could do an entire show on Liza’s costumes alone. Don’t tempt me with a good time!

Halston was known for his tie-dye silk chiffon caftans, which served as a real breakthrough in the designer’s career. Jeriana approached this “unique challenge” by immersing herself in the research, gathering photos, and even visiting archives. “There are three that are authentic pieces; one was a very special piece,” Jeriana told me, explaining that one of the caftans was actually a garment of the real Halston collection.

My favorite episode of television this year has to be “Versailles.” The Battle of Versailles Fashion Show is one of the more legendary fashion events in our history, taking place on November 28, 1973, in hopes of raising money for The Palace of Versailles restoration. The show pitted French designers Yves Saint Laurent, Pierre Cardin, Emanuel Ungaro, Marc Bohan, and Hubert de Givenchy against American designers Oscar de la Renta, Stephen Burrows, and Bill Blass. Anne Klein, and of course, Halston!

Images Courtesy of Netflix

We had these moments in the script that felt almost mythological,” said Jeriana. “When I initially even took on this project, I just always thought in the back of my mind we would never get to really do Versailles. We just wouldn’t; it’s too massive!” Not only was Jeriana responsible for the costumes of Halston and all of the American designers, French designers, and everyone in the crowd. This episode could have been its own mini-series! Jeriana had to find the voices of each of these designers in small little segments, piecing together books and images of the show from photographers such as Bill Cunningham and Andy Warhol. This episode also gave Jeriana a chance to do more dance costumes, as Liza performed “Bonjour Paris” at the fashion show. “I LOVE dance costumes,” Jeriana excitedly told me, mentioning her use of the Halston signature clear sequins for these costumes.

The time has come for us to visit Studio 54! Wow, what a dream! Jeriana was charged with recreating some iconic regulars visiting Studio 54, such as Bianca Jagger, Steve Rubell in his infamous Norma Kamali sleeping bag coat, Divine, and of course, Liza Minnelli. The masterful costume design combined with the colorful sets brought the audience into a world that felt like it could have been the real Studio 54. I remain blown away. The scenes might have been short, but they left a long lasting impression.

When working with the crowds of Studio 54, Jeriana focused on color and playing with textures. “Studio 54 was a real celebration of sequin, beads, denim, t-shirts, and disco heels. There was a combination of textures there that I just appreciate,” said Jeriana. “I really had just too much fun.

Images Courtesy of Netflix

I absolutely loved this show. Each of these episodes was its own work of art that can be binged or seen on its own. However, a large amount of credit goes to costume designer Jeriana San Juan, who gave a masterclass in costume design. Her work told Halston’s story through all of the highs and lows of his life. She used fabric, color, and textures as her weapon and delivered a show that I will always go back to for years to come.

Listen to The Art of Costume Blogcast Interview with Jeriana San Juan on Apple Podcasts, Spotify, or on Youtube! Don’t forget to follow Jeriana San Juan on Instagram!

Looney Costuming with ‘Space Jam: A New Legacy’ Costume Designer, Melissa Bruning

When the opportunity came to me to interview Space Jam: A New Legacy costume designer, Melissa Bruning, I immediately said yes! Look, I grew up on the first Space Jam. I remember often camping out in the backyard as a kid. My father would always wheel out the tiniest tv with a VHS player, leaving it up to my brother and me on what movies we would watch. My choices were always The Fifth Element (one of the greatest films of all time) or the original Space Jam with Michael Jordan! So obviously, when Space Jam: A New Legacy came out, I was stoked!

I get it; when you think of Space Jam, costume design probably wasn’t the first thing to cross your mind. Rabbit season, duck season, basketball, Martians, Tweety Bird… what role could costume design really play in this film? In this week’s episode of The Art of Costume Blogcast, Elizabeth Joy Glass and I sat down with costume designer Melissa Bruning to talk about her work on Space Jam: A New Legacy.

Melissa told us her immediate response to the initial outreach over being costume designer of Space Jam: A New Legacy was “hell yes!” Imagine the opportunity! While she was, of course, excited, there was a task ahead. This task would be pretty daunting for any costume designer, giving the “Toon Squad” basketball uniforms a modern redesign. I asked Melissa about this task and her relationship with the animators. “They were my best buddies,” says Melissa and continued to say the main concern was that “not only would the uniform [have to] look good on Lebron, it had to look good on the toons.”

Looney Tunes in new uniforms by Melissa Bruning - Space Jam: A New Legacy
Image via Warner Bros. Pictures

Melissa had to take a lot of things into consideration when creating the concept. While “Daffy Duck could pretty much wear anything, same with Granny,” not all of the Looney Tunes look great in whites or orange. Remember, the Looney Tunes play basketball in the crazy, video-game-like world of the Serververse… so it is very dark with bright neon accents. With that being said, Melissa and the team settled on the blue color with a new, modern twist of the classic Warner Bros. circle. The new uniforms incorporate all of the same elements of the traditional uniforms while breathing a new modern life into them.

Images of Tune Squad uniforms.. Illustration by Christain Cordella. Photos Courtesy of Melissa Bruning

There were many fun costumes we saw on screen, such as Lebron James appearing in the crazy world of “Mad Max: Fury Road,” “The Matrix,” and the 1942 film “Casablanca.”

Costume Concept Illustrations for the various looks of LeBron James by artist, Christain Cordella

There were costumes made for so many other of our favorite movies and television shows. But one that got away still hurts my heart! Elizabeth and I thought to ourselves, wouldn’t it be cool if we saw Lebron James as a Game of Thrones character? Turns out, the costume was made, but it didn’t make it on screen. My heart! “It was a replica we had made of The Hound from Game of Thrones. It was amazing. We did three fittings in it, and it was heavy as hell,” said Melissa Bruning. Elizabeth and I both screamed, “OH MY GOD!”.

LeBron James in armor inspired by Game of Thrones. Illustration by Christain Cordella. Photo Courtesy of Melissa Bruning

Imagine reading on the script as a costume designer,  ‘all of the Warner Bros. villains show up to watch the game’. Where do you even start? Melissa told us she “tried to clear about 250 different categories”. If you look closely, you’ll see Batman villains, Lord Voldemort, The Wicked Witch of The East, Baby Jane Hudson, and Pennywise the Clown from “It.” I could write an entire article on all of the characters seen in this film. “I had one separate costume shop and one separate assistant who, for about 15 weeks, was just making background,” said Melissa Bruning.

