‘Respect’ and Costume Design: From Jennifer Hudson to Aretha Franklin – Exclusive Clip

Imagine being tasked with costuming Jennifer Hudson, one of the world’s most accomplished performers who was hand-picked to play the legendary Queen of Soul herself, Aretha Franklin. Clint Ramos was the talented costume designer responsible for the costume design of RESPECT and took on this daunting task. Now, all we can hear is the sweet sound of awards-season buzz!

Following the rise of Aretha Franklin’s career from a child singing in her father’s church’s choir to her international superstardom, RESPECT is the remarkable journey of the music icon’s path to find her voice. Hudson leads an all-star ensemble cast including Academy Award® winner Forest Whitaker, Marlon Wayans, six-time Tony Award® winner Audra McDonald, Marc Maron, five-time Emmy Award® nominee Tituss Burgess, and Grammy® Award winner and Academy Award® nominee Mary J. Blige.

Please enjoy an EXCLUSIVE clip showcasing Clint Ramos and his costume design for RESPECT and transforming Jennifer Hudson into Aretha Franklin.

Video Courtesy of Universal Pictures Home Entertainment

Experience the cinematic music event of the year featuring Oscar® and Grammy® Award winner and vocal powerhouse Jennifer Hudson (Dreamgirls) as legendary singer Aretha Franklin in the inspiring true story RESPECT, available to own for the first time on Digital now and on Blu-ray™ and DVD November 9, 2021 from Universal Pictures Home Entertainment.

Måneskin: Inspiring the World One Flare at a Time

“Not only is Maneskin a host of formidable talent, it’s also a band with impeccable style and an inspiring message”

You may have heard of Måneskin, the Italian rock band with the Danish name, meaning ‘Moonlight’. And if you haven’t, well, here’s your wakeup call. Not only is Måneskin a host of formidable talent, it’s also a band with impeccable style and an inspiring message. A message that encourages their fans to always be unapologetically themselves, regardless of what the world thinks. And who better to send such a message, than a young band that started their career busking in the streets of Rome and has quickly become a worldwide phenomenon, all because they never stopped being themselves?

Sharing big dreams and a love for music, vocalist Damiano David, bassist Victoria De Angelis, & guitarist Thomas Raggi attended high school together. In 2015 they completed the group with drummer Ethan Torchio, and in 2016 they made it official when they gave their band a name that will, undoubtedly, go down in rock history. And thus, Måneskin was born. From their second place win at X Factor Italia in 2017, to their first place win at Eurovision 2021, Måneskin has not only won the hearts of Europe, but the hearts of the world.

Left to Right: 1. Måneskin busking in Rome, @maneskinofficial Instagram. 2. Måneskin after winning Grand Final of the Eurovision Song Contest, May, 2021. Image by Peter Dejong.

Whether they won our hearts or stole them, one thing’s for certain; they’re most definitely aware of the power of fashion. Being as renowned for their daring trendsetting as they are for their music, I think it’s important to admire the minds behind the looks that have us Beggin’ for more. Since 2020, stylist Nicolo “Nick” Cerioni, also known for being the co-founder of SUGARKANE STUDIO, as well as being a stylist to numerous other Italian celebrities, is the man we have to thank as we drool over Damiano in bell bottoms. In an interview for VD News, Cerioni said that, when he first began working with Måneskin, he was “very impressed by their professionalism and musical artistry”. Also stating that they have “very, very precise ideas about their stylistic path”, which, is not at all hard to believe, given the confidence they exude.

“We consider fashion as self-expression, and as a way of giving more strength to one’s message” – Damiano David

While Måneskin was serving us looks even before working with Cerioni, since beginning their work with him in 2020 we have seen a number of show-stopping ensembles. Including a couple custom Etro designs made for the Sanremo Festival, as well as for Eurovision. The band was able to freely express many of their ideas throughout the creative process for the designs and were thoroughly happy with the results, as were the audience. For the Sanremo designs, Etro explained that “the group wanted the looks to represent an intrinsic expression of freedom and chose the feather as a symbol”, resulting in beautifully embroidered tulle jumpsuits that certainly made a statement. For the Eurovision looks, they channeled that glam-rock style that we all know and love, resulting in metallic leather vests & flares, embellished with metal studs and crisscrossed motif details to complete the look. Damiano has stated that Måneskin views “fashion as self-expression, and as a way of giving more strength to one’s message”, and they have certainly proven that mindset to be true. If Måneskin were encouraging us to be unapologetically ourselves, while wearing polo’s and khaki shorts, we’d probably feel a bit bamboozled.

Left to Right: 1. Måneskin at Sanremo Music Festival, 2021. Image by Maria Laura Antonelli 2. Måneskin at Eurovision, 2021. Image by Kuba Dabrowski.

Who Inspires Måneskin?

In an interview with Nikkie de Jager for her YouTube, Nikkie Tutorials, Damiano was asked who inspires them as a band. He responded saying that they “take inspiration from the old bands of the 70’s, of course, because they are the hugest example of what a band can actually do.” He then followed up with a list of more recent bands that inspire them. Naming bands like, Arctic Monkeys, Royal Blood, IDLES, and Slaves. – Hmm.. sounds like the creators of Peaky Blinders should add Måneskin to next season’s soundtrack. –

At the top of that list, however, was Harry Styles. “We really like what Harry Styles is doing, in terms of music and also in terms of aesthetic, and fashion, and the message that he sends.”, Damiano stated. Måneskin has also mentioned that Harry Styles is an artist that they would be interested in collaborating with. A collaboration that, I’m sure, the vast majority of us would be in full support of.

Left to Right, Top: 1. Harry Styles for Variety Magazine, 2020, Image by Parker Woods. 2. Jimmy Page at Shepperton Studios, 1974. 3. Harry Styles performing at the 63rd Annual Grammy Awards, 2021, Image by Kevin Winter. // Bottom: 1. The Rolling Stones, Image PR handout. 2. Jimi Hendrix performing at Madison Square Garden, 1968, Image by Walter Looss Jr.

Måneskin’s style has been described using terms such as, glam-rock, gender fluid or androgynous, and has even been placed under the umbrella of “New Masculinity”, which is, in short, exactly the opposite of ‘toxic masculinity’. Seeing their style described in these terms, and given that Styles sends a similar message about individuality and the freedom to express yourself, it makes perfect sense that Harry would be such a major inspiration to Måneskin, as does the 70’s rock influence. Similarities to rock legends such as Led Zeppelin, Pink Floyd, Jimi Hendrix, among many others, can be spotted in some of Måneskin’s most iconic looks. On the cover of their latest album, ‘Teatro D’ira’, you can see they may have drawn inspiration from bands like Pink Floyd, or even Fleetwood Mac, creating a very 70’s bohemian style. During many of their live performances and interviews they can often be found in anything from suits, to leather and lace, to harnesses and skin. For Måneskin, style is limitless. As are talent and good looks, apparently *sobs*.

Top Left: 1. Måneskin Teatro D’ira album cover. Image by Gabriele Giussani. // Bottom Left: 2. Pink Floyd. Image by EMI Music Sweden. // Right: 3. Måneskin. Image by Francis Delacroix.

A Journey Through Måneskin’s Music Videos

What about Måneskin’s music video style? I’m glad you asked! From red carpets, to live performances, to interviews, Måneskin never fails to provide us with endless style inspiration, so why would their music videos be any different? With music videos spanning from their earliest video for ‘Recovery’, released in June of 2017, until their most recent music video for ‘I WANNA BE YOUR SLAVE’ which was released in July of 2021, Måneskin has gone through a lot of growth and transformation, and we love to see it.

During the years of 2018 & 2019, many of their music videos were styled by Rebecca Baglini, with costume designers on a few videos as well. The video for song ‘Moriró da Re’, released in 2018, had costume design by Jo Maria Contini, with characters donning some quite fantastical ensembles. From a serpent-man in bone-like armor, to a couple sets of sexy angel wings, to a few heavily jeweled looks, the ‘Moriró da Re’ music video does not disappoint. The ‘L’altra Dimensione’ video, released in 2019, was designed by costume designer Noemi Intino. In this music video, the main character travels to a seemingly different dimension, where he is celebrated amongst people wearing vibrant and jubilant robes and headdresses. Both videos were also styled by Rebecca Baglini, who was the stylist for the music videos of ‘Torna a casa’, ‘Fear for Nobody’, and ‘Le parole lontane’, before Nicolo Cerioni took over in 2020.

Since Cerioni became the stylist for Måneskin, he’s worked with them on three of their latest music videos. From the colorful flared pant-suits of ‘VENT’ANNI’, to the leather and mesh of ‘ZITTI E BUONI’, Cerioni’s styling gives us all the rockstar fashion we desire. The latest music video for ‘I WANNA BE YOUR SLAVE’, features all of the aforementioned styles and more. A must watch if you love lace & ruffles, floral suits, spikes & pearls, leather and a whole lotta BDSM *winks*.

“There is no question, style counts 100% and fashion 0%”

Nicolo Cerioni, Sound Identity Interview

In an interview with Sound Identity, Nicolo was asked how important an artist’s individual style is versus the importance of keeping up with fashion. Cerioni responded stating, “there is no question, style counts 100% and fashion 0%”. The contrast between style and fashion is an important distinction to understand, as an artist’s personal style does not always coincide with what is trending in fashion. In cases like Måneskin or any other musician, their music tells their story and their style enhances the narrative.

