Jane Holland and the Costumes of Cowboy Bebop

Today I am so excited to speak with Jane Holland, costume designer from one of my new favorite shows, Cowboy Bebop. The live-action adaptation of Cowboy Bebop takes place in 2071 and follows Spike Spiegel (played by John Cho) as he wanders the galaxy in search of jobs as he begins leading a group of ragtag bounty hunters to chase down criminals across the solar system while trying to earn different rewards. I speak with Jane Holland about her inspirations and the process behind translating some of our favorite characters from the anime to this live-action adaptation.


Spencer: Thank you, Jane, for joining me. I’m so excited to talk to you, I love the show. I powered through it so quickly, I just couldn’t put it down.

Jane: Thank you so much for having me. I am excited to be here!

Spencer: It’s my honor! Every time I have a new guest, I love to hear about their journey to becoming the costume designer sitting in front of me.

Jane: It makes complete sense to me now, but it wasn’t straightforward. I didn’t know that costume could be a profession so I did a science degree because my passion was with words, drama, and performance; and an English and drama degree. I was interested in storytelling; that’s always been my passion.

Through drama, I ended up on a film set, and I was watching and talking to people behind the scenes, and I just thought, that’s where I belong. I want to be doing that. So I got involved in the costume department! I’d always made costumes for production while studying drama, so it wasn’t completely unfamiliar to me. That’s when I realized that there was a job there.

I was fortunate. to have foundd myself working on Jane Campion’s film, The Piano, as a standby. I looked after Anna Paquin and Holly Hunter primarily. I kind of looked after all the women. It was just extraordinary, that film that was so pivotal in so many ways. From a design perspective, working with that costume designer, Janet Patterson, really opened my eyes to what you can do in costume as a storyteller.

So I went from there to the Australian Film Television and Radio School in Sydney and studied costume design there. I came back and found my feet as a costume designer. Being in New Zealand, I’ve had a real diversity of projects!

Spencer: I love this story, and I feel that it is so relatable to so many in the costume field. I can hardly wait; let’s get into Cowboy Bebop. You did such a brilliant job with the show. I loved it. But have to ask, though, the anime is such a massive hit that is so beloved by fans. I have to imagine this was a bit of a daunting project to take on?

Jane: Yeah, there’s a responsibility for sure. So, going back to when I came onto the project, the enthusiasm was a bit quieter. I was aware of the fans, but I always felt my responsibility was to the anime. If I could find a connection and draw the threads and sensibility of the anime and bring that into the live-action costuming, I felt that if I could embrace the spirit of the anime, then maybe the fans would embrace the live-action costumes.

You have to be open, exploratory and you’d have to be brave. If you’re second-guessing everything and wondering what people are going to think, it can be stifling… So you have to be free! I was sort of feeling that I had a connection and that I was coming from the right place. There’s something about the anime. When I first saw it, I was blown away. The story is just so wacky, different, and surreal. I loved the cacophony of the soundtrack combined with the visuals.

My base place was asking myself the question, what was the movement of Cowboy Bebop? Bebop was about breaking free from restraint. It was about improvisation. It was about moving forwards and finding a new way. I embraced that spirit and the storytelling, which became the lens that I applied to my design process. 

Spencer: That’s beautiful. I love the dedication, and I know that your embrace of the spirit of the anime came through in the live-action series on Netflix. Now, taking it from a technical perspective, how do you approach translating characters from the animation and bringing them into the live-action. 

What sort of references besides the anime were you taking in when developing these characters? The show is really unique and stylized, and it’s set in a futuristic time period, but it’s also not futuristic at the same time.

Jane: Right, it’s very retro. We talked collectively about developing the “Bebop Mashup.” The anime has this mesh up, which, as you said, is futuristic, but then it’s retro. So it’s retro sci-fi. It’s full of these collisions; this dissonance then kind of just finds this place. So I think that that was always the challenge, was to find that place. For me, that was the Cowboy Bebop twist.

Spencer: Right, so then how did you apply that Cowboy Bebop twist to our main character, Spike Spiegel?

Jane:  I started with Spike Spiegel and the blue suit because that is sort of the heart of this story. As you begin to drill down into that suit and its relation to the anime… when you really look at it and the shape, it’s kind of unusual. There’s a single boxy lapel that sort of disappears. He’s got this extra long leg, let’s say there’s this real stylized thing about it, but what is with the sleeves rolled up?

Cowboy Bebop – Courtesy of Netflix

I looked at Japanese designers and Japanese tailorings, such as Yohji Yamamoto and Comme des Garçons. I looked at the tailoring from these designers because there was something in Japanese sensibility, which does precisely what Cowboy Bebop does. It sort of takes something conventional, and then it just gives that bit of twist we see in Cowboy Bebop. 

I also looked at some Japanese and Korean designers who are making contemporary clothing, but they’re kind of reaching into traditional dress. When you look at that kind of tailoring, the way that a jacket does up or that off-center fascinating… that’s in the anime! There’s a link. I found a thread, which led me to work out how to create something that had that single lapel and then make it disappear and come around the other side. So these designers gave me a way to find out how to make Spike Spiegel make sense. 

The suit is a very bright blue, and it’s unusual. We had to create something that embraced the character of Spike Spiegel, who is effortlessly cool, who then turns into this incredible fighting machine. Spike has this depth to him, with his entire past. But then goes back to being cool and heartbroken as well. I built all of that into the costume. 

