Spencer: Hey Team! Thank you so much for being here. There is SO much great costume design in the Outstanding Period Costumes category this year. I also think it is safe to say Period Costumes is the favorite here at The Art of Costume, so I know you all have many thoughts! Let’s go around and talk about your favorites and why! Let’s start with Mariana, a big fan of period costumes!
Mariana: Hi everyone! Well, where to begin? I am a fan of period pieces, and this year’s nominees filled my heart with pure joy. One of my favorites will be The Queen’s Gambit, designed byGabriele Binder. There is so much drama and passion in these costumes, which at the same time are accurate to the time period and work brilliantly for storytelling purposes. I love how Beth’s style transforms through the years and cities she visits and tells us who she really is!
Spencer: Two brilliant choices Mariana! Let’s hear from Candice next.
Candice: I will say typically, Regency-era costumes are not my favorite. However, I was hooked on Bridgerton when the first trailer was released.Ellen Mirojnick and John W. Glaser’s take and designs on the era have made me reconsider my previous opinions on the time frame. I am a HUGE fan of the Featherington Family and their costumes in particular. The bright, bold colors and embellishments drew me in. A close second would be the costumes designed for the Queen.
Speaking of Queens, The Queen’s Gambit’s costumes were beyond words. The subtle nods to chess within the costumes were brilliant while conveying the complicated character’s nuances.
This is such a hard category, Ratched was awe-inspiring, and the show with their costume contest saved Halloween during a pandemic while many were unable to be creative with friends. Halloween is my favorite holiday and the costumes that fans re-created during October last year were a testament to Lou Eyrichs’s talent and storytelling through clothes.
Spencer: Ah yes, Ratched was such a great show. I need it to come back like now… Elizabeth I would love to hear your picks.
Elizabeth: Hello everyone! There were so many good period pieces this year, but I really loved Bridgeton, and the costumes immediately grabbed my attention. The Regency era is a particular favorite of mine, and I loved how Ellen Mirojnick and John W. Glaser truly brought the costumes to life. While the overall style and silhouettes of the costumes remain faithful to the Regency era, the designers fill them with color and embellishments that bring a modern, energetic flare to Bridgeton.
Spencer: Bridgerton and The Queen’s Gambit seem quit popular here! Thank you Elizabeth, now I would love to hear from Csilla!
Csilla: Hey Everyone! It is tough to choose just one from this category; all the shows and their costume designers were terrific! But if I had to choose one, my favorite has to be Ratched. That show had such a brilliant color palette, and the costumes from Lou Eyrich were just stunning. I love the end of the 40s, the beginning of the 50s era, and One Flew Over the Cuckoo’s Nest, so I was excited to see the back story of Nurse Ratched. The aesthetic of the whole show was beautiful but dangerous and scary, and these mixed feelings about the characters were present in every silhouette, even in the uniforms.
My close second favorite is the Queen’s Gambit. I agree with the rest of the team on that completely. Such wonderful designs from Gabriele Binder.
Spencer: Thank you so much Csilla. Well, I guess it’s my turn!
My favorite costumes within this category are easily to Netflix’s Halston, with costumes designed byJeriana San Juan. I fell in love with this show, primarily because of the costuming. She had so much ground to cover, so many decades of research, and brought it all together perfectly. The tie-dye collection, ultra-suede shirt dresses, The Battle of Versailles, Studio 54, Martha Graham’sPersephone – there was so much, and every single costume stood strong. On top of all of the brilliant costuming, Jeriana also worked alongside actor Ewan McGregor to teach him the ways of the designer, coaching him through the process of becoming Halston.
This is Jeriana’s year in my opinion, but I am still in love with every other nominated show in this category – literally, all of them were amazing. It’s a tough call!
Thank you all so much for joining me! I can’t wait to see how this all plays out!
Spencer: Hey Team! Thank you so much for being here. There is SO much great costume design in the Outstanding Fantasy/Sci-Fi Costumes category this year. On a personal note, this is always my favorite category, so I am just beyond excited. Let’s go around and talk about your favorites, and why! Let’s start with Candice!