The wonderful Don Cheadle played Al-G, a rogue A.I. The costumes on Don’s character were some of the more fun costumes we saw; Elizabeth even mentioned they were her favorite!  While you might think costuming Looney Tunes would be the more difficult part of the job, Melissa had a different idea. “I think that the Al-G clothes were the hardest of the movie. What does an algorithm wear?” Melissa decided to focus on things that would make Al-G “shiny,” concentrate on circuitry and sparkle, like the sparkly tracksuit. But also, Al-G adapted to the different personalities relevant to the situation, such as a studio head or a Hall of Fame coach. “He would do whatever was the most pleasing for whoever was looking at him,” said Melissa.

Image via Warner Bros. Pictures

The costume design process behind Space Jam: A New Legacy was incredibly fascinating. For more behind-the-scenes details about the film, please enjoy our interview with costume designer Melissa Bruning. She goes into detail on her ideas behind the uniforms, working with Lebron James, and all of the crazy cameos that took place!  That’s all folks!

Now available on Apple Podcasts, Spotify, YouTube, or wherever you get your podcasts!

Interview with Mare of Easttown Costume Designer Meghan Kasperlik

When it comes to contemporary costume design, people quickly think of a business consisting of nothing but shopping and pulling together rolling racks of clothes from everyday stores. While these elements are, of course, a part of the process, contemporary costume design has every motive to be a strong proponent of storytelling. The HBO limited series Mare of Easttown with costumes designed by 2021 Emmy-Nominee Meghan Kasperlik is proof of the vast potential of storytelling through contemporary costume design. I had the chance to dive into the process of costuming Easttown in a interview with Mare of Easttown costume designer Meghan Kasperlik – now live on The Art of Costume Blogcast.

Featured Image: Kate Winslet as Detective Mare Sheehan – Photo Credit: Michele K. Short /HBO

“This one is extra special to me because I am really excited that people are seeing the storytelling of costume, and it’s not just about having a fashion moment in a contemporary costume. It’s actually the authenticity of the characters and costumes that really elevated the storytelling. It’s really exciting that people recognize that!”

Meghan Kasperlik – The Art of Costume Blogcast
Kate Winslet and Jean Smart in Mare of Easttown – Photo Credit: Sarah Shatz / HBO

The costumes seen in Mare of Easttown are rightfully gaining a lot of praise for their authenticity and loyalty to the genuine natures of small-town Pennsylvania. While these costumes are nominated within the Outstanding Contemporary Costumes, they still have the transportive energy of any period or fantasy costume. Any lover of costume and fashion would see the dedication and thought costume designer Meghan Kasperlik put into each costume. It was evident Meghan took many traits of these characters into consideration, such as who these characters are, their jobs, and their roles in this town each day.

“It was very important that all of the costumes really looked authentic, and that they looked lived in, and that maybe this person picked it off the floor and smelled it and thought, “Oh, it’s fine today, I can wear it one more time!” Meghan continues to say, “This specific show was really meant to be, who are these characters, what happens in a day to these people, and they don’t change their clothes. It was really about how lived in we can make these characters.”

Meghan Kasperlik – The Art of Costume Blogcast

Part of Meghan Kasperlik’s research process included visiting a Wawa, a convenience store and gas station commonly located along the East Coast of the United States. She observed locals and noted what they were wearing, what they brought with them, what they bought, and how they bought it.

Julianne Nicholson as Lori Ross – Photo Credit: Michele K. Short / HBO

Then, of course, it came down to the ultimate task, costuming the main character of the series, Mare Sheehan. The brilliant Kate Winslet played Mare. One might ask, how can you go about transforming one of the most famous, well-loved actresses on the planet, known for their beauty and charismatic energy.  Fortunately for Meghan, Kate was all in when it came to the transformation, accepting the wig, laying in eyebrows, and of course, Mare’s wardrobe. 

Everything about Mare’s wardrobe was intentional, from the muted colors to the layers of clothes Mare hid under. It was imperative to Meghan that Mare’s wardrobe portrayed “a woman who would maybe buy new clothes when she felt it was necessary, but otherwise it would be a jeans and a t-shirt situation.” Mare often wore a Filson jacket, which Meghan referred to as Mare’s “suit of armor.” Adamant that Mare would never be seen with a handbag, Meghan designed Mare’s wardrobe to be about layering. 

Kate Winslet as Detective Mare Sheehan – Photo Credit: Michele K. Short /HBO

The attention to detail by Meghan Kasperlik and her crew was beyond impressive. I loved the color palettes, aging and dying, the layering, and of course, the use of graphic tees and local band t-shirts. We talked about the authenticity of the costuming, designing Mare’s wardrobe, and the costumes for some of our favorite characters such as  Detective Colin Zabel, Siobhan Sheehan, and of course Helen Fahey, played by Jean Smart! What is not to love? I could talk about Meghan Kasperlik and costuming Easttown forever, but why listen to me when you could just hear from the designer herself? Fortunately, Meghan joined me on a special bonus episode of The Art of Costume Blogcast.

For the full interview with Mare of Easttown costume designer Meghan Kasperlik – Listen below or head to Apple Podcasts, Spotify, or wherever you like to listen!

Interview with Pose Costume Designer Analucia McGorty

In the second bonus episode of The Art of Costume Blogcast, Spencer Williams (Co-Host, Associate Producer) sits down for an interview with Pose costume designer Analucia McGorty to talk about the groundbreaking hit FX television series, Pose. Analucia McGorty is a 2021 Emmy Nominee in the Outstanding Contemporary Costumes category. Learn about Analucia’s journey from wardrobe production assistant to lead costume designer, Mj Rodriguez’s Lead Actress Emmy™ nomination, designing over-the-top costumes for Elektra, working with consultants, the research process, and the fairy tale wedding for Angel and Lil Papi.

In the interview, Spencer asked Analucia why she thought costume design was necessary. In response, Analucia talked about why she felt the role of the costume designer is so valuable and should be recognized.

“Costume design is storytelling. A lot of actors and directors talk about not really seeing the story or the character until they see the actor in their full wardrobe, hair, and makeup. We are the ones who help create that space. It’s not just words. It’s not just emotion. It’s not just lighting or camera work… it’s how the person looks in the environment. What we do is important, and we should be valued as artists..”

Analucia McGorty

This interview with Pose Costume Designer Analucia McGorty is now live, available on Apple Podcasts, Spotify, Google Podcasts, or wherever you find podcasts available.