Måneskin, 2020. Official Måneskin Instagram.

Style is unique to every individual, it gives us a glance at who that person is, what they like. If you meet someone for the first time and they’re wearing all black leather, it sends a message. If they’re wearing every color under the sun, it sends a different message. What we choose to style ourselves in everyday is like our costume, it helps to tell our character’s story. Fashion on the other hand, is viewed on a much broader scale. If our style helps to tell our individual story, fashion tells the story of society as a whole. As a stylist, Cerioni has to help his clients send a message through their clothing, so it wouldn’t make much sense to prioritize fashion over style.

Because celebrities have such a vast following, they often influence fashion through their personal style. So, what trends have we seen gaining popularity in 2021?

Bell Bottoms

Måneskin definitely loves a good flared pant, and they’re not the only ones. This once popular silhouette has been making it’s comeback as of late and, unlike it’s return in the 2000’s, this time it’s not just a trend for the women. That’s right, we’re going all the way back to the 70’s. Bell bottoms for all!

Left to Right: 1. Måneskin official Instagram. 2. Måneskin for Billboard Italia, 2020.

The 70’s are Back Baby

Flared pants aren’t the only 70’s trend we’ve seen circulating recently. 70’s color palettes, platforms, vibrant, or dare I say groovy patterns, crochet, among many other 70’s trends have been rising in popularity in 2021.

Måneskin, 2020. Image by Francis Delacroix.

Rings & Men’s Nail Polish

These particular trends have been popular amongst rockstars for decades, but lately they’ve been spreading themselves beyond just the edgy daredevils we might expect to see them on. Celebrities such as Brad Pitt, Jason Momoa, Keanu Reeves, among others have been seen sporting nail polish, and the fun doesn’t end there. Funky nail art has been trending amongst women recently and it seems that men have decided they wanna be included in all the excitement. While in the past we may have seen just a single, solid color, now we’re seeing many men going for fun designs and crazy prints.

Damiano David, VENT’ANNI music video, 2020.

Also, Men in Dangly Earrings

We’ve seen men in earrings in the past, oftentimes it was a set of studs or a solo dangle, but lately many men have been donning dangles on both ears and, honestly, I’m here for it.

Damiano David at Eurovision, 2021.

Music has the ability to inspire those who consume it, and clothing has that same power. Combine the two so that they enhance one another, and you practically have an unstoppable powerhouse. Add in an inspiring message and you’ve got a band called Måneskin.

Måneskin for the I WANNA BE YOUR SLAVE music video, 2021.

Måneskin has never been shy about constantly finding new ways to express themselves, without feeling the need to apologize for it, so it’s no surprise that the message they want their fans to gain from their music is to be yourself without fear of judgement. Their Eurovision song ‘ZITTI E BUONI’ discusses just that, and it’s the reason they use the name Marlena in many of their songs. Måneskin has said that Marlena is the personification of being confident, of the freedom to express yourself. She’s an “ideal and also a value”. So, whether it be through clothing or action, Måneskin challenges societal norms and the judgements of others, and they encourage their fans to do the same.


Stand Tall: Soyon An and The Costumes of ‘Julie and the Phantoms’

These days, everyone could use some color and positivity in their life. Luckily for us, the hit Netflix series Julie and the Phantoms delivered just that! I felt so inspired by the vibrancy of the costumes in this show, I just had to talk with the Emmy Award-Winning costume designer behind the show, Soyon An. Soyon’s previous work includes Jem and the Holograms, So You Think You Can Dance, and Step Up All In. Excitingly, Soyon was just awarded her third Emmy win due to her brilliant work on Julie and the Phantoms! I am so grateful for the opportunity to have interviewed Soyon, and I hope you will enjoy.

Spencer: Soyon! I am so excited to talk to you finally. You are famous over here at The Art of Costume! We are big fans.

Soyon: Thank you so much! Happy to be here!

Spencer: Before we get started, congratulations are in order! Because of your brilliant work on Julie and the Phantoms, you just celebrated your third Emmy win! I am so happy for you as it is so well deserved! What does this award mean to you?

Soyon: Thank you! This award means a lot to me, especially coming out of this past year of COVID, which has put many things into perspective. Specifically for Julie and the Phantoms to result in an Emmy win is so special and meaningful knowing that I intentionally left reality and variety shows because I wanted to focus on more script-driven and narrative projects. Julie was my first scripted episodic and for it to result in an Emmy really solidifies the whole reason I took this job and made this move. It’s so exciting to know that I can try new things even at this stage of my career and continue to grow. I’m so grateful. 

Photo Courtesy of Netflix – Julie and The Phantoms

Spencer: I am excited to talk more about Julie and the Phantoms, but first, I find your journey to be quite fascinating. I would love to hear a little about how you got your start in costume design?

Soyon: Since high school, I have loved fashion and art.  I always creatively expressed myself through clothing, but at the time, I didn’t know that this could be a career choice. During my senior year of high school, I had to decide what college to attend. I decided to pursue my passion for art and apply for the Otis College of Art and Design. I focused my portfolio on design for fashion, and I got a scholarship. And this is where I discovered my love for fashion design. 

Jumping to when I was 24 years old and working in the industry,  I was the costume designer for the SYTYCD Tour and then, at 26, the show, which was my first big network show plus my first department head credit. My work on this resulted in my first Emmy at 27. Thinking about it now, my first ever TV show and department head credit and I won! It’s such a full-circle moment when thinking of Julie and the Phantoms as my first episodic project and now having my third Emmy win. It’s wild to think of this.

And it all stems from my love for art. I’ve always considered myself an artist, and I love to bring art into fashion; now, I get to bring art into costume design. 

Photo Courtesy of Netflix – Julie and The Phantoms

Spencer: I absolutely loved this show. I have had the soundtrack on repeat in preparation for this interview. I loved it all, the music, the characters, and above all the costumes! It felt like you just had so much fun with it. Because of that, the audience had so much fun. Each character had their unique style, and I loved watching those styles move throughout the series. Let’s start by diving into what inspired Julie, the main character’s, style?

Soyon: The main thing that inspired Julie’s style was her journey and her character growth throughout the show. 

The whole premise of her character was that she was a student in an art school, and she lived in Los Feliz, so I had to really embrace what a teenager would dress like in this environment. Julie already expressed herself through art, so figuring out how that would translate into her everyday style choices was a fun, creative part of my work. She truly marches to the beat of her own drum, and you can see that in everything she wears, all the way down to the doodles on her sneakers and jeans. She is an artist and creative. 

I also made sure to embrace her character having a Latinx heritage. I threw in nuances of her roots, so you see this in her jewelry and more prominently in her daydream during ‘I Got the Music’ with the marching band cape that features a custom embroidered, hand-crystaled Virgin Mary.  

Another large part of Julie and her journey is the intimate feelings she has in the remembrance of her mom, so this was also a big part of creating her character. This is seen when she incorporates a lot of her mom’s hand-me-downs and the Dahlia flowers, a symbol for her mom. 

Spencer: By the end of the series, Julie has gone through quite the metamorphosis (literally, she was wearing a dress covered in butterflies at one point). What was your thought process in creating Julie’s final looks compared to when we first meet her?

Soyon: Julie’s costumes at the end of the series — with her free-flowing hair, her bouncy skirt, and the vibrant colors of her dress — reflect her embrace of her mom’s passing, as well as the passing of her new friends Luke, Alex, and Reggie. I love this scene because we see Julie growing up by accepting all the transitions of her life. She is more confident in who she is and has this newfound confidence in her creative expression, singing, and songwriting. It was really a full-circle moment in costume storytelling by the time we get to the final episode.

I wanted her to exude this confidence for the final look, so she is wearing a dress her mom made her and her mom’s vintage jacket. I had actually already established Sunset Curve’s colors with Alex primarily having pink, Reggie in a rock ‘n’ roll red, and Luke in this classic blue; so the color choice for Julie naturally had to also represent rock ‘n’ roll since they are playing this awesome music venue as a band. That deep purple was the perfect color to connect them all beautifully.

Spencer: I’ll admit, I became a bit of a fangirl for Sunset Curve, a rock band from the 90s. When it came to the costuming of the guys in the band, it was actually quite hilarious to me because this 90s fashion is now back in style today in 2021! What fashion trends from that decade did you incorporate into their characters and costume design?

Photo Courtesy of Netflix – Julie and The Phantoms

Soyon: For Luke, I incorporated the rock ‘n’ roll tees, the black rock ‘n’ roll skinny jeans, the vans, and obviously the muscle tee cut (you’re welcome!!). I wanted to bring in some vintage 70s and 80s style as a nod to the 90s style, so we added a trench to his wardrobe. I made it Luke’s own by making it a denim tie-dye, more rock ‘n’ roll, and LA surfer boy since that is who he is. 

For Reggie, I wanted to keep that timeless classic rock style. My inspiration was James Dean and Marlon Brando because even in the 90s, that was your classic rock look. The elements I brought into his wardrobe were the flannel tied around the waist, shredded knee denim, and a pointed-toe leather boot.