In the anime, his fight style is described as water. I took that as has as a motif that can be seen on his trophy buckle in a beautiful moment of triumph. You get this flash of this trophy buckle where you can see t’s a tidal wave, a symbol of water. The trophy buckles, made by our in-house jeweler, also are a nod to the Cowboys. This followed through to the buttons that are engraved with the Japanese symbol for water.

Cowboy Bebop – Courtesy of Netflix

Then on the inside of the jacket, I ended up printing a tiny pattern of falling roses on the lining of his jacket as a motif for Julia. Julia has a lot of hand-painted roses in her costuming. The same person who hand-painted those roses drew the roses that we replicated inside of his jacket. That’s just a little secret in there. Spike has Julia wrapped around him because he’s a guy with a broken heart, and Julia is his lost love. 

Cowboy Bebop was all about finding the essence of the character and bringing the anime together to work out how it might work on a real-life person. Then from there, drilling down how to add as much storytelling in those signature costumes as I could. 

Spencer: That’s so magical and why I love costume design so much. All of the detail you put into everything from the lapel to the lining… It’s really inspiring.

Jane: The anime was really our concept art. You look at a lot of concept art for costuming, and often it really doesn’t make sense. The concept art doesn’t tell you how to make it. You can focus on design concepts, but it doesn’t always work when it comes to actually making the costume.

The anime gave me the concept art, and my job was to work out its design. How does it actually work? How is it going to function? There is a difference between art and design; created design has to function. As a costume designer, I want that artistic freedom, but ultimately it has to function.

Spencer: Moving on to our other main characters, the idea of function was something you kept in mind when translating them. Let’s talk about Jet Black, shall we? Jet feels as though he came right from the anime, but it still has that apparent twist you mentioned.

Jane: Right. Jet Black is more straightforward. He’s wearing overalls that are kind of utilitarian. The design lines you see in the anime I carried through. It is very similar, but there’s a lot more detail in the costume we made as we translate the anime into real life. 

Cowboy Bebop – Courtesy of Netflix

Spencer: It’s an interesting point because the anime is very flat in color; there’s not a lot of stitching detail. So that’s also part of the challenge too. 

Jane: I think it’s great if you think it’s the same as the anime because, well, that’s a job well done, isn’t it? Then he has that robot arm, which was a costume piece as well. We made that. We have a great costume department with and costume props area. The arm was made in the process of sculpting. 

Spencer: We have to talk about my favorite character. I love what you did with Faye Valentine because it’s reminiscent of the anime, but it’s functional, as you talked about earlier. Personally, I feel that her anime costume could not be translated onto a real woman and be functional. What you did with Faye’s live-action costume was functional but still mirrors the anime’s essence. Walk me through your work on this character.

I think it was clear to me that the Faye Valentine of the live-action series needed to do a lot more practically, functionally, than what that costume of the anime would allow her to do. I did the same with Faye as I did with Spike.

I took the character from the script, and I found the resonance. She’s a bounty hunter; she needed to be able to move, to fight, to kick! There was a whole function that was part of it, but there was also something about realizing the design lines of the animation.

Cowboy Bebop – Courtesy of Netflix

It might appear that I’ve moved a long way away from the anime, but actually, I haven’t. The top, that’s not that different. We did quite a bit of trial. We had a full yellow two-piece; and a full black two-piece with yellow stitching. So we’ve still got the color in there. It was about finding the gravitas of the character and what she needed to do. 

It was essential to me was that it shouldn’t be gratuitous and overtly sexualized. Those aspects of her character, that’s up to the actor to deliver rather than me imposing that restriction on her. We’re past that in terms of how we present a leading female character in a show. 

So the design lines are actually very similar. Like the stocking, she’s got those high leather leggings. She’s also wearing tights underneath. There’s a lot that is similar, and I pretty much guarantee that if she just shrugged that red leather jacket off her shoulders and struck a Faye Valentine pose from the anime, you’d say she’s exactly the same.

Spencer: I agree, one thousand percent. If the jacket fell a little bit, then viewers would’ve thought it was exactly the same. Faye doesn’t need to be stuck with being this overtly sexualized character. I feel like your costuming helped give Daniella Pineda the room to bring life to this character. What you did with that costume was quite brilliant. 

Jane: Daniella, she’s just so super cool. We needed something that’s got a little bit of street and a bit of sass. She had to be in something that she could do all of this stuff in.

Spencer: I love to hear that. Did you feel like you collaborated a lot with the actors and actresses on this project? 

Jane: Yeah! I think that they’re critical relationships. They are to me because it’s a very intimate space. I was lucky, being in New Zealand and being so far away, that I was in the states right at the very beginning. I was in Los Angeles, and John Cho and Daniella were in Los Angeles. While I was there, I met both of them. I measured them. We talked about the characters. John and I sat down in a café, and we just talked about concept. We talked about ideas, the feeling of the character, and specifically what the costume would be. I think it was very valuable.

Cowboy Bebop – Courtesy of Netflix

When I arrived in New Zealand, we had to work fast. When John arrived, we had put the suit on. There were so many things we talked about. From the beginning, and maybe in that first conversation, we talked about how Spike stands; it was really important to him. There’s a particular angle with his hand in his pocket. A classic anime pose!  It’s the more information you have to be working together, the better.