Photos Courtesy of FX Networks

Dominique Jackson as Elektra. Photos courtesy of FX Networks

Dayna Pink and The Costumes of Lovecraft Country

Lovecraft Country – Courtney B. Vance, Jonathan Majors and Jurnee Smollett. Photograph by Elizabeth Morris/HBO

This year, costume designer Dayna Pink was nominated for a Costume Designers Guild Award for Excellence in Period Television for her recent work on the hit HBO original television show, Lovecraft Country. Before Lovecraft Country, Dayna has enjoyed a widely successful career, designing costumes for film such as Bumblebee, Bad Boys For Life, Baywatch, Crazy, Stupid, Love., Fame, and Tenacious D in the Pick of Destiny! I was honored with an opportunity to speak with Dayna about her career, inspiration, and her incredible work as costume designer on Lovecraft Country. Please enjoy!


Spencer: Hi, Dana! I’m so happy to finally meet you and congratulations on your nomination!

Dayna: Hi! It’s so nice to meet you as well.

Spencer: Thank you so much for joining me. Before we talk about Lovecraft Country and your recent Costume Designers Guild Award nomination, I would just love to hear a little bit about your journey to becoming a costume designer and what moved you in that direction? 

Dayna: I started as a stylist. I grew up and lived in Detroit and I started styling bands and doing music videos. I then moved to L.A. to style for bands and I did a Tenacious D music video, it was called “Tribute”. (Editors Note: Since this interview, I have listened to this song one thousand times.) It was so funny and amazing. After the music video, they were going to do a movie, and they sent me the script, and the same director from the video was doing it. He sent me the script and I was doing a lot of commercials and at that time doing a million things at once. I asked myself, “do I want to do a movie and take myself out of being available for whatever it is, four months, five months, six months?” 

Suddenly I’m sitting across the table from this producer and director, I realized that this wasn’t just about what they were wearing, but why they were wearing it and where they had gotten it. This was about being a storyteller as much as putting clothes on somebody and that it still makes the hair on my arms stand up. That idea of actually contributing to something and being a storyteller changed the way I looked at everything. So, you know, even if Jack Black shows up in a T-shirt off the bus coming across the country, what does it say about him? It changed the trajectory of my career. I continued in styling and I still style now actually.  I still have some clients that I dress, but realizing that being a filmmaker, being a storyteller, what we do means something, that was a cool moment for me. 

Spencer: That’s one of the reasons why I love working in costume design so much. Costume designers are storytellers. Our favorite films, television shows, plays, wouldn’t be possible without the costume designer’s vision.

Dayna: That’s amazing. I love that. 

Spencer: Throughout the pandemic, a lot of people have had a hard time staying inspired, finding creativity. How do you stay inspired and connected to your creativity?

Lovecraft Country – Naomi Mack, Jurnee Smollett, Wunmi Mosaku, Keon Mitchell and Jonathan Majors. Photograph by Eli Joshua Ade/HBO

Dayna: For the first six months I did not work. I stayed home and I had come off of a year and a half on the road, then the pandemic hit. At first, it was terrible and scary, yet it was sort of restful and introspective. I  read some books, watched things on television and I watched movies. We had time to sit and think about our lives. It was a time of kind of refilling for me. Then back in August, I started a little movie that Channing Tatum directed called Dog, Channing starred in it and directed it. It was such a gift because it was a controlled, beautiful little project. After that, I did a pilot and worked with Steve Carell for The Morning Show. I’ve managed to stay busy and stay home at the same time, which has been nice. 

Spencer: You mentioned that during the pandemic you were indulging yourself in different books, films, and shows…I sense a bit of creative escapism. You reminded me of the character, Atticus (Played by Jonathan Majors), from Lovecraft Country. So, let’s talk about Lovecraft Country, shall we? 

This show was a huge project. When I first started watching the show, I kind of chalked it up as a period drama. Lovecraft Country is SO much bigger than a period drama. There is science-fiction, horror, monsters, comic books, literature, America, France, Korea, space, drag queens, ghosts… just to name a few elements. It’s very impressive. I want you to first speak to what was your reaction was when you first started on this project if you could?

Lovecraft Country – Jurnee Smollett, Jonathan Majors and Courtney B. Vance. Photograph by Eli Joshua Ade/HBO

Dayna: I was brought in to have a meeting for the pilot first, and the pilot was cool. It was period and said really important things. I was drawn to it. My idea for it was to route everything in the period. Understand the period and that’s the place you start. But because there’s a fantasy aspect to this, you get to go different places that you wouldn’t normally go. So not everything was accurate. I loved doing the pilot so much that I just couldn’t imagine not doing the whole show after that. I never thought I would do a whole show. “Oh, I’m doing this, this is happening.” 

Then reading every episode going forward, now there’s a drag ball, now we’re in Paris with dancers. It was overwhelming to read all the things you were going to have to do, but it was over a long period. It was like a hamster on a wheel. We just kept going and going and going. Next thing you know, we’re done with this episode and we are wondering what’s happening next? 

Lovecraft Country – Jonathan Majors and Jurnee Smollett. Photograph by Eli Joshua Ade/HBO

Spencer: How long were you on this project? After finishing the show, I figured it must have taken a lifetime to costume this story.

Dayna: Probably 10 months, not including the pilot.

Spencer: It’s beautiful, it’s massive. It’s like every episode was its own, individual movie. Each episode could have lived completely on its own.

Dayna: Thank you for saying that. That’s how we thought of it. You know, we just made ten little movies. 

Spencer: Lovecraft Country is based on a novel by Matt Ruff, and a combination of short stories by the author, H.P. Lovecraft. So much of it also references famous literature such as Dracula, A Princess of Mars, and The Count of Monte Cristo. There’s also a lot of photographic references which I thought were amazing, such as the Gordon Parks’s Department Store, Mobile, Alabama. What sort of research and references were you looking at as you were bringing this project together?

Dayna: Of course, we researched the period first. We did everything we could to find all the real photos and, of course, the photographers of the time such as Gordon Parks. Two things were happening at the same time. What was it really? And what do we want it to be? We were taking those two things and putting them together. There were moments where we absolutely honor the things that really happened, like those Gordon Parks photos that we created. We tried to be as close to those as we could. We looked at those and historical moments that happened. Emmett Till’s funeral, the Tulsa Race Massacre, those moments we tried to honor and step away from. We didn’t do an interpretation of them. We tried to recreate them. 

Then there’s everything else. We had room to add our little special sauce. Both things are true, right? Some things happened that we wanted to honor and then there were things like, well shouldn’t Leti (Played by Jurnee Smollett) be wearing a crazy shirt with that outfit? When you first see Leti come to the block party, that was based on a Dior outfit that I had found from that time in my research. So there were things that were rooted and referenced and then some we just took it to our trajectory. 