Photo Courtesy of Netflix – Julie and The Phantoms

For Alex, I wanted to keep him very athleisure, which was very much the 90s street style! I did this with his hoodies, cargo pants, and of course, his Nike Air Max. His socks had to be statements, which is a trend we all saw back in the 90s. And who could forget his fanny pack! For this accessory, I wanted Alex to be more of a trendsetter. He wears it across his body, which is now totally in.

Spencer: Dirty Candi, the girl group, now those were some fun costumes! They were full of color and different textures. I was reminded of your work on Jem and The Holograms when I saw the group perform! How did you approach costuming Dirty Candi?

Soyon: With Dirty Candi, I absolutely played off of Kenny Ortega’s fantastic direction. The way he described Dirty Candi visually was as if ‘a sucker or lollipop that you are enjoying, fell on the ground and picked up all this dirt. What would that look like?’ I loved it so much and ran with it! This is why I incorporated many bright colors with sparkles and crystals to represent the rocks in dirt.

Photo Courtesy of Netflix – Julie and The Phantoms

Another significant aspect of my creative conversations with Kenny was that since Carrie is a girl who has a lot of money, she would totally be the person to hire Katy Perry’s stylist. Good thing I have actually worked with Katy before! So I had to think about what would she be wearing? She would have all her performance outfits custom-made and creatively extra. Dirty Candi’s looks were completely designed and built from scratch. Carrie wouldn’t want anything off the rack!

It’s also really fun that you mentioned Jem because I wanted the girls to be bright and colorful for that film. But for Dirty Candi, there were five girls, and I wanted each girl to be a color of the rainbow.  My inspiration was K-pop girl groups and Jolly Ranchers, which are literally see-through candy. I thought of this for the types of fabrics I wanted to use. I used vinyl and organza for this inspiration, and all the crystals are the “dirty” of Dirty Candi.

Spencer: Julie and the Phantoms prompted a reunion between you and Kenny Ortega, now having worked on multiple projects together. What is the collaborative process like between the two of you?

Soyon: The collaboration between Kenny and I is always super fun! Kenny is a director that is full of life and vibrancy. He is pure magic. The way he illustrates his vision makes my job so easy; I can see the colors and the costumes immediately in my mind as he speaks. When I work with him, there is always a lot of fun banter and collaboration because we just get each other. For Julie specifically, I loved working with him because the ideas kept evolving and got better and better; I’m so happy with what we created together for the show. 

Spencer: Was there a costume that you found more challenging? Which costume are you the proudest of?

Soyon: I don’t have a favorite because I love them all; they are like my children, you can’t pick a favorite!

There were two challenging costumes. The first was Julie’s finale dress because I had to factor in a lot of different parameters, such as Julie’s body type, how to elongate her on the stage while keeping her the sneakerhead that she is, keeping it youthful, finding the right color, not making it too sexy, keeping the skirt a certain length, and making sure she can breathe and perform, plus have duplicates for her body doubles.

I also had Netflix’s restrictions of it being a family show, so I couldn’t make the skirt too short. To problem solve this, I threw in the 90s biker shorts.  I ended up coming up with the high-low skirt and kept the back long and the front short to help elongate her legs while also showcasing her teeny waist. I wanted it to have a quinceañera vibe, which traditionally is always a cupcake or ball gown type of silhouette. The jacket was originally a vintage Balmain dress that I took apart to use as fabric to make into a cropped bomber. It was a huge task because we needed to hand-sew all the beading down; it took months, but it was worth it. 

Photo Courtesy of Netflix – Julie and The Phantoms

The second most challenging costumes were for ‘The Other Side of Hollywood’ Hollywood Ghost Club scene. This was because we ended up moving up the shoot date because of location availability. When I thought I had two months to design and build these costumes, I ended up having only two weeks! It was a lot of hands-on and a ton of sleepless nights. 

Spencer: Soyon, thank you so much for taking the time to speak with me! I had so much. Congratulations again on the success of the show and your well-deserved Emmy win! I can’t wait to see what’s next.

Soyon: Thank you again, Spencer! This was fun! I’ll be sure to let you know what I’m working on right now when I can; it is next-level!

Follow Soyon An on Instagram! Julie and the Phantoms is streaming now on Netflix!

Rosalía: Shaping Music and Art Through Costume

Art is holding the music in the shape of costume design. 

Rosalía‘s Instagram feed is a source of fashion inspiration for the younger generations with her aesthetic choices, streetwear garments, iconic golden accessories, and extreme nail art. 

Rosalía has charmed an international audience with her creativity and unique music. She is bringing her Spanish roots into international pop culture, and she is not stopping at the musical aspect. The costumes for her music videos transmit a powerful message; she creates an image of a confident and strong woman. Rosalía has come to make us fall in love with her meaningful art, bringing with her the noble cause of feminism. 

During this article, we are going to go through three of her music videos that were made for the songs named “Juro Que,” “DI MI NOMBRE,” and “A Palé.” I chose these particular videos because they are not connected; they are from three different albums to show the consistency of Rosalía’s aesthetic choices.

We start by analyzing the music video for the song called “Juro Que,” released through Sony and Columbia Records on 23th of January 2020. Fashion stylist Laura Vandall is responsible for the costume design. When I encountered this masterpiece, I immediately felt the necessity of writing about it. With strong and pure colors such as red, blue, and green, the 70’s look, and the chosen typography for the title, the music video is an attribute to Pedro Almodovar’s aesthetics. The inspiration is undeniable and gracefully executed.

Starting photogram from the musical video Juro Que, Rosalia 2020.

Rosalía‘s powerful presence leads the entire video. As I previously commented, during the entire video, the color palette is an Almodovar attribute. Opposite strong colors working on the set and costume design. All the costumes are monochromatic, working perfectly with the set design. 

We can appreciate the use of costume as a measure of time. While she has three costume changes, her lover is always wearing the same garments. This tool also tells the spectator about this particular character’s condition: he is in prison. She is gradually becoming a stronger character. She starts the video wearing a blouse and on top of it, a corset and a nylon sports jacket, all in pink tones. She is presented with a girly but stylish look, not childish but sexy instead, as Rosalía usually is. She is mixing styles, creating an atemporal look. We can compare this costume with the one for the video “Di Mi Nombre: (chapter 8: Extasis)

Photograms from the musical video Juro que, Rosalia 2020.

The music video “Di Mi Nombre” was released on October 30th, 2018, as the third single from her second studio album El Mal Querer, produced by Rosalía and Guincho Studio. The costume design was made by the fashion stylist Soki Mak. It reminded me of the classical telenovelas from Central America and Spain. The use of shoulder pads and a big belt on Rosalía’s waistline reflects an approach to the 70’s aesthetics. When Rosalía is in the room, surrounded by religious images, she is creating a confusing scene. She wears colors of purity, but the lyrics of the song and her movements are telling something else.

When she moves towards a new room in the house, we can see the dancers as disturbing creatures. They appear to be classical dancers, wearing pink tights, a classical and basic pink leotard, and dancer’s shoes. We can appreciate the same concept as in Rosalía’s character. The disturbing element, in this case, is the way the dancers are wearing their hair: loose and on their faces. We can conclude that these creatures represent the danger the song is narrating, the deep obscurity inside Rosalía. 

Photogram from musical video Di mi nombre, Rosalia 2018.

Rosalía’s and her team are inspired by classical art. We can appreciate the similarities between the music video’s photogram and Francisco Goya’s painting, called La Maja Vestida.

This musical video differentiates from the other two selected videos on the way it is filmed. Just one take, with the same costume during the entire song. This simplicity can trap the spectator and follow the story easily.

Let’s go back to the music video for the song “Juro Que.” During the music video, we can appreciate Rosalía’s growth, passion and love for the prisoner increases. It consumes her, and we can tell because of the contrasting colors appearing with more intensity. The next costume has yellow as the predominant color, contrasting with the green background, bringing light to the sad encounter between Rosalia and her lover. Finally, she exteriorizes her suffering and passionate love for the prisoner by wearing red in a blue surrounding. Do not forget that the red elements were present all along with the music video on the set – on the couch, lamps, curtains – she is embracing this powerful color to make a statement: 

“If you don’t get out I’ll get in

If you don’t get out I’ll get in

I’ll rob a bank tonight

And that they’ll take me to prison”

Juro que, rosalia 2020.
Photograms from the musical video Juro que, Rosalia 2020.

Finally, the last video we are analyzing is “A Palé,” released through Sony Music on November 7th, 2019. Rosalia and her sister Pilar Vila were in charge of the general aesthetic. From an visual point of view, the video is an ode to ugliness. Rosalía and her filming crew are triggering the spectator by creating a piece with odd images. Once more, Rosalia is making direct references to her origins. She is showing us her childhood landscapes of pallets (the meaning of the song’s name)

The video’s first image is a direct inspiration from another Francisco de Goya creation: A Portrait of the Duchess Alba de Tormes. Both Rosalía and fashion designer Palomo Sapin (who is responsible for the costume design of the video) “breath common elements and want to trespass frontiers through their creations,” as is perfectly stated in Vogue’s article by Tatiana Ojea.