Spencer: You’ve talked about aging and dyeing a little bit. There’s a lot of blood, dirt, and action in this show. I’m notoriously obsessed with aging and dyeing. Can you just give me a little vision of this fun project?

Jane: *laughs* There’s this thing where you kind of build this beautiful costume. Then the first thing that happens to it is that they have to walk out, get hit with a bullet, and now there is blood on it. They trash it completely.

The trashing of the costume is part of the beauty; it’s another angle to costuming. It’s part of the craft. You have your pristine new thing, and then how do you make it look lived in? There is such an art to that. The textile artists who work within that have a painterly approach. There’s very little that ends up on screen without going through the aging and breakdown department.

Spencer: What I appreciate, especially when I think of space-oriented movies and television shows, I think of very minimalistic, clean, futuristic silhouettes. But you made Cowboy Bebop feel very real through the aging process.

Jane: It’s suspending disbelief, isn’t it? I mean, there’s a theatricality to any show that is not a representation of daily life. So what happens is Spike goes out, and he gets completely roughed up, and then next episode, he’s sort of clean again. We staged it where Spike has a closet on the Bebop where he opens the closet, and there’s a whole line of blue suits. That’s what you buy into with costume. It’s part of who they are. If they change out of that, there’s a reason. There are a few moments where characters are in a different costume, and there’s a reasoning behind that. But they come back to that signature costume as a place of comfort.

Spencer: The last character that we’re going to want to talk about is Vicious. I loved his black suiting. It’s, I think, one of my favorites.

Jane: When you look at the anime, you’re trying to work out what something is. It can be difficult because, a lot of the time, it’s pretty abstract. There was reference; you can see the design lines that come from the images of the anime. There’s a theatricality to him in the tailcoat that I interpreted.

I tried to find a musical kind of resonance with everybody. I found myself in a bit of a punk world with Viscious, but more heightened and stylized. I ended up drawing from real-life for Viscious by looking at the Antwerp six, such as Ann Demeulemeester, all amazing designers.

When Alex put on that costume, I wanted him to feel the power of the costume. Vicious has that straight leg and these big boots with this beautifully tailored coat. It’s got movement to it, so when he fights, there’s movement. The detailing of the chains that hold the coat together, they were made by our in-house jewelers.

Cowboy Bebop – Courtesy of Netflix

He’s got a trophy buckle as well. His trophy buckle has the cormorant because, in the anime, he always has a cormorant on his shoulder. So I took that cormorant and put it into his costume and on his ring as well. 

Spencer: This has been so much fun, and I’ve had such a good time talking with you. I feel like I’ve learned so much, and I just feel like rewatching the series now. What can we see you doing in the future? 

Jane: I hope for a second season! There’s so much ground to break. The second season is always where it feels like you start to take flight. I mean, you’ve got a warehouse full of stuff, a whole load of reference. It’s such a fun show. I mean the world-building… just oh my God! We had so much fun mixing vintage pieces, mixing different eras. There’s so much more that I want to do with Cowboy Bebop if I have the opportunity!

Spencer: It’s almost like every episode is its own movie. There’s always something different. World-building sounds like an understatement to me. 

Jane: It’s a crazy train! It is exactly like that. It’s like doing movie after movie, and it just doesn’t stop. That’s traveling as well. This is the fun part of it, to create the look of that world. 

Outside of Cowboy Bebop, we’re just finishing off this beautiful half-hour drama piece, which is a Māori supernatural story. Filmmaking and storytelling on a much more personal level, which I’m interested in doing as well. So I’ve kind of got this other little world alongside my career as a costume designer. 

There’s a film that’s just come out in New Zealand called Juniper with Charlotte Rampling in it. There’s always some storytelling to do. 

Spencer: Jane, thank you so much for joining me. This has been a lovely interview, and I’m really happy and excited for you. Cowboy Bebop was incredible, and the costumes, peak storytelling! I just want to thank you for your work on this project.

Jane: It was really great meeting you and nice to talk about the process. The creative process is such a fun thing. I mean, that’s the beauty of it. 


The live-action adaptation of Cowboy Bebop is now available on Netflix!

From India Sweets and Spices to Paranormal Activity: An Interview with Costume Designer Whitney Anne Adams

Look, I know it is almost time for the holidays, but I miss Halloween. So you could probably imagine my excitement (or dread) when I saw the words “Paranormal Activity” pop up in my inbox. As I started to prepare for this interview, I quickly realized, this was a costume designer after my own heart! Whitney Anne Adams, the brilliant costume designer behind so many horror films of recent date such as Happy Death Day 2U, Piercing, Freaky, and most recently, Paranormal Activity: Next of Kin. Plus, Whitney has a new film now in theaters, called India Sweets and Spices.

I was honored to meet Whitney for an interview about her fascinating beginnings, friendship with Eiko Ishioka (yeah you read that right), horror films, Paranormal Activity, India Sweets and Spices, and so much more!


Spencer: Whitney, I am so excited to speak with you finally. I’ve been following you forever, so this interview feels long overdue. Plus, I’m having a hard time putting spooky season behind me.

Whitney: Right! Me too!

Spencer: This couldn’t happen at a better time. Before we get into all of the great projects you have been working on, I would first love to hear a little bit about your journey to becoming a costume designer.