Candice: I loved Lovecraft Country. Dayna Pink’s costumes are genius. It was the only reason I paid for an HBO subscription.
WandaVision was another favorite of mine. I usually am not a fan of the ’70s, but I am obsessed with Geraldine’s 70’s ensemble from episode 3. However, I loved it even more after listening toSpencer and Elizabeth’s podcast. I never noticed the subtle hints through costume when I watched it each week. I had many “Oh My, how did I miss that” moments when listening to the podcast.
Umbrella Academyis a top favorite of mine. The oddball characters were brilliantly executed. I need every costume designed for Kate Walsh, the Handler, in my closet now. Christopher Hargadondid a great job!
Spencer: Candice, I couldn’t agree more. All of your picks were so fun! Now I would love to hear from Elizabeth. You and I share a great love for Fantasy/Sci-Fi! What were some of your favorites this year?
Elizabeth: Hey everyone! My personal favorite this year has to be WandaVision. While it’s not a classic Sci-Fi show in visual terms, the costumes in WandaVision help tell a complex story of how we process grief. In its nominated episode, Filmed Before a Live Studio Audience, Wanda is in the denial stage of her grief and is creating her idealized version of the perfect 1950’s sitcom. The costumes are soft with full fluffy skirts, frilly aprons, and feathery lingerie create a cocoon for Wanda, sheltering her from her grief. Mayes C. Rubeo truly turns emotions into costume and I love that about WandaVsion.
Spencer: Such a great point Elizabeth. WandaVision was filled with so much symbolism.
For me, I am a HUGE fan of Dayna Pink and her work on Lovecraft Country. This was by far one of my favorite shows of the year, and I thought Dayna did such an incredible job. Dayna not only mastered the 1950’s period costume, but she also had to work with lots of time traveling – exploring the 1920’s, The Korean War, The Kingdom of Dahomey, and the future! Not to mention all of the horror elements that led to much aging and dyeing of costumes. I would personally love to see Dayna win this year’s award.
Spencer: Thank you both for joining me! Before you go, do you have any good sci-fi /fantasy shows or films to recommend?
Candice: I recommend and loved The Nevers. It is period mixed with SciFi. The Victorian-inspired costumes and setting are as intriguing as the storyline. I want to rewatch The Witcher before the premiere of Season 2. I love Motherland: Fort Salem on Free Form. The story of witches is told from a different angle, witch militia, working with the military and against other witches. Stranger Things season 1-3 if you haven’t watched it and have to wait an eternity like the rest of us for the next season. I am currently watching and enjoying Fantasy Island. Each guest who visits the island learns the fantasy they want is different than what they need.
Elizabeth: I can not recommend Doom Patrol enough! It’s SciFi and superheroes dialed to a hundred with a great balance of comedy and drama. Also, the costumes are diverse and interesting in every episode. Spencer: If you are not watching What We Do In The Shadows, you are seriously missing out. The new season is out, and costume designer Laura Montgomery is doing a fabulous job! Check it out!
Vote For Your Favorite Fantasy/Sci-Fi Costumes Below!
Spencer: Hey Team! Thank you so much for being here. There is SO much excellent costume design in the Outstanding Contemporary Costumes category this year. I honestly have no idea which way the award will go; everyone here is so deserving! Before I start blabbing on, let’s go around and talk about your favorites and why! Let’s start with Jada!
Jada: Hi everybody! I’m so excited to be here. I agree; despite the obstacles faced this past year, contemporary costume design has flourished! I’m not sure who’s going to win either, but there were so many that caught my eye.
One of my favorites would be bBlack-ish! I love this show and have always resonated with the costumes because they are so colorful and lively, similar to my personal style. I’m also a huge pop culture fan, and costume designer Michelle Cole does a great job portraying those references in her work!