“Since the day I was born

I carry a star

Know I don’t owe it to nobody

And it only protects me”

A palé, rosalia 2019.
Photogram from the musical video A palé, Rosalia 2019.

A change of rhythm in the song takes us to the next scene. Now, we are at the center of a mass production fabric. Everything is clean, with a cream color palette. The estrangement feeling appears when we see Rosalia from a closer shot when we can appreciate the characteristic of Frida Kahlo’s unibrow and the golden teeth. 

The third scene is creating a dream-like image with the costume. We are in an open industrial space in the middle of the night. Rosalia is running, letting the beautiful and soft fabric of her dress dance behind her too. With this dress, she becomes a mythical creature of the night, flying around the industrial space. 

The last scene has a nude palette, with a costume that reminds us of the Kardashian’s aesthetics, but without loosing the connection to the fabric and the mass production concept. The dancer’s costume is bringing texture to the screen. The workers became part of the fabric; they are the material, and they are the product that is being produced.

Photogram from the musical video A palé, Rosalia 2019.

Last Reflections

Before finalizing the article, I would like to bring to light the title of costume designers for music videos. While I was researching to this piece, I often read the stylist concept instead of a costume designer. We cannot deny the existing connection between the world of music and the world of fashion. But do not forget, the music video is an audiovisual product that serves the purpose of representing the music and helping the spectator interpreting the song’s essence. It is not only the musicians’ brand represented, but it is also about creating characters of a different world that needs to be compressed into less than 5 minutes. Costume designers need to be properly named and credited in music videos.

Reference List







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The Costumes of Hamilton: How An 18th Century Silhouette Tells a Story

Hamilton, Broadway’s 2015 boundary-crossing musical phenomenon, with 11 Tony Awards, 1 Pulitzer Prize, and 1 Grammy Award, is a cultural and theatrical revolution. Written by Lin Manuel Miranda and directed by Thomas Kail, it tells the story of Alexander Hamilton, one of the Founding Fathers of The United States of America. With some elements being hip-hop, R&B, and soul and a cast that breaks cultural stereotypes but maintaining an 18th-century design, this musical is causing great impact throughout the globe. Miranda was inspired to write it after reading Hamilton’s biography by Ron Chernow, and that Hip-Hop was the only way to tell the story. Let’s talk about this brilliant revolution and the costumes of Hamilton!

“America then, as told by America now”

Lin Manuel Miranda 

From left to right: Anthony Ramos as John Laurens, Lin Manuel Miranda as Alexander Hamilton, Daveed Diggs as Marquis de Lafayette and Okieriete Onaodowan as Hercules Mulligan, at the back: Hamilton’s ensemble.

Photo by Theo Wargo – Getty Images

The play starts with Hamilton arriving in New York as an immigrant, and slowly rising to the top. By getting involved in politics, becoming the first secretary of the Treasury, fighting battles with George Washington and Thomas Jefferson, marrying Eliza Schuyler, and giving it all for his country until his death. What makes this play so outstanding and acclaimed is the way Lin Manuel Miranda is able to merge modern and period elements and tell Hamilton’s story using rap as a language of revolution.

“The entire crew had one only goal: make Hamilton the best production EVER”, shared Paul Tazewell, the brilliant costume designer of the musical. Tazewell has designed costumes for theatre, film, tv, dance, and opera. Among these, he has designed costumes for Broadway more than a dozen times. Throughout his career, he has worked in various African American and Latino productions. Some of them being: In The Heights, The Color Purple, The Immortal Life of Henrietta Lacks, and Harriet. Paul has always been characterized by delivering a flawless job, where the importance of character interpretation, period research, and attention to detail is present in every single piece he makes. Hamilton, being one of his more acclaimed pieces, gave him a Tony Award and Lucille Lortel Award for Best Costume Design.

“I think basic theatregoers realize when a costume is sparkly and glamorous, and they realize when it’s wrong. But if it’s right, then it should get out of the way. It shouldn’t go away, but it should get out of the way so you can be in the moment and experience this world” – Paul Tazewell

Right: Paul Tazewell posing in front of his costumes for Hamilton. Photo by Yvonne Albinowski for Observer

As mentioned above, Hamilton is telling history, and therefore, real paintings and illustrations of the characters are already in the audience’s head. But on the other hand, we are living in a critical moment where art is transforming the way people see the world, and people need to change urgently. So, Miranda and Tazewell took this opportunity to tell history in their own way, which ended up being a total success.

During the creation of any period costume, research plays a critical role. This will not only define fabrics and colors used during that time period, but also shape, silhouette, and the evolution of garments through a certain timespan. In Hamilton, the storyline takes place from the 1780s to 1810, approximately, which is a beautiful period full of colorful and elegant costumes. As time goes by, costumes transform throughout the musical from frock coats to tailcoats, and from ballgowns to regency dresses. One of the few things that Lin Manuel Miranda asked Paul for Alexander Hamilton’s costume was that he be represented in green, because “green is the color of money” and it worked perfectly for the first secretary of the Treasury.

All of these elements present in Tazewell’s designs; not only tell the story and represent each character but also merge that modern and period vision that Miranda proposed from the beginning.

Paul Tazewell shared the research process involved in “Designing Hamilton”, an interview done by the National Arts Club earlier this month. He told the audience that he started taking reference paintings from the period to understand what people wore and how they wore it. Then, he looked at different inspirations from the modern world taking elements from the past and transforming them. This included paintings from artists like Kehinde Wiley and photoshoots of John Galliano and Alexander McQueen.

A very critical step during his process was the moment when he decided to define the silhouette and color palette for each of the characters. To do this, he dressed the whole cast in 18th-century silhouettes using costumes from several productions. This helped him “merge all the ideas visually and hold the cast together as a group”, he said. Besides being as accurate to the period as he wanted, Paul had to think that the ensemble needed comfort to make certain movements, at the same time had quick changes that needed to be made, and last but not least, visuals had to be very precise for the audience to understand what was going on. These three elements will make period accuracy change a little bit, but at the end of the day, the costumes worked absolutely perfect for the musical and the cast.

Due to the extreme detail and care required, every single costume was custom made by master tailors and seamstresses, which is evident in the flawless work delivered. Also, since this musical was going to be filmed (now available on Disney +), every detail had to be impeccable, or else, what people in the audience wouldn’t notice, the rest of the world watching through their screens, would.

One of Paul’s (and the audience’s) favorite costumes are the Schuyler sister’s costumes. These gowns have an accurate 18th-century silhouette known as robe a l’anglaise, which was identified by a stiff bodice, with a pointed waistline, low neckline, 3/4 length sleeves, and wide pleated skirt. The undergarments worn underneath were petticoats and a bump pad, which create volume in the skirt, chemise, and stays. The latter seems not to be part of the costume, since the most convenient idea for comfort (actresses never stop dancing and singing) was to have boned bodices, instead of a stiff pair of stays. The fabric used is also absolutely accurate, silk being the most popular fabric among high-class women and men during the 18th century. The colors for each one of the sisters show their personality and at the same time work together as a whole.

From left to right: 1. Lin Manuel Miranda as Alexander Hamilton, Philippa Soo as Eliza Schuyler, Renée Elise Goldsberry as Angelica Schuyler in Hamilton. Photo by Sara Krulwich for NY TImes 2. Philippa Soo as Eliza Schuyler, Renée Elise Goldsberry as Angelica Schuyler and Jasmine Cephas Jones as Peggy Schuyler in Hamilton. Photo by Joan Marcus 3. 18th century costumes from the New Zealand Museum https://collections.tepapa.govt.nz/object/50118

As a result, Tazewell’s contribution to the musical was a complete success. He interprets each character in accordance with the director’s point of view, he gives a little modern touch to each costume (not wearing wigs is one of the most notable and amazing decisions he made), and he respects the overall silhouette that 18th-century costumes have by also telling a story through the years it encompasses. By the end, Paul was able to dress the entire cast in period costumes, allowing them to dance, sing and rap as if they were performing in a 21st-century revolutionary bar. That, I call success. 

“I wouldn’t have been able to design it without everything that came before… All the productions I have done and the experience with period research and character interpretation came together to be able to make Hamilton”

Paul Tazewell

If you haven’t yet watched Hamilton, please go and do so! You are not going to regret it. Be prepared to have lots of fun, get very excited, heart broken, and last but not least, inspired.

Now Available on Disney +

To see more of Paul Tazewell’s work: https://www.paultazewelldesign.com

Other references:

Dress Historians discuss Hamilton’s Costumes (highly recommended if you are a period nerd, like me) :

Wagon Wheel Watusi: Ten Years of Burlesque Costumes

Ten years ago to this day, November 24th, 2010, one of our favorite musicals hit movie-theatres around the world, BURLESQUE! Burlesque is a story of a small-town girl named Ali (played by Christina Aguilera) who moves to Los Angeles to chase her dreams of being a performer. Her journey brings her to a burlesque lounge led by Tess (played by Cher) and managed by Sean (Stanley Tucci). As the club faces imminent failure, Ali lends her incredible voice and revives the lounge, in all of its glory.

I wanted a modern take on burlesque with a retro feel and a nod to its history and origins. Naughtiness without being crass! There’s a bit of the Crazy Horse Saloon in Paris, the musical Cabaret, as well as the ’60s TV show Hullabaloo as well as the Follies Bergère.