Whitney: It’s funny because I was a complete jock in high school. I was all sports, no fashion. I was even captain of my golf team. But I was in theater and the drama class all through high school. So I loved it, but I had horrible stage fright; I loved the theater, and I couldn’t square the two. It’s like, I love this, but I hate being on stage. 

Moulin Rouge! (2001) – Costume Design by Catherine Martin. Courtesy of Everett

I was really sick in high school, and I had to get a bunch of organs removed. When I was in the hospital, waiting for the surgery that would save my life, I watched Moulin Rouge! over 300 times. I watched it every day to escape to this world where I wasn’t really sick. I just fell in love with the clothes and the visual world of that movie.

I then went to college, and I was pre-med. You know… because that makes sense.

Spencer:  *laughs* Right. We’ve all been there.

Whitney: I had to take chemistry and calculus, and then I could choose one fun class, and it was an intro to theater design. Well, I changed my major three weeks later, and I’ve never looked back. It just all sort of clicked into place. That was the beginning of my journey!

Spencer: At one point, you were acting as Liza Minnelli’s personal seamstress during this time. I also heard a crazy rumor that you were the personal seamstress of famed Oscar-winning costume designer Eiko Ishioka… I mean, is that true? 

Whitney: Absolutely true. I met her. I had just moved to New York. I answered a Craigslist ad for somebody needing a costume intern. And I was like, perfect. I just graduated from college, and I just thought, “I’m ready, put me in coach!” Then that designer, Camille Assaf, knew Tracy Roberts, Eiko’s studio manager; she knew that I was a tailor and put me in touch with her, and I ended up doing all sorts of tailoring for her.

India Sweets and Spices (2021) – Bleecker Street Media

I sewed tons of skirts. Her entire apartment was white, and she wanted a white TV cover to go over her TV so it wouldn’t take away from all of the other white things in her apartment. I also made seat cushions, and she was so exact on the seat cushions. I think I went through 12 different mock-ups before she was happy.

Spencer: I am OBSESSED with this. I am sure any regular person reading this is probably confused, but costume nerds like me are probably dying.

Whitney: I just loved the fact that literally, every single thing in her house was white. It was on the 73rd floor, I believe, right above the Russian Tea Room, looking out on Central Park, and it was absolutely beautiful.

She was working on Spider-Man at the time, so she had all of her Spider-Man renderings hung on the wall. It was all you could look at in her house because everything was stark white besides those renderings. So it was more of a focusing tactic for her, which was fascinating. That’s incredible.

Spencer: I love that. This is a vision I want to keep in my head forever.

Whitney: I worked for her for two years, and I remember every time I would come over, we would get our work done, and afterward, she would make a pot of green tea. We would sit at her table, and she would talk about stories from Bram Stoker’s Dracula. Stories of Grace Jones and she would just tell me her life story over a pot of green tea every single time. 

Spencer: Absolutely beautiful. But then another dream seemed to come true for you because you ended up becoming the costume design assistant for four-time, Oscar-winning costume designer Catherine Martin, who worked on Moulin Rouge!

Whitney: It was such a crazy moment in my life because she’s the reason I am a costume designer, and I also met her in a completely insane way. I won a costume design contest for the movie Australia. I had to design a costume for Nicole Kidman’s character. 

Spencer: Oh, you got this in the bag.

Whitney:  Well, I freaked out cause I didn’t put a hat on Nicole’s character. I was like, I’m not going to win. I didn’t put a hat on her. I won the whole contest. I won a trip to Australia. So I go to Australia, and I email Catherine’s website. Her assistant, Silvana, emailed me back and said, “Hey, do you want to come by? Catherine isn’t here, but you know, we can hang out.” So we had tea, and we are good friends now. I went back to New York, and two years passed by. 

Then in 2010, Baz Luhrmann was going to be the chairperson of the New York Musical Theatre Festival. I bought a ticket to the gala, and I emailed Silvana. I was like, “Hey, I happen to be going to the same gala. Can I meet them?.” She said she would set something up but then sent me an email an hour asking what I was up to? Six hours later, their producer in Australia called me and asked if I could work for them for three weeks? 

It was on the workshop for The Great Gatsby and those three weeks turned into working on and off for them for a decade. So they’re like my family now, and I adore them. It’s been a few years since we’ve gotten to work together, but I hope we get to do something again in the future.

Spencer: I love that. You just got to do what you got to do to get your foot in the door sometimes. Sometimes a little goes a long way, and now it’s been like a decade-long relationship, that is incredible. 

Whitney: They’re so generous are a huge reason why I have a career today. You know, I busted my butt on The Great Gatsby, and I learned so much. It was an incredible experience that I still pinch myself that actually happened. 

Spencer: That brings us today. I noticed that you’ve been working on a lot of horror and thriller projects lately. Are you a fan of horror, or did you just fall into it? 

Whitney: I’m a huge fan of horror. I remember I was Ghost Face for Halloween, like three Halloweens in a row, and scared people at my middle school, Halloween party by refusing to take the mask off. I was obsessed with the Fear Street series and every single teenage slasher novel that existed. So much so that my fourth-grade teacher called a parent-teacher conference.

Spencer: I could tell through your work that you have a love for horror. The first film I want to talk about is Freaky. Freaky stars Catherine Newton, Vince Vaughn, and my crush Misha Osherovich. It was so campy, fun, and so colorful. It was pretty fashionable too.