I also adored Analucia McGorty’s work on Pose. Similar to black-ish, the costumes are exuberant. They tell a story and are full of character and personality. From angel wings and roses to fringes and feathers, it’s impossible not to love them!
Euphoria is excellent as always. Heidi Bivens captures Gen Z perfectly and manages to stay on top of trends and set new ones simultaneously.
And lastly, The Politician stood out to me because of its unique take on business-wear. Business attire in the political climate can be monotonous, but Claire Parkinson introduced pastels, neons, and bold patterns.
Spencer: Jada, you and I tend to favorite the same shows and today was no exception. Now I would love to hear from Candice. You are quite a fan of contemporary costuming! What were some of your favorites this year?
Candice: I am excited about this category because they are all great and different. Michelle Cole is brilliant, and I still stand by what I said last year; I wish I were as cool as her and the characters she designs. I also loved The Politician and how their costumes and the evolution from season 1 to 2.
Hacks was also great. I loved the patterns, sparkle, and KathleenFelix-Hager’s take on luxury leisure. The costumes throughout could have easily stolen the scenes, but instead, they added additional layers to the character Deborah, played by Jean Smart.
I would say, though, that I am particularly excited about Meghan Kasperlik’s costumes in Mare of Easttown (which also stars Jean Smart). I think costumes in shows like Mare of Easttown are often overlooked when it comes to awards for costumes.
Spencer: All brilliant choices! I have to say, this is such a strong category. I have so many favorites. Quite difficult, really! However, I am abig fan of Analucia McGorty and her work on Pose. Pose was such a monumental, groundbreaking show and Analucia understood the assignment. Every costume was so detailed and fully realized. She brought the 80’s/90s ballroom scene to life, giving this story such color and vibrancy – while also delivering on a very important message that ever human on Earth should hear.
At the same time, I just love Michelle Cole. Her work on black-ish has been remarkable, and the episode “Our Wedding Dre” was just so beautiful. I would love to see her take the Emmy! It’s long overdue!
A surprise to me was Mare of Easttown. At first sight, the costumes might seem a bit drab. But once I started to watch the show, I realized how brilliant a storyteller costume designer Meghan Kasperlik was. She brought such a feeling of authenticity to these characters and this setting. I was so impressed and it reminded how much power contemporary costume design really has in terms of storytelling. Brilliant work!
Spencer: Thank you both for joining me. Before you leave, any tv show recommendations?
Jada: Thank you for having us. I enjoyed this discussion! On top of these brilliant shows, there are a few I’d love to share. If you’re into drama, I’d recommend watching A Million Little Things, This Is Us, and Rebel. A Million Little Things is incredibly heartwarming as it follows a group of friends while they deal with life after losing their friend. This Is Us is beautifully written and it centers around the Pearson family as they deal with the loss of their father.And Rebel, even though it was unfortunately canceled, served as a symbol of women’s empowerment and inspired so many people, including me, to stand up for others and fight for justice.
Of course, if you like romance and/or reality television, I highly suggest watching the Bachelor Franchise, including The Bachelor, The Bachelorette, and the Bachelor in Paradise. They’re all filled with drama, never-ending surprises, and unforgettable moments. And you can join Bachelor Nation on Twitter as we share memes and tweet all night long when the episodes air!
Candice: I agree with Jada; I loved the Rebel. I watched too much TV and could probably talk for hours about recommendations, but Cruel Summer was a stand out. Costume DesignerTaneia Lednicky’s 90s costumes were terrific. The story covers three different summers and how the characters changed from 93, 94, and 95. Those transitions appear effortless in every episode.
While I am still upset that The Bold Type completed its final season, I recommend it for anyone who hasn’t watched. However, I couldn’t imagine a more perfect Costume Designer, Mandi Line, to complete the final season. I am also a huge fan of Salvador Perez, so season 2 of Never Have I Ever is also on my recommendation list.
Spencer: Well Ill be honest, my favorite show right now is Naked and Afraid XL… so I guess there aren’t a lot of costumes. Thank you all for joining me!
Vote For Your Favorite Contemporary Costumes Below!