Costume Designer, michael Kaplan – EW Cher, Christina Aguilera sing justice for Burlesque, 10 years later

I love this movie. Look, I am going to be up-front here. All hail Cher, this movie is a Cher masterpiece. Aside from the legendary Cher moments, the costumes and music of Burlesque really come together, creating a great film that can be rewatched time and time again. Glitter, sparkles, chains, pearls  and glamour embroider Burlesque in the fabrics of history as a master class in dance costume. Let’s just take a moment to just bask in the fun, vibrant costumes of Burlesque, created by one of our favorite costume designers, Michael Kaplan

Ray of Light

I am pretty sure everyone who has ever lived in Los Angeles has had a similar Ali Rose moment. Walking through the streets of Los Angeles, headphones in, and just giving the world your best choreography.

Faster than the speeding light she’s flying, Trying to remember where it all began. She’s got herself a little piece of heaven, Waiting for the time when Earth shall be as one

Welcome to Burlesque

Cher err… I mean, Tess would never step on stage in anything other than perfection. Her first song “Welcome to Burlesque”, is no exception.

Show a little more, Show a little less, Add a little smoke, Welcome to Burlesque, Everything you dream of, But never can possess,
Nothing’s what it seems, Welcome to Burlesque,


Tough Lover

How could you ever forget the “Tough Lover” scene! Don’t even try to tell me you haven’t attempted this scene in the shower ever now and then.

When he kisses me, I get that thrill, When he does that wiggle I won’t keep still, I wanna a tough lover (yeah, yeah) A tough lover (woo)

But I’m a Good Girl

If you are as big of a fan of Burlesque as I am, then you too also know the choreography to “But I’m a Good Girl”. It’s alright you can be honest, we are all friends here.

They all say, darling, what did you do for those pearls? What? I am a good girl


Long John Blues

This is such an underrated moment of the film. Kristen Bell as Nikki looked amazing. I will forever love this black-lace bodysuit!

I have a dentist who’s over seven feet tall, His name is Doctor Long John, And he answers every call.


Guy What Takes His Time

No that isn’t Mae West, it’s Christina Aguilera and yes, her costume is ethereal. It’s just too perfect for this world.

A guy what takes his time, I’ll go for any time, I’m a fast movin’ gal who likes them slow, Got no use for fancy driving, wanna to see a guy arriving in low, I’d be satisfied, electrified to know a guy what takes his time



It’s time for the hand bra corset! We are not worthy! We are not worthy!

It’s a cold and crazy world that’s ragin’ outside, Well baby me and all my girls are bringin’ on the fire, Show a little leg, gotta shimmy your chest, It’s a life, it’s a style, it’s a need, it’s Burlesque


You Haven’t Seen The Last of Me

Honorable mention to the ‘You Haven’t Seen The Last of Me” scene. Tess is simply wearing all black, but it remains a brilliant costume. Tess is basically in mourning of her struggling club. But then this dim spotlight hits Cher just right, as she gives one of the most powerful performances of her career. CHILLS.

I’ve been brought down to my knees, And I’ve been pushed way past the point of breaking, But I can take it. I’ll be back, Back on my feet. This is far from over. You haven’t seen the last of me

Bound to You

I will always be obsessed with the green, off-the-shoulder dress Ali wears during her “Bound to You” performance. I honestly think it is the greatest green dress in existence. Christina looked like an actual angel.

 I found a man I can trust, And boy, I believe in us. I am terrified to love for the first time, Can’t you see that I’m bound in chains? I finally found my way, I am bound to you.


Show Me How You Burlesque

Last but not least, “Show Me How You Burlesque”. We bring together the whole cast for one last performance in a golden finale. Stunning!

Hit it up, get it up, gotta give me your best. So get your ass up, show me how you burlesque


Wow! A whole decade… that is insane. I just want to end with a final thank you to the cast, the crew, and costume designer Michael Kaplan who created such a great film that has given me so much peace over the last decade, and decades to come.

Now, enjoy a clip from the film.

Costume is King: Storytelling Through Fashion and Music

Greek mythology, cardboard masterpieces, and crystals. What more could you possibly want?

It’s been over a month since Beyonce’s Black is King was released, yet the impact of the film — and especially the fashion — continues to influence so many others still to this day. Black is King is not only a film but a visual album based on the soundtrack, The Lion King: The Gift, which was recorded for the 2019 remake of The Lion King. The visual album contrasts Beyoncé’s Lemonade serving as an empowering piece for black men. It is dedicated to Beyoncé’s son, Sir, and mirrors the Lion King as it tells the story of a young African king and his journey through Africa to manhood. The visual album is filled with breathtaking scenery, beautiful imagery, effervescent sets and striking storytelling costumes that embody African customs and Black culture. Beyoncé wears more than 60 looks throughout the entire film all coordinated by her stylist Zerina Akers. With so many inspiring costumes to choose from I decided to narrow it down to a few.

Here are three of my favorite looks and the stories behind them:

Beyoncé wearing custom 5:31 Jérôme trench/jumper and headdress. Photo: Courtesy of Disney+
Beyoncé wearing custom-made piece by 5:31 Jérôme. She is standing next to Ghanian singer, songwriter and actor Shatta Wale. Photo: Courtesy of Disney+

I call this costume Lady Liberty which appears in the song “Already.” When I first saw it I fell in love. It reminded me so much of the Statue of Liberty but a modern day take. The talented designer behind this costume is Jerome Lamaar. Lamaar was raised in the Bronx and uses his upbringing as inspiration for his designs. He has consulted for brands such as Converse, Victoria’s Secret, Nike and more. In 2013, he launched his brand 5:31 Jérôme which he describes as a “playful luxury streetwear collection.” Lamaar stated in an interview with PIX11 News that, “As a designer of color it was hard for me in the beginning because people didn’t see the value in it [his work]. Even though I was making things that were super embellished and super high quality, made in the same factories as all the other top designers it was hard at the time.” Lamaar faced a lack of growth and many challenges within the fashion industry causing him to switch his brand to custom only creations. That led him to take a step back from the fashion industry and open his own store for up-and-coming designers in the Bronx.

Eventually, he went on to work with Beyoncé and with her support and guidance has changed his perspective on the industry. He has reinvented himself as a fashion designer and is now revisiting his brand. Since Lamaar had previously worked with Beyoncé on projects such as the Adidas x Ivy Park collaboration, he was granted the opportunity to contribute to this project. He worked closely with Zerina Akers to bring his creation to life. He was inspired by Africa as well as tribal and military-like wear to design the costume. He used references from “Nigerian headdresses and turbans” (PIX11 News) to create the updo. The turban was made in collaboration with fashion designer, Sarah Sokol Millinery. The beautiful garment is a “silk trench/jumper hybrid” with gloves attached and is paired with “Razer sharp sunglasses” (via 531Jerome Instagram). Lamaar stated that he used Earthly gems and crystals such as Turquoise, Mother of pearl, Jade, Quartz, and silver Hematite to create the costume. The garment was made with all Nigerian lace, posing a striking contrast between man-made and natural materials — a concept that is very important to him. The entire garment was then hand beaded and sewn by Lamaar over the span of 3-4 days. I am amazed by how stunning this look is and congratulate Lamaar on his chance to really showcase his skills to the world.

Beyoncé wearing Alon Livné design in Black is King. Photo: Courtesy of Parkwood Entertainment
Pieces of costume labeled and laid out separately before being put together. Photo: Courtesy of Alon Livné
Beyoncé posed in front of The Winged Victory of Samothrace in music video. Photo: Courtesy of Beyoncé on YouTube

This costume is truly ethereal. It is featured in the song “Otherside” and was created by Israeli fashion designer Alon Livné. Livné was destined to be a fashion designer. He wrote his own illustrated children’s book at the age of 11 and was already designing and sewing clothes by the age of 13 using old tablecloths. He even attended the Shenkar College of Art and Design at the age of 17 because of his extraordinary talent. He has defined his works as consisting of “dramatic sculptural shapes that give the human body new proportions and angles,” which would definitely describe the look of this costume. Livné is best known for his work on bridal dresses but has since ventured out to help Beyoncé on her passion project.

He was contacted by Zerina Akers to collaborate on the secret project and actually ended up designing three costumes in total for the film. In my opinion this look specifically stood out the most to me because of the creativity and thought behind the design. It was inspired by The Winged Victory of Samothrace (also called Nike of Samothrace), a marble sculpture dedicated to the goddess, Athena Nike. She was also known as the “goddess of victory” and served as the messenger of the gods and the distributor of glory and success. That success proved to be true because Livné definitely did an amazing job on this costume.The wings on the sculpture are iconic, making this look even better. It is no surprise that this art work was used as an inspiration because it was seen in Beyoncé’s music video with Jay-Z from their album titled, Everything is Love. It took a week to make and the base consisted of two pieces: a mini skirt and a tube top. It was then covered in handcrafted pieces of ivory organza silk fabric that was carefully draped and folded to create a flowy look. A metal armor-like exterior was used to create the wing shape. The organza that was used had silicone threads woven into them which helped mold the fabric into the wing shape. Since marble is hard to carve, The Winged Victory of Samothrace, is praised for its ability to display motion and Livné does just that!