Lovecraft Country – Wunmi Mosaku and Jurnee Smollett. Photograph by Elizabeth Morris/HBO

Spencer: It’s amazing to me how, in those moments where you were focused on recreating, how accurate and detailed you were. For example, the Gordon Parks photo side by side is uncanny. 

Since we started talking about Leti, we have to talk about her wardrobe or the fans will be mad at me! *laughs* I love Leti. Her wardrobe is amazing. You could tell that she loves to just play dress-up. It feels as though her costumes aren’t always appropriate for the moment. But she doesn’t care and she’s just living.

Dayna: That’s exactly right. You know, with most characters, you ask yourself the questions, where did they get this, and how long have they had it? But with Leti, the sky is the limit because she would have gotten whatever she wanted, regardless of how she was going to get it. That’s what we kind of did with her. We didn’t put limits on what she could or couldn’t wear. We just had so much fun with the moment. What does she want to look like? Her wardrobe deconstructs as the show goes on, towards the end, she’s wearing Atticus’s clothes. She gets more casual. She’s in a sweatshirt. She’s in a t-shirt. But, the whole beginning of the series, she’s full-on wearing whatever she wants when she likes. Jurnee was amazing, and dressing her was awesome. 

Spencer:  She looked amazing in every episode. It’s like she takes your breath away every time she comes on screen. One thing I noticed and loved about the costuming was the vibrant colors. Was that intentional?

Dayna: It was intentional. We wanted certain characters to pop in certain moments. The background is softer and creamy, less primary colors. But our characters, our heroes have some brighter colors. And you’re going to notice them. 

Spencer: There’s another character I want to talk about, Christina Braithwhite (Played by Abbey Lee Kershaw). You don’t trust her. You’re pretty positive she’s evil, but you can’t put your finger on it. She has that Glenn Close, Cruella De Vil feel, where you know you’re not supposed to like her, but her fashion is beyond so you can’t help it that you kind of want to hang out with her. 

Dayna: She’s more forties inspired to me and darker in a way, crispier. I wanted to create closets and pieces for our characters that you want to show. Atticus is wearing a t-shirt, but you want to touch it. You want to feel it. What is it? It’s soft. I created costumes for Christina that you wouldn’t want to touch necessarily. You want to appreciate them from here. She has the hats and always in heels and you know, it’s a harder kind of vibe than Leti or Ruby Baptiste (Played by Wunmi Mosaku), who was also amazing and fun to dress and super sexy. We got to make all of her clothes. That was so much fun. 

Spencer: Also, super colorful too! I loved all the prints that Ruby was in. 

So you were nominated for a Costume Designers Guild Award for Excellence In Period Television, the credit was attributed to episode seven, “I Am”. We could probably do a whole interview around this episode. It’s amazing. 

In this episode, Hippolyta (Played by Aunjanue Ellis) travels through the science-fiction realms of the multiverse. She meets an entity known as Beyond C’est (Played by Karen LeBlanc), and goes on an incredible journey of self-discovery, through many different realms! Hippolyta ends up in Paris, dancing with Josephine Baker, and partying with Frida Kahlo. We then travel to The Kingdom of Dahomey where Hippolyta is training and ends up leading the fight against a large army of soldiers. But wait, there is more! We end with Hippolyta traveling to the comic book world of Orithyia Blue where she’s wearing a terrific orrery dress with that blue hair. Let’s talk about this episode. There’s so much going happening here, it’s living art!

Dayna: What was cool was we did have a while to think about it because this was a later episode. So I got to think about that over a long period and come up with ideas like her astronaut outfit with the orrery, how could I turn that into a costume somehow?

Spencer: I love that dress and I love this retro view of the future.

Dayna: Because they were in a world inspired by a comic book! The cool thing about all those different looks was that they didn’t have to even be from one eye, even though it is my perspective. Then there’s just the rest of the episode, which is the 50s. There are all these different elements in that episode and the Beyond C’est character which was fantastical as we could make it fun. Then we gave a fresh perspective to the dancers. The dancer’s costumes were made in our costume department, we had people gluing on feathers, all the different pieces. We didn’t get finished until three o’clock in the morning…the night before. 

Lovecraft Country – Carra Patterson as Josephine Baker. Photo courtesy of HBO

Spencer: The night before? That is incredible!

Dayna: Yes! Then there it was. The girls were all on stage, these beautiful girls in the costumes. After all that work, it was such a beautiful moment for us to watch. Like, wow, look what we did!!

Spencer: It felt so real and authentic like you had been preparing for this scene with Josephine Baker and dancing costumes your entire life. It was amazing. Now, let’s talk about The Kingdom of Dahomey. Also, another really beautiful scene. Hippolyta had on what looked like Grecian-inspired armor at one point. I also LOVED the use of the traditional, African cowrie beading. Tell me about the research you did for this scene?

Dayna: Yeah, you’re right. All those things you said are exactly what we did. We researched all different places and we kind of combined them into one. Everything was also made in our offices. We molded the leather, beaded shell by shell, and bit by bit. Everybody was made to look different. We even made the helmet for Hippolyta, we made it all. That shell necklace for the queen I bought from an antique furniture store. It was a piece hanging on the wall that was kind of on a stand. And I looked at it and I said. The queen’s going to wear that. 

Spencer: I am obsessed with that. I can’t imagine, your mind is amazing.

Dayna: Everyone was saying, you’re going to have to take it apart. It’s so heavy. There’s no way. It’s so big. I just kept saying, oh no, this is completely happening. I also wanted to respect those fabrics. Everything means something, and so I don’t want to dishonor any piece of history or any piece that means something to a culture. However, at this moment we had a cool opportunity to be creative. With full respect, I wanted to take those pieces and maybe do something a little different than what they’re normally worn for. For example, if a dress was traditionally for a wedding, maybe that’s not what we did with it. We gave it our own little twist. 

Spencer: Well to your great credit, it was very beautiful and felt very true, and thoughtful. It was honestly one of my favorite episodes of a TV show I have watched in a long time. Not to sound too much like a fan, but I am thankful for you and this body of work. 

Dayna: Wow. That’s amazing to me. Thank you. Well just after that episode, we all looked at each other because you’re nothing without your team and we all did this together. I mean, I don’t know how many people had a glue gun, but everybody’s paintbrush helped. Everybody brings their best self and everybody wanted it to look amazing. We just stood there looking at the stage with these people, looking at those warriors…the scene where Hippolyta is backstage with Frida Kahlo and all the extras. We just looked at that stage of all these people and thought, “Oh, I’d like to be at that party”.