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.
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.
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?
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.
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.
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 Balmaindress 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.
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!
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 seriesMare 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
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.
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.
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!
I am so beyond excited to share with you all the complete 2021 Emmy Nominations – Outstanding Costumes list. There is so much talent within this list, including many great friends of The Art of Costume! Congratulations to all of the talented costume designers, assistant costume designers, costume supervisors, and the countless crewmembers worldwide that helped bring these brilliant projects come to life.
Tune in Sunday, September 19 for the 73rd Emmy Awards hosted by Cedric the Entertainer on CBS and Paramount+.
2021 Emmy Nominations – Outstanding Costumes
Outstanding Fantasy/Sci-Fi Costumes
The Handmaid’s Tale • Nightshade • Hulu • Hulu, MGM, Daniel Wilson Productions, The Littlefield Company, White Oak Pictures Debra Hanson, Costume Designer Jane Flanders, Costume Supervisor Darci Cheyne, Assistant Costume Designer
Lovecraft Country • I Am. • HBO • HBO in association with afemme, Monkeypaw, Bad Robot, and Warner Bros. Television
Just like that, The 2020 Emmys have passed. This, of course, was an event like never before, and even still, what a great program! Between the live streaming of the Creative Arts Emmys and the live broadcast on Sunday, I really enjoyed it. I believe the Emmys production team deserves so much credit.
We now know our four winners! Let’s take a look at the Emmy winning costume designers between the four categories, OutstandingPeriod Costumes, OutstandingFantasy/Sci-Fi Costumes, OutstandingContemporary Costumes, and Outstanding Costumes For A Variety, Nonfiction Or Reality Program!
OutstandingPeriod Costumes – The Crown•Costume Designer: Amy Roberts
I am so excited to see The Crown being honored once again for the incredible costume design. Amy Roberts took home the award last week for Outstanding Period Costumes. I am a huge fan of the costume design work for The Crown. The costumes are representative of the time period, following the lines of historical accuracy. Yet, the costume design team found many ways to breathe new life into these characters- making the show feel modern and fresh throughout the season. Congratulations!
Left Bank Pictures in association with Sony Pictures Television. Amy Roberts, Costume Designer. Sidonie Roberts, Assistant Costume Designer. Sarah Moore, Costume Supervisor
OutstandingFantasy/Sci-Fi Costumes – Watchmen•Costume Designer: Sharen Davis
Watchmen received a lot of honors at this year’s Emmy awards, and rightfully so! Sharen Davis was presented with this year’s Outstanding Fantasy/Sci-Fi Costumes award! Watchmen lead the way with fascinating comic-book-inspired characters, bold colors, and innovative silhouettes. The costumes are one of the most fascinating parts of this show, and I am so happy for the Watchmen team in receiving this great honor!
HBO Entertainment in association with White Rabbit, Paramount Television, Warner Bros. Television & DC Comics. Sharen Davis, Costume Designer. Valerie Zielonka, Costume Supervisor
Oh boy! I have been acting like a disgruntled pelican ever since we received the news about the Schitt’s Creek win! The first sign of the now-famous “Schitt’s Sweep”! This is one of my all-time favorite shows and I am so happy for Debra Hanson, Darci Cheyne, and the entire Schitt’s Creek cast and crew for this incredible win. This show changed my life for the better and it is only fitting that the final season is given a send-off as incredible as this sweep.
Not A Real Company Productions, Inc. Debra Hanson, Costume Designer. Darci Cheyne, Assistant Costume Designer
Outstanding Costumes For A Variety, Nonfiction Or Reality Program –
The Masked Singer •Costume Designer: Marina Toybina
Last but certainly not least, we have The Masked Singer. Marina Toybina took home this year’s Outstanding Costumes For A Variety, Nonfiction Or Reality Program award. Such a deserving award. The costumes of The Masked Singer are stunning. At a glance, these costumes are fun, bright, energetic, and inspiring. Yet, the costumes are also so incredibly complex and push the costume design team to constantly challenge themselves. I am such a fan honestly. If you missed my interview with thecostume designer, Marina Toybina, follow this link now!