Beyoncé in Black is King wearing Mia Vesper dress and carrying basket of goods on custom-made head piece. Photo: Courtesy of Parkwood Entertainment
Beyoncé wearing Mia Vesper dress and headpiece with neck/mask piece in Black is King. Photo: Courtesy of Disney+

New York designer Mia Humber, known as Mia Vesper, never would have thought that she would receive a call to design a piece for one of her idols, yet she was among the many talented individuals whose pieces were worn throughout Beyoncé’s film. Vesper is best recognized for her efforts towards upcycling and sustainable fashion. She was inspired by her shoe repair guy in Bed Stuy, Brooklyn where she was fascinated by the shoe-repair process. She revisited him several times again creating more projects and gathering more information about how she could make things. As a result, she decided to dive into the fashion industry and as time went on she gained success with her hand-made eco-friendly tapestry jackets. From there she continued to make one-of-a-kind pieces such as dresses and skirts using fabrics and materials found from marketplaces and flea markets. Vesper continued to showcase her work and it sure enough paid off in the long run.

She was contacted by stylist Zerina Akers to create a piece for the film after Akers saw her work in a Los Angeles showroom. Used to jackets and trousers, Vesper had never made something on such a high scale before so it was a great opportunity to challenge herself and expand her business. What she ended up with is a masterpiece. This custom-made one shoulder gown was created with a “Monet-inspired Rayon Lurex plissé material from Russia” (Vogue Uk). The material was pleated offering more movement within the dress and the floral print gave an earthly touch which tied in together well with the title of the song “Water” that the dress was featured in. The headpiece which alludes to head-carrying, a practice used in many countries as well as Africa in which goods are carried on the head using baskets, was surprisingly made with a cardboard box. It was Vesper’s idea and the box was padded and then covered in the fabric. The mask was made from the same pleated material and actually started out as a neck piece but was pulled up into a mask. Vesper along with her team worked nonstop on this look for 8 days. The great news is that you can even shop this look at MiaVesper.com.

Lastly I would like to feature some more designs as honorable mentions since I could not get over how amazing they were!

Congratulations to these three talented designers and every other designer, team member and supporter who helped bring Beyoncé’s vision to life. If you haven’t seen the film yet you should definitely head over to Disneyplus.com to check it out.

Please follow and support these designers for more creativity and fashion!

Jerome Lamaar

Instagram: @531jerome | Website: https://www.jeromelamaar.com/

Alon Livné

Instagram: @alonlivne | Website: https://www.alonlivne.com/

Mia Vesper

Instagram: @mia.vesper | Website: https://miavesper.com/


Abad, Mario. “Beyoncé in Déviant La Vie and Alani Taylor.” PAPER, PAPER, 31 July 2020, http://www.papermag.com/beyonce-fashion-black-is-king-2646850547.html?rebelltitem=27.

Bateman, Kristen. “Inside The World Of Mia Vesper, The Upcycled Fashion Brand Coveted By Beyoncé.” Nylon, Nylon, 3 Dec. 2019, http://www.nylon.com/mia-vesper-upcycled-brand-interview.

Farra, Emily. “Inside the Making of Beyoncé’s ‘Black Is King’ Wardrobe.” Vogue, Vogue 31 July 2020, http://www.google.com/amp/s/www.vogue.com/slideshow/beyonce-black-is-king-wardrobe-behind-the-scenes-alon-livne/amp.

Kreienberg, Maggie. “Bridal Designer Alon Livné on Creating Three Custom Looks for Beyoncé in ‘Black Is King’.” Brides, 4 Aug. 2020, http://www.brides.com/beyonce-black-is-king-fashion-alon-livne-5073193.

Obie , Brooke. “Beyoncé’s ‘Black Is King’ Is This Year’s Most Powerful Album About Masculinity.” Esquire, Esquire , 11 Aug. 2020, http://www.google.com/amp/s/www.esquire.com/entertainment/music/amp33564645/beyonce-black-is-king-symbolism-meaning-analysis-masculinity/.

Okwodu, Janelle. “Beyoncé’s ‘Black Is King’ Is the Afrocentric Fashion Moment We’ve Been Waiting For.” Vogue, Vogue 31 July 2020, http://www.google.com/amp/s/www.vogue.com/slideshow/beyonce-black-is-king-fashion-message/amp.

Rosario, Veronica. “Meet Beyoncé’s Bronx Designer.” PIX11, WPIX, 3 Aug. 2020, http://www.pix11.com/news/morning/meet-beyonces-bronx-designer.

Williams, Cameron. “Beyonce Delivers 11 Power Looks in ‘Spirit’ Music Video.” PAPER, PAPER, 19 July 2019, http://www.papermag.com/every-beyonce-spirit-video-look-2639224100.html?rebelltitem=20.

Vatner, Jonathan. “Beyoncé Wore Many Alumni Designs in Black Is King.” FIT Newsroom, 18 Sept. 2020, news.fitnyc.edu/2020/09/18/beyonce-wore-many-alumni-designs-in-black-is-king/.

Yotka, Steff. “You Can Shop This Dress From Beyoncé’s Black Is King Visual Album.” Vogue, Vogue, 31 July 2020, http://www.vogue.com/article/beyonce-black-is-king-mia-vesper-dress.

Costumes Of The Masked Singer – An Interview With Marina Toybina

This year, the 2020 Super Bowl was followed by The Masked Singer.  As the show started, I thought to myself that I had to give it a try and find out what everyone was talking about – it was already on anyways. Little did I know, my girlfriend Kate, and I from that point on would be spending the next four months tuning in every week, just to find out who was in that Turtle costume. The suspense was tearing at my soul, keeping me awake at night scrolling through Twitter just to reassure myself that I was right. (Of course, I guessed right but that’s beside the point.) The costumes seen on The Masked Singer are incredible, and I am so excited to have had the chance to chat with the mastermind behind the turtle and every other costume to dance across your television. Marina Toybina is a six-time nominee and four-time Emmy award-winning costume designer, now nominated for her work on The Masked Singer.

Spencer: Hi Marina, it’s so good to hear from you again! It’s been a long time. How have you been doing?

Marina: Everything’s good! There have been a lot of new adjustments and we are trying to make it work, especially since we are back at work and learning a lot of new ways to adapt to our new norm, for the time being.

Spencer: I am so excited for you as you have earned your sixth Emmy nomination! This time, in the Outstanding Costumes for a Variety, Nonfiction or Reality Program category. What does this nomination mean to you?

Marina:  I’m excited and honored. It is one of the shows that we really do put so much into and it’s incredible that our peers recognize and appreciate it. I think it just speaks so much for my team because we do have the best of the best working on this. Countless hours go into each costume and it means a lot to me that we are being recognized for it. As I said, it’s an incredible honor. 

Spencer: Before we talk about The Masked Singer, can you tell me a little about how you came into this life as a costume designer?

Marina:  I was looking back at the past 20 years and somehow everything always leads you to where you need to be. It’s crazy! I never, in the beginning, thought I would go into costume design. 

I started in fashion. I went to the Fashion Institute of Design and Merchandising (FIDM) for fashion design and had my own clothing line for a few years. We worked with stylists and created one of a kind pieces for editorials and celebrities, and we started with different names expanding on different genres of fashion. It was my own fashion career that led me into music and I started designing for dancers. I teamed up with the stylists of big-name celebrities and it became this whole thing — “Let’s design the whole performance!” I transitioned into my own way of designing by combining fashion and costume. Since I understood so much of the construction from more of a couture aspect, I learned more about dance in the theater and on the stage and approached working with different materials, textures and patterns –and how to combine all these elements. 

This naturally guided me straight into costume design and I’ve been here ever since. 

Spencer: Where do you feel like your creativity comes from?

Marina: I haven’t had a very easy life or career. I think a lot of the things I’ve been through have humbled me as a person. Because of that, I feel things deeply and I try to express that through my work.

For me, I find every detail and experience that I’ve had in my own personal life important and meaningful, so I put that much more into my work and it shows in building every single costume I create. Everything matters so much — the timing, who’s in it, the craftsmanship that goes into it, how does it make me feel when it’s finished, and can I tell a story with something that we are creating?

I think every moment and every day is so important that if you don’t treasure the life that you have, you can’t really treasure the work that you produce. By combining my two worlds (personal and creative), this is where my creative attachment comes from and it explains the kind of work that I try to produce.

Spencer:  It’s almost like your costumes are a part of you?

Marina:  They are! Something happens in the process of design where you truly do escape reality because we have to immerse ourselves into these narratives that we’re creating — whether it’s a fantasy or science fiction, or maybe it’s a dark place or an emotion. You have to think ahead and pay attention to every detail of the reality you are creating. These details can be brand new and you then have to be an innovator; or, you have to do all of this incredible research into the history that goes along with what you are creating. Then at some point, you have to create your own vision of the world you are designing.

Spencer: You’ve worked on some really great shows like So You Think You Can Dance and The X Factor. Do you feel like your experience in performance-based television prepared you for a project as intense as The Masked Singer?  I imagine serving as the costume designer for these projects sort of became the ultimate training.