Spencer: I thought the same thing. I don’t know what they’re drinking or what’s going on, but I know I want to be there!

Dayna: We knew that we were doing something magical. Then to take it one step further Misha Green (Showrunner and Executive Producer), whose mind gave birth to this, was saying something way bigger than, “oh, what are they wearing?” She was saying something so important and we were helping to tell that story, which is a way bigger story than these little pieces that we were doing. So not only were we excited about our work, but we were excited about being on a path, on a journey to say something that we all thought was so important. It was a very special job. 

Lovecraft Country – Michael K. Williams as Montrose Freeman. Photograph by Eli Joshua Ade/HBO

Spencer: I also have to mention the drag ball. You must have had the biggest team ever, everyone, grab a glue stick and glue gun. There’s so much to do. 

Dayna: You should have seen it. Every single person on the crew was either in a boa or a turban. Everyone had some crazy accessories on! It’s a dream. I mean, these jobs do not come up very often. I don’t take it for granted. I’m super grateful for being able to do and create all the things that we did. 

Spencer: I am excited to move on to this next topic! I am a big horror nerd. I love scary movies. This show fed my soul! There was lots of blood, lots of guts. I don’t know of many shows that had so much blood, perhaps The Walking Dead? It was excessive, and I LOVED it! What people don’t realize though is that this presents a unique challenge for the costume department. Can you talk about the aging process? You must have had fake blood everywhere.

Lovecraft Country – Photograph by Eli Joshua Ade/HBO

Dayna: Oh we did, we definitely did. Sometimes we built things, we designed outfits because we knew that they were going to get bloody like Leti’s cream-colored outfit. We knew that it was going to be covered in blood. So we thought about where’s it going to end up, and how bloody is it going to be. This is also the time to think about multiples. That’s another reason that you make everything. You can’t go to a vintage store and say, oh, I need eight of that shirt. That doesn’t exist. So we had to make everything, and we had to make multiples of everything because of all the blood. 

Spencer: This sounds exhausting, but I am living for it. You also had to create a lot of costumes for the ghosts and monsters. There was an episode where there was, eight different ghosts. Later on, we see the spirits of Topsy and Bopsy. I am still terrified. I just… wow.

Lovecraft Country – Bianca Brewton and Kaelynn Gobert-Harris as Topsy and Bopsy. Photograph by Eli Joshua Ade/HBO

Dayna: We did it all. The ghosts, Topsy and Bopsy… we made those, and those were actually made out of silk. They looked like potato sacks but really it was beautiful silk that we had printed on. Also, in episode four where the characters are in that shipwreck-like setting, we costumed the characters sitting around the table on the ship. We just made everything all the wardrobe that you see was us, everything. 

Spencer: I am so amazed, just masterful work. I might not have been able to sleep afterward but it was well worth it. 

The last topic I wanted to discuss with you, not only did you recreate a 1950’s America, you later have to recreate South Korea at the very beginning of the Korean War. It was tragic, but it was tragically beautiful in the sense that the costumes were just so lovely to look at. Actress Jamie Chung who played the Kumiho, Ji-Ah, I was obsessed with her coats and all of the nurse outfits.

Lovecraft Country – Jamie Chung as Ji-Ah. Photograph by Eli Joshua Ade/HBO

Dayna: I love her. I loved dressing her. I loved that episode, I thought it was so beautiful. We definitely took a little liberty there and we did have somebody there who was guiding us through what was traditional, and what isn’t traditional. There were things that we knew were not traditional, but they were all in the spirit of what they did for the period and the setting. We took some liberties with the pants and similar things. We wanted to create in the same way, something grounded and based in the period in something that was our own. And so that’s what we did. I think that was one of the most beautiful episodes, I really do. 

Spencer: I agree. The way it all came together was incredible. 

Well, that’s it for Lovecraft country. I can launch thousands of questions at you…I’ll never stop. On a final note, The Art of Costume is followed by a lot of nerds like myself, but also aspiring costume designers and overall creatives. So I have to ask you the famous question, of course. What advice would you give to someone who’s reading this, who maybe wants to move into costuming, styling, or anything in a creative field?

Dayna: I think if you love something and you want to do it, then do it. I didn’t have a traditional path to get where I am. You know, I was a model when I was young and I loved clothes. People used to put clothes on me and I would say, maybe put this with that! I just loved clothes. That’s what I wanted to do. So I didn’t do it the way that other people do it. I think that’s OK. Whatever path gets you there, is the right path. 

Lovecraft Country – Wunmi Mosaku as Ruby Baptiste. Photograph by Eli Joshua Ade/HBO

If you love it then my best advice is to say yes to everything, figure out the details later. That’s my best advice. I said yes to everything in Detroit when I started. Sometimes you had to do costumes, makeup, and script. So I would sit on a set, first I would do the makeup, then I would do their hair, then I would get them dressed and then I would go out there and I would take script notes and I made one hundred dollars a day. That’s what I did because what I wanted to do was costumes. But to get there, that’s what I had to do. So someone would say, are you busy tomorrow? I would say I’m available. Yeah. 

Spencer: What do you need me to do? 

Dayna: Exactly. There are things that I do because I love what I do. I don’t think I will ever get to a place that I feel like I can just, you know, be so picky. I feel very honored to be able to have the opportunities that I do, I don’t take them for granted. But I got here by saying yes. 

Spencer: Dayna that is such lovely advice. Thank you for saying that. That’s terrific advice. Thank you, Dayna, this was so fun and I’m very glad I got this opportunity to talk with you. Congratulations on the CDGA nomination. Your work on Lovecraft Country was amazing and I am just thankful we got to talk about it. 

Dayna: Thank you for saying that. I can’t tell you how it feels to work on something and be creative and feel proud to have been part of something. It was such an important show for me and I’m super grateful to have had the opportunity to do it. 


From showrunner and executive producer Misha Green, HBO’s drama series LOVECRAFT COUNTRY is available to stream on HBO Max. Thank you again to CDGA nominee Dayna Pink for this enlightening conversation.

For more in-depth conversation about Lovecraft Country, I HIGHLY recommend the incredible HBO sponsored podcast, “Lovecraft Country Radio” – hosted by Ashley C. Ford and Lovecraft Country writer Shannon Houston as they share their thoughts on the ties between the horror genre and Black culture and explore how the show’s themes connect to contemporary social issues.