Whitney: I’m so proud of this movie. This is my second collab with writer and director Christopher Landon. One of my favorite people. We just decided from the get-go that everyone felt like a real developed character. Because that is one of the things that horror movies always run into.

Freaky (2020) – Blumhouse Productions

We wanted to make sure that everyone had a very distinct point of view. We don’t have time in the movie to dive into people’s backstories, so we wanted to tell everyone who they were through their clothes. Josh and Nyla have such a point of view. Millie; she’s trying to figure out who she is, especially pre-butcher. She’s wearing a hand-me-down sweater from her mom. Her dress is from the discount store. Every single piece in the movie has its backstory.

When it came to The Butcher and switching into Millie’s body, we wanted to figure out a storyline that made sense. Where did these clothes come from? So we figured that Millie’s older sister is a bit of a club-goer. She’s a police officer during the day, but she wants to let off steam at night. So when the butcher looks through Millie’s closet, he hates all of the grandma sweaters. He heads over to her sister’s closet and pulls out this leather jacket, black bodysuit, and these jeans. We wanted to make sure that it felt very genderless with a strong silhouette. 

Freaky (2020) – Blumhouse Productions

Spencer: It’s almost like the butcher was becoming a costume designer in the moment. Okay Whitney with the plot points!

Whitney: Right. I also want to make sure it was affordable for the family too. That jacket came from Amazon. It was a $180 leather jacket. So it’s attainable. I wanted to make sure that every single piece made sense. I don’t want to get some $5,000 jacket. It needs to be something that makes sense. 

Spencer: I love that. Ugh this movie was so fun, and yeah that red jacket… I mean, that jacket is going to stay with me for a long while. 

Whitney: I’m so happy about that. I know that Catherine and I wanted to create something as iconic as possible!

Spencer: Mission accomplished! Speaking of iconic, let talk about Paranormal Activity: Next of Kin. I’ll be honest, when I saw the words “Paranormal Activity” in my email inbox… I was kind of thinking “oh hellllll no”.

Whitney: *laughs* Right!!

Spencer: If there’s one horror movie that scares the absolute *redacted* out of me, it’s the Paranormal Activity series. Of course, I loved the film as always. It was quite the costume design heavy film as well! I hear that you had to travel to a real Amish farm that was in the middle of nowhere. 

Paranormal Activity: Next of Kin – Blumhouse Productions

Whitney: Yeah. So that was so challenging! We were based in Buffalo, but we were filming five weeks on this farm. It was an actual vacated Amish farm about an hour and a half from Buffalo. So our closest hotels were about 45 minutes to an hour away from the farm. So were driving back and forth in the blizzard, in the mud, there are no lights in Amish country. 

Spencer: It was like you were living the movie every single day. Let’s dive into the cult that lives on Baylor farm who are passing as Amish. It appears you took a pretty authentic approach to designing their costumes. I mean, they came off to me as Amish up until the last 10 minutes of the movie.

Whitney: You’re like, whoa, what happened now? That was the main goal, to make them as Amish to the outside world as possible. They don’t want anyone coming close to them. This cult, they’re actually the good guys. They’re striving for as much authenticity as possible, but when they’re at their farm, they can let their guard down a little. So, they can do things that are not necessarily Amish.

Whitney Anne Adams and Assistant Costume Designer, Lauren Driskill

I wanted to also use that same idea that with what they wear. For example, vests are usually not worn except for church or ceremonial purposes. So we added those into the film because that is not how the Amish wear vests. Then for the men we uses  hundred percent cotton. When it comes to the real Amish, almost everything that they have has polyester in it because of the lower drying time. It’s easier to take care of and lasts longer. But for me, I wanted to do all of the sorts of wear and tear,aging and distressing. This cult, they go to the outside world as little as possible so their clothes show more wear.

Spencer: That is incredible. I love that through costume design, people may notice these little clues that were there the entire time.

Whitney: Right, that they’re not exactly as they seem. So there are little things like that, that we put in there to show that they’re not actually Amish. But, still made it as close as possible. For example, all of our suspenders were made by a local Buffalo leather maker so it’s as close as we possibly can get it.

Spencer: Unfortunately for you, I am a considerable aging and dying fan. So I have to ask you to give me a little window into what was happening here.

Whitney: I knew going into this project, it was going to be such a process. I needed someone who could take this stuff down and it’s really tough. Every single piece in this movie was distressed and aged. The women are wearing bloomers and underskirts plus their dresses, capes and caps. The men have their broad fall pants and their shirts, vests, coats and hats. I mean, everyone has so much stuff, thousands of pieces! I had a lead ager and dyer, Jessica Wegrzyn, who’s the absolute best. She’s such a dreamboat, and was working so hard all day, every day, to make sure everyone looked as distressed as I wanted them to be.

I want it to show the wear and tear that they’ve experienced on this farm because they are so isolated. Every single piece had like a six-step process. It just took forever, and of course, we didn’t have enough lead time. We also brought in another ager and dyer to help, Troy David, who was incredible. The last week of prep, the first week of filming, we were just aging and dying like maniacs. We didn’t finish aging and dying until our last day of filming. She was also a costumer as well so she was doing double duty. I owe so much of this movie to her. 

Spencer: That is an insane amount of work, I am exhausted for you. Towards the end of the film, things start to spiral out of control. It’s funny, I had to go back and watch this part again before we talked because the first time, I had my eyes closed. I thought… uh oh I didn’t even see that part!