Marina: Oh, 100 percent! I learned how to prioritize which makes me able to work under extreme pressures and deadlines; I learned how to delegate and work with a team; how to work with talent; being able to understand where certain departments are coming from and how to come together to integrate a show. These are all things that matter so much as a designer — and the learning doesn’t stop at the constructional side, or the artistic side of designs, it also expands into being able to understand the business structure of it all. 

By doing So You Think You Can Dance, I learned a speedy yet innovative and instinctual way to design. Since we don’t have much time and the show is live, there really is not much room for mistakes. It’s trial and error as you’re going along; so making sure you’ve got the right fabrications, durability and movement, plus making sure I can bring something to life that is literally coming from a roll of fabric that also lets the dancers feel and execute their choreography. I have to take all those things into account as a designer — and quickly because of time constraints!

With reality television, I feel like most people don’t understand that for us to be able to create these shows — coming up with 60 to 90 costumes in literally four days — is a miracle. People are shocked that it’s not a year turnaround prep period before we go into the next season. 

It’s been a huge support for me to be able to do the previous shows that I’ve done in order to execute The Masked Singer.

Spencer: Alright I can hardly wait, let’s talk about The Masked Singer. What were your thoughts when you first found out about this rather unique project?

Marina: I loved it. Funny story — I kept missing the original emails to see if I would be interested in the project, so it took two months for the executives to get a hold of me! Finally, we were able to discuss the show and they sent me the original reels from South Korea. Right away, I thought it was the wackiest thing I have ever seen and I was hooked. It was everything I’ve ever done in my design ability and experience, so I saw it as just one more challenge. I asked myself: how do I  make it work for this type of stage (meaning TV), and how do I turn all these concepts that I’ve done from tours or different music videos, and my experience with these, forward to a grander scale. 

It was great to have the experience of the first season to lead the creative aspect of the show. Since we were still figuring things out in the first season, I got a lot of creative freedom to develop the characters, and understand how it was going to work, as well as team up with incredible fabricators. For the past four seasons, I have been able to work with people and learn techniques of costume design or fashion I never even knew existed. The blessing of doing the show is now being able to be so well adapted and aware of different techniques of creating fabrics, textures, using 3D printing, fabricating, and working with animatronics. I never in a million years thought that I would know anything and everything about carving foam and how to sculpt a mask!

Spencer: I am exhausted just thinking about how complex these costumes probably are to construct. Not only do they have to have that signature “Masked Singer” look, but they also have to be functional for the performer inside. In my research, I read that there are different types of tech built in the inside of the costumes, such as fans? I guess that should have been pretty obvious but the audience might not realize how much work goes into these costumes! Care to elaborate?

Marina:  We are creating works of art. Even to this day, my mom watches the show and she says, “Oh, that’s so pretty!” And I’m like pretty? That took six weeks of carving! 

It’s amazing to me that the viewers are catching glimpses of important aspects that go into these costumes. People are starting to pay attention to the details — the beading or the fabrics that we use — and that is incredible. 

The process is also incredible. We learn every single season and I get lucky enough to bring people on board and explore new ideas. In the season that we’re building right now, I’m actually learning a lot about 3D printing and new ways of creating masks, plus looking for new forms of textures and fabrication that we can build our masks with. Especially with COVID-19, we are creating health-safety environments for our costumes. It’s pretty phenomenal. 

Spencer: What goes into coming up with some of these characters? Some of them are fun and quirky like The Taco, but then you have some characters that feel completely original like The Night Angel.

Marina: The big thing for me is that I love for every character to have their own story, feeling, and even give the audience an opportunity to create their own persona. The Banana is a runway type of modern fashion versus The White Tiger that looks like a historical Egyptian God — but, I like to go a step further by really focusing on the storytelling. Once there’s a concept for a certain costume, I start breaking down the character. I don’t want to just have another costume on stage, so we do the research and I spend my time thinking about what could this character represent? Where can I get those fabrics? How can we bring this character to this new modern world? I brainstorm all these ideas with my team and then I start doing the artwork. After this, the network gets involved and we start choosing which costumes we would like to see in the following season. Then it’s chaos!

Spencer: I love talking about this idea of storytelling through costume, Last season you brought back a monster costume that was related to another costume. So there you’re already creating a story. 

Marina: I think what is so great with The Masked Singer is that we have fun. It’s a show where there really are no rules. There are perimeters that we have to stick with, but creatively, it’s those ideas that get thrown around and if it’s something we all love and there’s a way to create it and to follow through with certain characters, then we are doing it. I’m so happy that I’m in a position with a network that I work so closely with that I can present those ideas and we can make them come to life. 

There is so much that goes into this storytelling that I love to just have that fantasy world where there are no rules. I’m not limited to just one-dimensional characters and that’s what makes the show so fun! For example, The Night Angel, I didn’t want to do a traditional angel so we gave it a twist, which was very much fashion-inspired. With Night Angel, some things made sense, and other things I liked were so wacky, we left it up to interpretation and for the audience to create their own storylines for that character. Same thing for season two’s The Thingamajig — people thought it was an asparagus and we were going along with it. I love it! It’s incredible too because so many kids watch the show, and I get a lot of fan mail with beautiful designs and illustrations from these young kids. I pay so much attention to that — I even have some of the sketches on my fridge! These messages from fans make me think of amazing ideas that maybe I have not thought about and that we should do. Which we have done!

Spencer: That’s what makes this project so fun, though. It’s just so creative!

Marina:  I wish for more sleep every day, but we are having so much fun and it is incredible! Even people like you get to really appreciate the craftsmanship that goes into the show. It makes it so worth it for us because it is very, very difficult. I’m so particular about fabrics. We had to do Kitty for season three, but I didn’t want to build the costume until I got the right color of feathers. It was trial and error and getting the right weight of feathers plus figuring out the right fabrication, beading, and color of the pearls… All of these little things matter so much. Until it all comes together for me, I won’t consider a costume finished. All the elements matter so much, which is why it’s so incredible that the fan base has really acknowledged that part of the show. 

Spencer: Funny enough. My next question was actually going to be about textiles, You must understand that the nerd inside me just wants to feel these costumes! I’d venture to say textiles play a huge role in creating these costumes?

Marina: On all my shows and all of my projects, including tours and performances, I fabric shop myself. I will always go and make sure I’m present through all the fabric research. I love mixing textures. I love the upholstery fabrics. I love modern fabrics. I love creating our own textures now that we have that kind of freedom. I print my own prints if I can’t find the things that I’m looking for. As far as a building process from the ground up, I’m very much involved. Being able to feel material and understand how I can make that character come to life is so important to me because it’s almost like if I skip that first step of research or seeing what’s available or what resources we’re working with, I feel like I can never move forward and tell my team how to construct. Because then I won’t really fully understand the character or what things I’m looking for to achieve.

Spencer: So season four was just announced the other day. I saw that there’s going to be a crocodile, broccoli, and even a dragon which you know I am a huge dragon fan. I’m stoked. Can you tell us a little bit about what to expect? 

Marina: For season four, I feel like we pushed things to the limit. I think I definitely used COVID-19 to my creative advantage by trying to figure out how to create outside-the-box and bring something to the audience that is bigger and better, while also being more uplifting and positive. We had to think about how to create the show in a positive way, especially since we are doing this during these times and facing so many obstacles as a department. I literally put so much creativity and more whimsical touches to the costumes and uplifting color and textures. Overall, we tried to figure out a way to bring something back to the TV world that is bigger, better, and brighter. There are also going to be a few surprises that I don’t want to reveal!

Spencer: I think it’s great for the audience reading this that even you, an accomplished Emmy award-winning costume designer that has worked on so many incredible projects, is constantly learning as you go along. As creatives, we never stop learning, especially when it comes to costume design. 

Marina: Every day that I’m with the sewing team or pattern makers, I literally sit over machines and try to figure out what they are doing. Every single part of it! You know, it wasn’t until a few months ago that I really had a moment where I realized there is no difference in construction between fashion and costume. You look at something that you’re inspired by, you lay it out on the pattern table and you go through the exact same fashion process. The craftsmanship behind it is identical. The second I stop learning, I am almost ready to retire. Then there is nothing — to stop learning is almost like you stop growing and you stop being passionate about your art. So, every day I’m learning new ways how to cut fabric, how to treat materials, and watching my incredible team figuring this stuff out with me when we have two hours to finish a costume. It’s pretty incredible!

Spencer: Finally, one of my colleagues at The Art of Costume raised this question and I thought it was such fun! If you were to perform on The Masked Singer, do you have an idea of what your costume character would look like?

Marina:  Wow, that’s amazing. Wow. 

Spencer:  That’s probably a tough question

Marina: I would be an hourglass because I had lived my whole life on these deadlines and time pressures that every little piece of sand matters.

Spencer:  You know, so many people would relate to that. 

Marina: It’s the first thing that came to mind, I love all the theatrics. I think if I could, I would figure out how to constantly flip myself back and forth to make things happen. Yes, probably an hour-glass, that’s kind of cool. 

Spencer: That’s so cool. I’m obsessed with this idea.

Marina: Now, I don’t know how I could get a person in there. But it would be incredible to flip somebody upside down. Yeah. That’s an incredible question. I never thought about that!