FOX Alternative Entertainment Studios. Marina Toybina, Costume Designer. Grainne O’Sullivan, Costume Supervisor. Gabrielle Letamendi, Assistant Costume Designer. Candice Rainwater, Assistant Costume Designer
That’s a wrap! Congratulations one last time to all of the winners and nominees. Most of all, thank you to all of our readers for following along with us throughout the Emmys season! Stay safe everyone, wear a mask, and don’t forget to VOTE.
Spencer: Hi everyone! Thank you for being here. Congratulations on joining The Art of Costume team! With everything considered, It’s been an excellent year for costume design – specifically in the world of television. The Emmys are right around the corner and there are so many excellent designers nominated within the costume design categories. I know I can speak for all of us when I say each and every one of these designers are incredibly talented and all just as deserving of an Emmy this year. First I would like to hear from each of you why you wanted to join the team and have there been any shows this year that have left an impression on you? Csilla, why don’t you go first?
Csilla: Thank you, Spencer. I am currently studying costume design, and I wanted to join the team to be among other like-minded people and share our love of costume. Euphoria has been on my mind ever since I first watched it. The whole concept and visual world of the series feel very close to my heart. Unorthodox hits on a different emotional level. I spent the first few minutes concentrating just on the costumes of the show. I was uncertain what period this story was taking place in, and it made the whole concept of the isolation so striking. The wedding scene was so beautiful, uncomfortable, and terrifying to watch. I am a huge fan of both of these series.
Spencer: I totally agree with you Csilla. Especially when it comes to Euphoria-that show was so good I still find myself thinking about the costumes, colors, makeup, music… everything! Elizabeth, how about you?
Elizabeth: I studied costume design in college and I also joined the Art of Costume team to share my love and admiration for costumes with others. This year’s nominees are incredible; there were three that stood out to me, The Marvelous Mrs. Maisel, Carnival Row, and Unorthodox. The costumes brought you into worlds that we don’t typically see or create a new one in Carnival Row’s case.
Spencer: It’s so good to have you with us Elizabeth. Candice, turning it over to you.
Candice: I have always loved costume design and used to scrapbook every magazine article about costume designers I would come across. I wanted to join the team to share my love of costume design, like Csilla, with like-minded people. Schitt’s Creek was amazing and as I re-watch the series I fall in love with the costumes even more. Carnival Row was visually stunning and while watching that series, I remember just saying out loud to myself just how much I loved the costumes each episode. The episode from Killing Eve that was nominated was my favorite episode in terms of costumes from the entire season. Of course, I also want to recreate every look from the Marvelous Mrs. Maisel.
Spencer: I couldn’t agree with you more when it comes to Schitt’s Creek, but we will get into that a little later! Last but not least, Jada I would love to hear from you.
Jada: It’s so important to surround yourself with people who can challenge and push you to try new things and be the best that you can be. That is what The Art of Costume does! I’ve learned so much from the team and can’t wait to see what’s in store. My connection to costume design is that it’s been a part of me ever since I was younger. I went from making my own Halloween costumes to being on the theater costume crew. Ironically this has been a great year for television especially since most of us have been quarantining and were able to binge-watch so many series over the last few months. Even though I haven’t seen some of the shows nominated, the costumes from Euphoria, The Marvelous Mrs. Maisel, Pose, and Schitt’s Creek has definitely left me intrigued and wanting to binge all of them!
Spencer: Thank you Jada, and thank you to all of you for being here. I can’t tell you how happy I am to be having this discussion with each of you. We really have created a great team, and I am so thrilled about our future together. Well, let’s get started then! We are going to go through each of the four costume design award categories. First, let’s talk about the Outstanding Period Costumes category. What a fabulous lineup of shows! The Crown, Hollywood, The Marvelous Mrs. Maisel, Mrs.America, and Pose. Any thoughts?