*Spencer and Whitney laugh together*

Spencer: This costume that Lavina is wearing, it appears to be a ceremonial robe. It stands out amongst all the other costumes.

Whitney: I wish that we got to see it a little better because for me, it’s the most important costume in the movie because it helps tie together the history of group. We learn that they descended from a Norwegian town. I wanted to sort of dip into Pagan and Wiccan mythology and take symbols that made sense to our story.

All of her veils are embroidered with this gold thread. We wanted to make it look like both this red robe and veil had been passed down through generations. So we wanted everything to look really old and worn. All of the symbols were very representative of the story like the main symbols we use for the triple goddess where you have the waxing full moon and waning –  three stages of womanhood, which is what happens to the women in this culture, the ones who have to carry Asmodeus. 

The Witches Knot is the symbol of protection. Especially because the whole knot symbol, you don’t have to lift your pen. So it’ like this long line of protection, which is what happens with this long line of women through this family.

Then the Seal of Solomon is also there. I made it a pentagram instead of The Star of David, which is how it is sometimes represented in history. The Seal of Solomon was used by King Solomon to defeat Asmodeus. 

Spencer: I love the attention to detail and the story behind it. It made the film really, real. It made me want to do some research too.

Whitney: It was great to dive into all of that and you know, Lavina also has this ring. That’s the triple goddess ring. She wears that the whole movie, but you don’t really get a good glimpse of it. She’s also covered in these tattoos, which you don’t see because she’s fully covered in her Amish clothing. This entire outfit was made by our tailor, Dana Calanan, who was absolutely incredible in making this robe come to life. 

Paranormal Activity: Next of Kin – Blumhouse Productions

Spencer: I’m sad to move on from Paranormal Activity: Next of Kin but me must. Let’s talk about your new film that is quite different than anything we have talked about today. India Sweets and Spices, now out in theateres everywhere! I’m very excited about this one. The film is about a college freshman returning home to her Indian American community for the summer. She discovers secrets and lies in her parents’ past. That makes her question everything. I’m hearing that you only had four weeks of prep for this project?

Whitney: It was wild! I got a call on a Wednesday, got the job on a Friday, and was in Atlanta on by Monday. Idove headfirst into this movie, learning the culture. I immersed myself in it from day one. Luckily our writer, director Geeta Malik was so wonderful. She walked me through her vision for this specific community. It’s not the same for every Indian American community, but we wanted to make her own rules for this community, which is similar to what she grew up in. 

We had five giant parties with all of these wealthy families. Everyone had so many costume changes, both day wear and party wear, full of traditional Indian dress. Then we had distinctions. Elderly women and married women wear saris. All of the younger ladies wore a combination of Lehenga Choli, Anarkali, and Salwar Kameez. This was very important to Geeta, to separate the aunties from the younger, unmarried women. Then the men are all in American suits. 

Our family who owns the local Indian grocery store who gets invited to this party, they’re all wearing traditional Indian dress and are not as embellished as everyone. It makes this big dichotomy between the two groups. We really wanted to use those pieces, textures and patterns to separate the different groups.

Spencer: Funny enough, you seem to have approached this film much like Paranormal Activity: Next of Kin. That authentic, dedicated approach to familiarizing yourself with the culture. For example, perfecting your Sari skills, the craft and the tradition of it all. 

Whitney: Exactly. It’s funny how every movie you approach has the same amount of subject matter. I think you’re completely right, I approached the Amish community in the same way I approached this Indian-American community. I’m an outsider. How do I learn as much as possible and make it as authentic as possible because I want to be true to all of these groups? Luckily with Paranormal Activity: Next of Kin and the Amish community, I could make up my own rules because they’re not traditionally Amish, but this was very important for me to get this right.

India Sweets and Spices (2021) – Bleecker Street Media

It was such a joy, and it was so fun. Luckily, Atlanta has a huge Indian community, and they have great malls there. So that was helpful! 

Spencer: Well, I honestly cannot wait to see this movie. It looks so fun, and I’m just really excited to follow along with you and your career. Funny enough, the ghosts are not leaving us because you just wrapped an exciting new project with some heavy-hitting actors and actresses like Jennifer Coolidge. 

Whitney: I love her. I love her so much. We Have a Ghost has been a big journey. I got to New Orleans in May, and we just finished our 65 shooting days schedule yesterday. We’ve survived COVID, a hurricane, etc. It has been a journey. I was getting through it all with such incredible actors. I mean, I absolutely love Jennifer Coolidge, David Harbour, Anthony Mackie, Jackie Winston, they’re just incredible people and so, I was lucky that we were able to survive this all together.

Spencer: Oh, man! Well, I’m excited about this one. Sounds like we’ll probably be talking very soon. Thank you so much for joining me! 

Whitney: Thank you for having me. This has been such a blast.


India Sweets and Spices is now in theaters! Paranormal Activity: Next of Kin is available on Paramount+

Costuming The Girl In The Woods, With Designer Erin Orr

There is a creepy chill on the air – some terrifying costumes approach! I am very excited to share a look into the costuming for The Girl In The Woods! In the supernatural drama The Girl In The Woods, produced by Crypt TV and premiering on Peacock, monsters are real! They are kept at bay behind a mysterious door in a cult-like colony. Teenage runaway Carrie’s job is to guard that door, but when strange occurrences begin to shake the sleepy mining town to its core, she must enlist the help of new friends Nolan and Tasha. The group becomes an unlikely trio of monster slayers, determined to save their loved ones.