(Ashley and Shannon, if you are reading this… please continue the podcast. I need your commentary in my life forever… I volunteer Buffy the Vampire Slayer as tribute.)

A Conversation with Nancy Steiner – Promising Young Woman


Event Description from FIDM:

Costume Designer Nancy Steiner’s new film, Promising Young Woman starring Carey Mulligan, is predicted to be a 2021 Oscar contender. Please join us for a fun, hour-long conversation with the esteemed costume designer, hosted by FIDM Fashion Design Co-Chair Nick Verreos, and learn about her incredibly successful career. You’ll have a chance to submit your own costume design questions, so we encourage you to come prepared.

About Special Guest, Costume Designer Nancy Steiner: Steiner’s wide range of work in film and television speaks for itself from her work with Sofia Coppola on cult films The Virgin Suicides and Lost in Translation to further auteur filmmaker collaborations including Yorgos Lanthimos on The Killing of a Sacred Deer, Mike White on his HBO series Enlightened, and David Lynch for his Twin Peaks 2017 reboot.

She has been nominated for a Costume Designers Guild award twice for Excellence in Contemporary Feature Films for Shopgirl and Little Miss Sunshine, and won twice for Excellence in Commercial Costume Design on campaigns for Bacardi & Cola and Call of Duty.

Steiner began her career in the world of music videos designing costumes for some of the most influential artists around including Nirvana, Smashing Pumpkins, R.E.M., Foo Fighters, Red Hot Chili Peppers, Bjork, Sheryl Crow, Stone Temple Pilots, Air, No Doubt, David Bowie and Rolling Stones just to name a few. She continues to work on award-winning commercial campaigns and is currently in production on the Amazon pilot A League of Their Own with director Abbi Jacobson.

About Your Host, Nick Verreos: Nick Verreos is the co-chair of FIDM’s Fashion, Theatre Costume, and Film & Television Costume Design programs. He is also co-designer of the Los Angeles brand NIKOLAKI, which has been worn by Katy Perry, Carrie Underwood, and Beyoncé. In addition, he is the consulting producer for Bravo’s Project Runway; an author of fashion, pattern making, and sketching books; and the face of the popular YouTube channel “Fashion School with Nick Verreos.”

Ruth E. Carter: Afrofuturism in Costume Design

Ruth E. Carter: Afrofuturism in Costume Design at SCAD FASH Museum of Fashion + Film – Images Courtesy of SCAD FASH MUSEUM OF FASHION + FILM

The date is February 25th, 2021, and what a historic day it is! It’s officially Ruth E. Carter day in Hollywood! Today, Ruth E. Carter will become the first Black costume designer to receive a star on The Hollywood Walk of Fame, only the second costume designer to be honored with a star following Edith Head, who was honored in 1960 at the origin of this iconic landscape.

“A career spanning more than three decades in theater, cinema, and television, Carter’s depth of artistry flowing together with her creative instincts, passion for culture and history, empathy for people, enormous capacity for research, eye for detail, and ability to deliver the director’s vision while infusing her art makes her one of the most sought after and renowned costume designers in the world”

Hollywood Walk of Fame

Though the ceremony was virtual, it was still a fabulous event featuring iconic guest speakers and previous collaborators of Ruth’s, Oprah Winfrey, and Eddie Murphy. We even got to see the making of Ruth’s star! I honestly can’t think of anyone more deserving of this incredible honor. Ruth E. Carter is an icon, a mentor, and most of all, a trailblazer who serves as an inspiration not only to costume designers but all creatives hoping to build a life around their creative passions. I feel like I am speaking for everyone when I say Ruth is simply just, the greatest of all time.

“She opened a lot of doors for us. I’ve seen more people requesting Black designers this year — due to her win, but also partially due to the social climate. Even me being considered [for awards] right now is due to her winning and laying this groundwork.”

Costume designer, Charlese Antoinette Jones – VARIETY.com

“People ask me how did I get RUTH CARTER to be my first guest on my Instagram Live show…. I tell them, I just asked! Without hesitation, Ruth said, “I’m in, let’s do this!” To me, that is Ruth. Authentic, real, and giving to the core. I am so honored to call this star my peer, and more importantly my friend.”

Costume Designer & Host of CONVOS WITH COSTUME DESIGNERS, Mandi Line

While this is all so exciting, the celebration doesn’t stop there! If you thought securing a spot on the historic, Hollywood Walk of Fame, or winning an Oscar was enough, you are so wrong! I am excited to share with you all an exciting exhibition that you can all safely visit in Atlanta, Georgia. This Winter, The Savannah College of Art and Design’s SCAD FASH Museum of Fashion + Film opened the monumental exhibition Ruth E. Carter: Afrofuturism in Costume Design

Black Panther – Images Courtesy of SCAD FASH MUSEUM OF FASHION + FILM

Within this exhibition, you will be in the presence of costumes from generation-defining films such as Selma, Do the Right Thing, and Black Panther. Nearly four decades of Ruth’s work is currently on display! In addition to Carter’s costumes for stars such as Oprah Winfrey and Denzel Washington, “the exhibition also features garments worn by luminaries” such as Angela Bassett, Eddie Murphy, Lupita Nyong’o, Rosie Perez, Forest Whitaker, and of course, the late Chadwick Boseman, “demonstrating the varied work her career brings to the screen.”

“The award-winning museum will showcase more than 60 costumes by Carter, as well as sketches and ephemera illustrating the designer’s in-depth historical research and creative process for each project. Carter is an expert storyteller who harnesses the power of visual communication to share vital narratives exploring culture, race, and politics.

SCAD FASH Museum of Fashion + Film
Malcom X – Images Courtesy of SCAD FASH MUSEUM OF FASHION + FILM

The Ruth E. Carter: Afrofuturism in Costume Design is so expertly curated. Honestly, when I first saw the exhibition,  I felt as though my heart stopped for a second. The pure excellence, vibrancy, and emotional power of Ruth’s work, in combination with the beautiful displays of SCAD FASH Museum of Fashion + Film, is overwhelming in all of the right ways.

“The exhibition was created in that spirit of love of self and it serves to empower anyone with an inner creative with a passion to nurture their own voice, like I did, and are determined to share their story through their art. I want to inspire a new generation, who are already expressing the need to project a profound personal connection of diversity in storytelling and to do it authentically in a way that connects with their creative self. I want to encourage them to trust their voice and embody their Afrofuture no matter who they are or where they come from.”