Spencer: Marina, it was so nice getting to catch up with you! I feel like I have learned so much from this! Getting a look at how these costumes are brought to life, such a learning moment.  Congratulations on all of the success. I can’t wait to see what’s next and wishing you the best at this year’s Emmys!

Marina: It means so much to me. For example, after season two when The Ladybug was on the show, I got so many letters from fashion students being so inspired in the research that they are doing and understanding how we are crafting these costumes and making them. I then remembered when I was a student how those are the things I was doing — I was reaching out to my favorite designers and learning, watching, and trying to understand. It’s so cool to me to see what the students are picking up on from what we are producing. People are literally looking at the craftsmanship behind the scenes and the design aspect. That to me is the biggest gift. It feels like the biggest honor. Thank you so much, Spencer!

Follow Marina Toybina on Instagram at @MARINATOYBINA

 The new season of The Masked Singer will premiere Sept. 23 (8 p.m. EDT/PDT). 

A sneak peek of the season will air Sept. 13 (8 p.m. EDT/5 p.m. PDT).

The Grammys 2020 – Best Dressed

Hello everyone! Welcome to yet another A Haute Second with Spencer – Grammys Edition! Wow, what a beautiful – emotional night Sunday was. I mean what is there to say… It’s been a emotional few days for America. Not only do we have to suffer through this incredibly divisive impeachment trail, but now the loss of an icon. My heart goes out to the the family of Kobe and Gianna Bryant, and to the families of all of those that perished in this terrible accident.

Fortunately, last night was proof that music, art, and fashion has the power to bring us all together, and guide us through these dark times. So what do you say, let’s do this thing! We have some Grammys red-carpet fashion to discuss!

Ariana Grande in Giambattista Valli

Ariana Grande is just a literal angel. This Giambattista Valli gown is extraordinary. Now I don’t love the large bunch of fabric connecting the hem to the mid-section. I want to trim it back like a unruly hedge. Aside from that, Ariana looks absolutely flawless. When does she not?

Bebe Rexha in Christian Cowan

I love this Christian Cowan suit on Bebe Rexha. I was so struck by that mesh over her chest, it makes the whole outfit! Sometimes, that is all it takes. A great look for Bebe.

Billie Eilish in Gucci

Well if it isn’t Billie Eilish wearing Gucci! This girl has such dope style. She just rocks it every time, and looks amazing in Gucci. Last night was a great night for Billie, and she deserves it. Congratulations, Best New Artist!

Billy Porter in Baja East

All hail the carpet legend, Billy Porter! Billy Porter wore a custom Baja East look and like, what is there even left to say about Billy? No one is doing it better than Billy Porter right now. I am honored to even exist at the same time as Billy Porter. We stan a legend.

Brittany Howard

Yo! One of my favorite people, Brittany Howard showed up! Brittany has such impeccable style and love this entire look. That fabric is stunning and I am in love with the length. If you haven’t streamed Brittany’s new solo album, Jaime, go do so like right now.

FKA Twigs in Ed Marler

Oh wow okay. The love of my life, FKA Twigs, made a appearance at last night’s Grammys. Not only did she almost kill me with that incredibly choreography, FKA Twigs slayed the red carpet in this Ed Marler gown. I am obsessed and my love for FKA Twigs grows every day. So stunning, I don’t really even have words.


H.E.R. looked extraordinary last night. This print is just fantastic. H.E.R. went on to give yet another fantastic performance on the Grammys stage as well. Let’s be real, who isn’t a fan of H.E.R. at this point.

Lana Del Rey

I love a rare Lana Del Rey sighting! Oh, how I love this dress on her. What makes it even better… Lana purchased this dress at a shopping mall, not long before the awards show. Is Lana Del Rey even real? Lana always looks so exquisite. If I could change one thing, I would maybe let her hair down to one side? I know that’s silly but Lana has some of the best hair in existence. Congratulations on the well deserved Grammy nomination queen!

Lil Nas X in Versace

I love this man! Lil Nas X looks incredible in this all pink Versace look. I mean wow! I can’t stop starting at it. It fits flawlessly. The harness straps are so sexy, and the embellishments are just killer. I am going to text Donatella after this, Versace is just legendary.

Lizzo in Versace

Last but certainly not least, Lizzo wearing Versace! I believe this was my favorite look of the night. Lizzo is just such a ray of light, I was just amazed when I saw her walk down the carpet. This look fits her perfectly. The color looks amazing on her, her hair is laid perfectly. Everything about this is flawless from head to toe.

Finally I would just like to say congratulations to Lizzo as she has had an incredible year and is now a Grammy Award winner. She deserves every second of this spotlight. The world is a better place with this beautiful, positive soul in it.

Top Three Looks of the Night!

So my top three favorite looks of the night have to go to my girl FKA Twigs, Lil Nas X, and Lizzo! I mean, each of these amazing people gave such a unique, stunning look that I I will likely remember forever! Congratulations to each of you for all of the success!

That is it for me everyone! Thank you for joining me. Let me know what your favorite look of the night was in the comments below, Facebook, Twitter, Instagram, at Trader Joes, whatever works for you.

Please remember, life is precious. Love one another. Enjoy life the way you want to enjoy it. Do what you love. Stand up for what you believe in. Life is too short, and can end in an instant. Have a great week!

Diamond in a Rhinestone World: The Costumes of Dolly Parton

The Grammy Museum is “a non-profit organization dedicated to cultivating a greater understanding of the history and significance of music”. Last week, I was invited to the Downtown Los Angeles Grammy Museum for a super special, sneak peek of their fabulous new exhibition.

When I heard about this new exhibition, I literally felt like it was too good to be true. It must be a rumor. Days later, there I was standing in the center of a room covered from carpet to ceiling in Dolly Parton costumes and memorabilia. The Queen of Country’s entire wardrobe had exploded all over this room and I don’t think I could be happier! Let me give you a few of the highlights.

“I probably have thousands of dresses from over the years. I had a hard time letting go of some of my favorites, but I’m excited for them to be included in this exhibit but I can’t wait to see them on display at the GRAMMY Museum!” says Dolly about the museum.

9 to 5 (1980)

As I came up the escalator, the first piece I immediately recognized was the simple yet iconic yellow top and floral skirt Dolly wears in our favorite movie, “9 to 5”. That fact that I was so close to this outfit (basically fogging up the protective glass) was really just a mind-blowing experience. Is this a good time to bring up the need for a “9 to 5” revival?

The Best Little Whorehouse in Texas (1982)

Right around the corner, your attention is immediately demanded by the incredible red ruffle dress. I mean, seriously! It does not get better than this. This dress is so stunning in person. The detail is everywhere, from the ruffle all the way down to the sequins gliding across the floor. This costume is a must-see!

Dollywood Foundation Benefit Concert (2004)

This exhibition includes a few outfits that were worn for the 2004 Dollywood Foundation Benefit Concert. My favorite benefit concert outfit being this purple shirt dress with embroidered ruby red flowers on it.  You can feel the positive, colorful energy of Dolly just by standing near this dress.

Emmy Awards (2017)

Remember the 2017 Emmy Awards and that 9 to 5 reunion gave us all the feels? Well, imagine walking around the corner and seeing that same sparkly white dress in person that Dolly wore. After I blacked out for a few minutes, I stood up and just stared in awe. This dress sparkled so beautifully, I cant even describe it. You have to see this one in person.

Backwoods Barbie Music Video (2008)

The next outfit that caught my eye was the iconic cheetah print dress with the iridescent pink cover-up from the “Backwoods Barbie”. Oh I know you all are singing the song in your head already… “I’m just a backwoods Barbie, too much makeup, too much hair. Don’t be fooled by thinkin’ that the goods are not all there!” Ugh, such a cool set!

Finally, I came upon a set of costumes from the legendary Porter Wagoner Show. Produced in Nashville from 1960-1980, virtually every well known country music performer had appeared over the years on this show. Porter Wagoner introduced the world to a young Dolly Parton as his female co-star from 1967 to 1974. A few of her costumes found their way into this exhibition and I really feel like you should go see them!

There is so much more in this exhibition that I did not show you, mostly because I want you to see it for yourself. Dresses, costumes, instruments, portraits, music videos… it’s all there. If you have ever listened to a Dolly Parton song, seen a Dolly Parton movie… hell, even if you remember seeing Dolly on the Hannah Montana show back in the day, there is something in this exhibition for you.

As the Grammy Museum guides you through the exhibit, you are reminded of what an absolute legend Dolly Parton is and how incredible her touch on this world has been. I absolutely loved this exhibition and I know you will too.

Eight-time GRAMMY® winner, Recording Academy Lifetime Achievement Award recipient, and Oscar-nominated artist Dolly Parton has been widely renowned as not just a music legend, but a fashion icon. To showcase iconic costumes and pieces from her personal archive, the GRAMMY Museum® proudly presents Diamond In A Rhinestone World: The Costumes Of Dolly Parton presented by City National Bank, which will be the first exhibit Parton has had in the United States outside of her Tennessee theme park Dollywood. The exhibit opens to the public on February 5th and will run through March 17.

Follow this link for tickets to “Diamond in a Rhinestone World: The Costumes of Dolly Parton”