I am honored to have interviewed costume designer Erin Orr before the premiere of the show to get all of the horrific details in costuming The Girl In The Woods! Crypt TV’s “The Girl In The Woods” premieres Thursday, October 21 on Peacock. All eight episodes will drop at once!


Spencer: Hi Erin, I’m so excited to talk to you finally. I’ve been looking forward to this interview for a long while now! How are you?

Erin: I’m great; it’s nice to talk with you today! This is exciting, and The Girl In The Woods was a fun project, so I’m happy to talk about it.

Spencer: I had fun just watching it! Before we get into The Girl In The Woods, I would love to hear a little bit about your journey to becoming a costume designer on the show. Where did this passion for costume design come from?

Erin: I was always very heavily influenced by costume design as a kid and as a teenager, trying to find my way of expressing myself. I grew up watching Blossom, My So-Called Life, and Heathers. Then, of course, Molly Ringwald and the John Hughes movies. I was always very heavily influenced in the way I dressed based on what I saw in film and television. I initially went to film school thinking I would be a writer and director; that’s what I studied in film school. When I graduated, I produced a movie with some friends from film school called George Washington with director David Gordon Green. Then for his second feature, I did the costumes. I’d always wanted to do that, and that was a perfect opportunity. I could just start as a costume designer without really knowing what I was doing because I didn’t come up traditionally.

The Girl In The Woods Costume Designer, Erin Orr

I kind of backtracked a little after doing that movie. I worked as a set costumer for a while in New York on various TV shows and movies. As a costume supervisor for a while, and then I took ten years out of the business completely when I had kids. My husband’s in the business as he is a DP, a cinematographer, and he’s away on location nine months out of the year. We would pack up and travel with him on location, so I didn’t work at all for ten years.

When we moved up to Portland, there was a bunch of stuff shooting here, and I started getting back into the business part-time. As my kids got older, I was ready to jump back in! I was lucky that a director I had worked with in New York was making a movie here in Portland and hired me as the designer. After that, I was able to get an agent and kind of jump back in, which has been great.

Spencer: That’s so exciting. Do you feel over those ten years, your desire to return to the industry was just building up inside of you? Ten years later?

Erin: I always think I always had hopes I was would be able to get back in, but I wasn’t sure that I would… You know, ten years is a long time to be out of the business completely. When I left the business, we were taking continuity photos with Polaroids. When I came back, everything was on an iPhone! Things had changed a lot! In that time, I did a lot of fashion-related things for myself in terms of selling clothes. These have always been my two significant interests in life, fashion and movies. Costume design was my perfect way of tying those two things together. 

Scott Green/Peacock

Spencer: Let’s talk about The Girl In The Woods, shall we! The Girl In The Woods is a supernatural drama. It gives me all of those spooky season vibes I have been craving! Are you a fan of horrors and thrillers?

Erin: I am! Yeah, my favorite ones are some of the older ones, like Rosemary’s Baby and The Shining.

Spencer: Yes! Both are fantastic choices. 

Erin: Especially with horror, I feel like there’s such an opportunity to create an iconic costume. We would joke in the making of The Girl in The Woods; if we were doing it right, people would want to dress up as Carrie for Halloween. There’s this sort of whole other element that comes into horror movies, and designing them with that in mind.

Spencer: I could sense that you are a horror fan, seeing Carrie’s costumes especially. By the way, Carrie would make the perfect Halloween costume! So let’s talk about costuming this show. It’s quite interesting because it shines a light on the drastic differences, thoughts, and cultures between various communities. So I want to start by talking about the mysterious colony, what influences did you take in when the costuming, The Colony?

Erin: We took a lot of influences, actually. Some of the basic frameworks were in the script in terms of the basic colors for the colony. We knew we wanted to have this beige and tan palette, canvas, and off-white colors. From there, we had a lot of references! We reference early military costumes, martial arts costuming, vintage American workwear, Amish and Hutterite societies. Our team even looked at pioneer wear and early-American farming clothing. We sort of took little bits and pieces of all of those things and put them together. 

Scott Green/Peacock

Within the colony, we wanted to create this separation between The Guardians and the regular colony members. Take Carrie and Arthur Deane for example; those costumes are all made out of wax canvas. We wanted their clothes to have more structure and heft than the regular colony members, which were softer and flowing. They don’t have much structure at all. We did a mix of making things from scratch and using off-the-rack pieces that we dyed or altered in some way. Pretty much every piece of clothing for the colony we touched in some way or another, whether it was dying, altering, or switching out the buttons. All the buttons are made out of wood.

Scott Green/Peacock

We tried to make it evident that The Colony shoos technology in every way. The Colony was dressed in clothing that they theoretically could have made themselves, or they could have made using a pedal machine. We only use zippers, I think in one place, which was on Carrie’s jumpsuit. The rest, there were no zippers anywhere else. 

Spencer: I’m obsessed with this concept. I love the fact that the approach you took was so authentic and fully realized. The idea that you used wooden buttons and no zippers because that is what The Colony would have done, just peak costume design.