Ruth E. Carter
Roots – Images Courtesy of SCAD FASH MUSEUM OF FASHION + FILM

Ruth E. Carter: Afrofuturism in Costume Design is co-curated by Rafael Gomes, director of fashion exhibitions, and Christina Frank, assistant director of fashion exhibitions, in collaboration with guest curator Julia Long. The exhibition is open now until Sept. 12, 2021. For ticketing and more information on the exhibition and SCAD FASH, please visit scadfash.org. 

On behalf of The Art of Costume Team, I would like to congratulate Ruth once again on these incredible achievements and I look forward to many more years of your groundbreaking, innovative work. All hail the queen!


“When I was working on the many Spike Lee films, I got the nickname ‘Ruthless’ by fellow crew members who would say, ‘Hey Ruthless!’ I knew it was because I worked so hard behind the scenes, designing the many looks, gathering materials, and getting hundreds of actors in costume, connecting actor to character through fashion. I’m grateful for this opportunity to collaborate with SCAD FASH in bringing my collection together to share my career experience with everyone.”

RUTH. E CARTER

Ruth E. Carter: Afrofuturism in Costume Design is open until Sept. 12, 2021

For ticketing and more information on SCAD FASH, please visit scadfash.org. 

Works Cited:

Howard, Nandi. “Ruth E. Carter Will Become The First Black Costume Designer To Receive Star On The Hollywood Walk Of Fame.” Essence, Essence, 22 Feb. 2021, http://www.essence.com/fashion/ruth-e-carter-to-receive-star-on-hollywood-walk-of-fame/.

“Ruth E. Carter.” Hollywood Walk of Fame, 24 Feb. 2021, walkoffame.com/ruthecarter/.

“’Ruth E. Carter: Afrofuturism in Costume Design’.” SCAD FASH Museum of Fashion + Film, 25 Nov. 2020, http://www.scadfash.org/exhibitions/ruth-e-carter-afrofuturism-costume-design.

Tangcay, Jazz. “Ruth E. Carter Makes History With a Star on the Hollywood Walk of Fame.” Variety, Variety, 24 Feb. 2021, variety.com/2021/artisans/awards/ruth-carter-walk-of-fame-1234913760/.

From Animation to Live-Action: Behind The Costumes of The Mandalorian

Ahsoka Tano (Rosario Dawson) in Lucasfilm’s THE MANDALORIAN, season two, exclusively on Disney+, © 2020 Lucasfilm Ltd. &TM. All Rights Reserved.

Going into this new year, many things seem uncertain. However, one thing I think we can all agree on is that The Mandalorian is one of the greatest shows out there. Lightsaber fights, stormtroopers, explosions, exciting worlds, new and returning characters, Baby Yoda… wait I mean, Grogu. The second season of The Mandalorian, a Disney + original, took audiences to exciting new heights. One of the more thrilling features of the second season was the introduction of characters that many Star Wars fans have come to know and love, Bo-Katan Kryze and Ahsoka Tano, two characters originating from the animated Star Wars shows, Star Wars: The Clone Wars and Star Wars: Rebels.

I spoke with season 2 costume designer, Shawna Trpcic, about this exciting project and the incredible task of bringing these two animated fan favorites into the live-action, Emmy Award-Winning world of The Mandalorian.


Spencer Williams: Hi Shawna! Thank you so much for talking with me and congratulations on an incredible season of The Mandalorian! I had so much fun watching each week and I miss it dearly! What was your experience like designing costumes for The Mandalorian, and now being a part of the Star Wars universe? 

Shawna Trpcic: Hi Spencer! The experience was like no other – Jon has brought together a band of incredible artists and technicians, but most importantly a group of Star Wars fans through and through. The show is fast-paced and a huge undertaking and we all want to give our all for every moment and every look – it’s the most glorious and rewarding challenge – I often squeal with childlike excitement when a costume is finished and on the actor.

Spencer: I can only imagine! So I have really been looking forward to talking to you about this. For years, some of our favorite characters have only been seen in animated television shows such as Star Wars: The Clone Wars or Star Wars: Rebels. As a costume designer, you played a big role in bringing to life some serious fan-favorites, Bo-Katan Kryze (played by Katee Sackhoff) and Ahsoka Tano (played by Rosario Dawson). What was your reaction when you realized the weight of this exciting task?

(L-R): Koska Reeves (Mercedes Varnado) and Bo-Katan Kryze (Katee Sackhoff) in Lucasfilm’s THE MANDALORIAN, season two, exclusively on Disney+. © 2020 Lucasfilm Ltd. & ™. All Rights Reserved. Photo by Francois Duhamel

Shawna: I have been going to Comic-Con in San Diego for years and years, and have great respect and understanding for the legacy of these iconic characters – by staying loyal to Dave Filoni’s vision created in the animation but applying my knowledge of how a costume must work for live-action and movement – I knew we’d created something magical. When I asked Jose Fernandez at Ironhead Studios to build the armor for the two ladies I was very clear that maintaining the strong feminine shape Dave had in the animation was very important to me. 

Spencer: Can you take us through your process of adapting these two characters from animation into a live-action world? How did you decide on what elements to carry over from prior incarnations of the character’s costumes? 

Shawna: Dave guided me very carefully through the helmets – the angle of the cheekbones, the slant of the eyes, the flare at the bottom. The helmet is the first thing you see and it communicates so much – getting that right and the slight differences in the colors were imperative

The Mandalorian (Pedro Pascal) and Bo-Katan Kryze (Katee Sackhoff) in Lucasfilm’s THE MANDALORIAN, season two, exclusively on Disney+. © 2020 Lucasfilm Ltd. & ™. All Rights Reserved. Photo by Francois Duhamel

Spencer: What sort of challenges did you face in designing these costumes? Both characters see a lot of action scenes such as gun-fights and lightsaber duels. All of this keeping in mind that there are also some intricate headpieces and armor involved.

Shawna: We did tear out a few seams in the action – also after a week of intense fighting Katee was losing weight and gaining more muscle. The uniform was shifting and frequent alterations were needed to keep the shape we intended. We did add stretch panels throughout to ease the strain on the seams

Spencer: When we first meet Ahsoka in Star Wars: The Clone Wars, Ahsoka is a young padawan. Now, Ahsoka is a wise, experienced figure. I believe you can track her journey and overall character development through her costumes over the years. What was the thought process behind her style evolution seen in The Mandalorian?

Shawna: I relied heavily on Dave’s direction for her – he gave me his research that influenced his decisions and I worked off of them to create the live-action version – even going so far as to have fabric made to give her the journey worn cloak – and we made many attempts at the Jedi hood before we got it right as well.