Erin: Right, and it was fun! It was cool to see it all come together. We also had this framework where we wanted everything to be unisex, there were no dresses or skirts in the colony. Everybody wears the same. We also wanted it to feel like uniformity is a big part of the colony so that everyone’s seen the same.

Spencer: So you touched a little bit on aging and dying. I’m a considerable aging and dying nerd. Were there any fun processes that you used on this particular project that maybe I could get in on

Erin: *laughs* Yes! We used a lot of wax canvas, and Carrie’s Guardian jumpsuit, in particular, was just a white waxed canvas. When we bought the bolt, we then had to age that down. We used different colored waxes that we tinted, and then we put that on top of the wax canvas. Then, we also used some different colored powders on top to create that color. Arthur Deane’s coat was just made of canvas which we completely waxed ourselves, and that was all tinted wax that we would melt in a crockpot. It was quite a process. Our tailor, Savannah Gordon, who’s amazing, was responsible for that!

Spencer: That’s so fun. I could talk about aging and dying forever. But let’s move on to the main character of the show, Carrie, played by Stephanie Scott. She escaped the colony in the first episode, therefore embarking on quite the journey. I would love to hear your process in costuming Carrie, because she transitions from her guardian costume into everyday life outside of the colony. I think that’s an exciting aspect. 

Erin: So with Carrie, Krysten Ritter was the director of the pilot episode and the first four episodes. She had a lot of ideas about how she wanted to Carrie to dress. One of the things that were really important to her was that Carrie wasn’t sexualized in any way because she comes from this colony where that’s not a thing. 

Scott Green/Peacock

She shows up at Tasha’s house, meaning whatever clothing Carrie is wearing from this point would have come from Tasha. But we didn’t want Carrie to look like Tasha either, so we wanted it to be more like… a shirt that Tasha gave her that she sleeps in or maybe her Dad’s Army jacket. We wanted her to have a different silhouette from the other two. Carrie’s silhouette is much boxier, looser, not as tight-fitting. Carrie has this “fish out of the water” feeling compared to the rest of the kids in the town.

Spencer: That’s so interesting now that you’ve mentioned that. Oh my gosh, that’s Tasha’s Dad’s jacket. I think it’s also interesting that you can’t even tell how old Carrie is. Carrie is really stripped-down once she’s left The Colony; you just kind of know nothing about her. The costuming really played a big part in that.

Erin: Right. Thank you!

Spencer: I loved the costumes you did for Tasha (played by Sofia Bryant) and my favorite character Nolan, (played by Misha Osherovich). I thought it was hilarious, opening with their characters creating TikToks. These two characters are bringing the fashion, and it felt so current – can you talk about costuming these two? They work in harmony but also tell different stories.

Scott Green/Peacock

Erin: It’s so colorful. We had a color palette for these guys where Tasha wore reds and yellows, and Nolan was purples and blues. We wanted them to feel different from Carrie. They’re teenagers who use TikTok and the internet. They’re very connected to the outside world and therefore influenced by the outside world in a way that Carrie isn’t. With Tasha, we wanted her to be sort of eclectic and fun who is also a little bit loud in certain ways. With Nolan, we wanted them to be free from traditional gender expressions and mix up many different things.

Spencer: That’s so fun! What would you say like we’re some of Nolan and Tasha’s influences if you were to guess?

Erin: I don’t know that I had a direct influence for either one of them except to say that the actors themselves influenced me quite a bit.

Scott Green/Peacock

Spencer: Oh right, that definitely makes sense for Tasha and Nolan.

Erin: Misha had a lot of ideas and thoughts, and they brought a lot to the table. Sofia had a lot of ideas as well. I feel like with both of those characters especially; it was a real collaboration between Krysten, myself, and the actors. 

Spencer: I love to hear that. Do you enjoy that sort of actor and costume designer collaboration and listening to their ideas?

Erin: Absolutely, I love it. I always say to the actors in fittings, “if you don’t like this… tell me! It won’t hurt my feelings. If you don’t like it, it’s out.” The actors have to like it. The costume is what gets them into their character. I want them to feel confident and when they put on those clothes, they become that character. It has to be a collaboration; if I feel like I’m talking an actor into something, then it’s probably not the right fit.

Scott Green/Peacock

Spencer: Right, and the actors and the costumes, they can’t work together in the sense of telling the story if they don’t feel comfortable with it. Then they’re not telling a story the way that you, the director, really envision.

Erin: Exactly!

Spencer: Erin, I’m so fascinated by work on the show, it brought me into the fantasy, and I’m loving every episode of it. I have not a few more episodes to go, so I don’t really know what’s coming next, but any kind of frightful surprises we’re in for coming up later?

Erin: Oh god. That’s a hard one to answer. I’m not sure what I’m allowed to say! I am also waiting to see where this story goes with bated breath, and I hope we get a season 2 to tell it!

Spencer: Well I am hoping for the same thing. I need more of these costumes… and Misha Osherovich…. Thank you so much Erin for talking to me, I am beyond excited about the audience watching this show and seeing your brilliant costume design!

Erin: Thank you so much!


Crypt TV’s “The Girl In The Woods” premieres Thursday, October 21 on Peacock. All eight episodes will drop at once at www.peacocktv.com/stream-tv/the-girl-in-the-woods.

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.”

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

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 costumes for Lovecraft Country. Please enjoy!


Spencer: Hi, Dayna! 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.”