Ahsoka Tano (Rosario Dawson) and the Magistrate (Diana Lee Inosanto) in Lucasfilm’s THE MANDALORIAN, season two, exclusively on Disney+. © 2020 Lucasfilm Ltd. & TM. All Rights Reserved.

Spencer: Is there an element to either of these two costumes that just really brought the character to life that excited you? I noticed Ahsoka had a braid tied around her belt that looked similar to her Padawan braid made of “Silka Beads”. Hmmm?  

Shawna: *laughs* It may or may not be the braid – some influences are like art – up to the interpretation of the viewer. Every detail of her costume means something and comes from her character’s evolution – but it’s important to me to let the viewer participate in the storytelling. 

Spencer: I love that, so very much! Thank you again Shawna for speaking with me! This was a lot of fun. I look forward to catching up with you again in the future.

Shawna: Thank you, Spencer!

The Child and Ahsoka Tano (Rosario Dawson) in Lucasfilm’s THE MANDALORIAN, season two. ©2020 Lucasfilm Ltd. & TM. All Rights Reserved. Photo by Photo by Justin Lubin

Watch the Second season of The Mandalorian, now streaming on Disney +

For another Behind The Scenes look at The Mandalorian costumes, watch Disney Gallery / Star Wars: The Mandalorian, featuring commentary by Shawna Trpcic – streaming on Disney +

A Year In Review: The Art of Costume 2020

Sarah Paulson as Mildred Ratched – Ratched. Costume Design by Lou Eyrich and Rebecca Guzzi. Credit: COURTESY OF NETFLIX

In the words of one of America’s great poets, Jake Tapper, 2020 was “a hot mess, inside a dumpster fire, inside a train wreck”. Okay well, he might have been describing one of this year’s presidential debates, but I think Jake would agree that this quote still holds.

2020 was awful, we can all pretty much agree on that. However, The Art of Costume team is hoping to start the new year with some positive reflections, and hopeful intentions for 2021. While we didn’t see as many new films, shows, or theatre productions this year… there were still plenty of great costume moments to appreciate. I gathered some members of The Art of Costume team to take a look back with me, and prepare to leave this year behind us. Enjoy!


Q: What was your favorite Costume Moment of the Year ?

Elizabeth Glass: Unorthodox. While not the most flashy or technically astounding, the costumes of Unorthodox are truly apart of the story. They help tell the story of Esty’s (played by Shira Haas) strict Hasidic Jewish upbringing where clothes have both religious and social significance to her escape to Germany where her wardrobe starts to represent who she wants to be. From behind to end they telling and supporting her story.

Mariana Sandoval: Hamilton. The ensemble singing and dancing hip hop in those stunning costumes. I just couldn’t believe what I was watching!!

Candice Silva: The entire cast of Jingle Jangle and the metallic pleated Givenchy dress worn by Nicole Kidman in first episode of The Undoing.

Csilla Szlovák: My favorite costume moment of the year was from probably either The Umbrella Academy’s second season, specifically anything that The Handler (played by Kate Walsh) wore, or from The Queen’s Gambit. They brought so much beauty to this boring, but also exhausting year and I couldn’t be more thankful for them.

Spencer Williams: The series finale of Schitt’s Creek was incredible, and I find myself thinking about it all of the time. Specifically, Moira Rose’s (played by Catherine O’Hara) clergy officiant costume. Simply the best! I also am still reeling over Mildred Ratched’s (played by Sarah Paulson) entire wardrobe from the Netflix show, Ratched. I am obsessed!

(From L to R) Unorthodox – Costume Designer, Justine Seymour. Hamilton – Costume Designer, Paul Tazewell. The Undoing – Costume Designer, Signe Sejlund. The Umbrella Academy – Christopher Hargadon. Schitt’s Creek – Costume Designer, Debra Hanson.

Q: What costumes are you looking forward to seeing in 2021 ?

Elizabeth Glass: Dune – I’m really looking forward to the costumes for the new Dune. As a massive sci-fi fan I’m always interested to see how the designer will interpret styles and pieces that don’t exist in the real world.

Mariana Sandoval: Disney’s Cruella with Emma Stone.

Candice Silva: Cobra Kai, Never Have I Ever Season 2 (CD Salvador Perez), Ryan Murphy’s Halston mini-series CD – Jeriana San Juan and The Discovery of Witches Season 2

Csilla Szlovák: I am extremely excited to see the new season of Euphoria and what the costumes will look like in the 2021 game Hogwarts Legacy. And also in general, I can’t wait to go to the theatre in the new year.

Spencer Williams: There are a few things coming out this year I am excited about! In terms of film, I am looking forward to Coming 2 America as well as the exciting new Marvel film, Eternals. I am also excited to see the costumes for WandaVision, and pretty much any Marvel or Star Wars universe show to hit Disney + this year. Oh, and the new American Horror Stories series!

(From L to R) Dune – Costume Designer, Jacqueline West. Cruella – Costume Designer, Jenny Beavan. Never Have I Ever – Costume Designer, Salvador Perez. Euphoria – Heidi Bivens. WandaVision – Costume Designer, Mayes C. Rubeo.

Q: What is your New Year’s Resolution ?

Elizabeth Glass: Rewatch tv shows less, and watch more movies!

Mariana Sandoval: I want to make the best of what 2020 taught me: don’t take anything for granted, embrace every single opportunity and create my own path.

Candice Silva: To complete all the sewing projects I have on my list, specifically the ones for Costume College’s annual conference. Fingers crossed the 2021 event isn’t canceled!

Csilla Szlovák: My new year’s resolution is just to take it easy, we made it through this dumpster fire of a year, let’s not make 2021 worse than that.

Spencer Williams: This year I want to take the time to reconnect myself with my passions. I hope to take The Art of Costume to new exciting heights this year! We have so many things we want to do this year. I want to learn a new talent this year, recently I’ve been exploring digital painting as well as DJing. Finally, I want to rid myself of “couch potato guilt”. There are a lot of good shows and films out there right now, and coming in the future! I’ll watch it all and no one is going to make me feel guilty about it!


I want to end this article by giving the biggest thank you to all of the fabulous members of The Art of Costume team. The best thing to come out of this year, was getting to know each of you. I am so lucky, and eternally grateful for our new found friendships.

On behalf of the entire team, I would also like to thank YOU, the readers who visited us throughout the year. We are just getting started here at The Art of Costume, with a lot of exciting things in store for 2021! Happy New Year’s everyone!

Alright 2020, its officially that time… for you… to Sashay Away!