Elizabeth: I started and finished The Marvelous Mrs. Maisel this year and couldn’t believe I had waited so long to watch it. The story of Midge Maisel trying to shake conventions of the fifties to live her own life is fascinating and engaging, but the costumes bring you into her world. With many period pieces, the costumes can act as props to tell you when and where you are. But with Mrs. Maisel, the costumes are a huge part of what brings you into her world with eye-catching designs and bright colors that tell you everything you need to know about that scene and the characters in it.
Candice: I loved the Old Hollywood take on the 1940’s costumes in Hollywood. The color palettes and silhouettes of the era that were used made the entire season visually stunning. The attention to detail on recreating as close as possible the historic events that are infused into the story-line as well as designing the fictional narratives still staying true to the era and glamour of that time. The ’70s is usually my least favorite era, but the costumes in Mrs. America have made me reconsider that particular stance.
Jada: Although I haven’t seen The Marvelous Mrs. Maisel I have read about it, including Candice’s article on the costume design, and must I say that the costumes are absolutely marvelous! The 1950s-1960s era of fashion is hands down my favorite era of all time and Donna Zakowska does a fantastic job of bringing that to this show. I love how the costumes are so vibrant and lively. You can really tell how much thought and creativity goes into each one of the looks.
Spencer: Lots of love for Donna Zakowska and The Marvelous Mrs. Maisel in this group. I love it! Personally, I had two favorites this year, The Crown and Pose. I thought the costumes for The Crown this season were just incredible. Amy Roberts did a wonderful job. I can go on and on about the perfection that was the wardrobe for Helena Bonham Carter as Princess Margaret. I think that was the best part of the whole show honestly! Then, of course, I love Pose. Analucia McGorty blew me away once again with the costumes for Pose. They remain true to the NYC Ballroom scene of the early ’90s, yet they always feel new, exciting, couture, and inspiring.
Now it’s time for the Outstanding Fantasy/Sci-Fi Costumes, my personal favorite. Carnival Row, The Mandalorian, Westworld, The Handmaid’s Tale, and Watchmen. Does anyone have any favorites?
Elizabeth: With Carnival Row, being an original screenplay with no source material to compare it to, costume designer Joanna Eatwell helped create a whole new world. The look is entirely original with rich colors and attention to unique details while still grounded in reality with silhouettes influenced by late-Victorian and Edwardian fashion.
Candice: I agree with Elizabeth. I loved Carnival Row’s mix of period pieces and fantasy. It did a great job of cohesively blending the designs and species of the characters. When it is a fantasy show, you do not have to be historically accurate in the period pieces used and I love how they incorporated the Edwardian Fashions. The Handmaid’s Tale’s costumes evoke such strong emotions with the colors and design.
Jada: I spent most of my childhood time playing Stars Wars Battlefront with my cousin. With that being said The Mandalorian would have been one of my top choices, but I’m going to go with The Handmaid’s Tale. I love how iconic the red cape look is. There’s so much research that goes into the costumes in this show to display the character’s emotions. Even the smallest of details add so much meaning.
Spencer: Jada we totally got to link up and play some Star Wars Battlefront sometime. I am the best pilot in Pasadena *laughs*. This category is also another hard one. I am undecided once again, between Westworld and The Handmaid’s Tale. Shay Cunliffe had the incredible task of not only dressing a futuristic, more fashionable world- she also had to turn back time and develop costumes for an entire simulated world based upon Nazi-occupied Italy during World War II. From beginning to end, the costumes for Westworld are just…beyond. Then there is The Handmaid’s Tale, designed by one of my favorites, Natalie Bronfman. The costumes of The Handmaid’s Tale are imperative to the story. I love the costumes for this show so much because they are so symbolic, through their silhouettes, colors, textures. The Handmaid’s Tale serves as a masterclass when it comes to storytelling through costume design.
Moving on to Outstanding Contemporary Costumes. This is the most packed category of them all in my opinion. Euphoria, black-ish, Grace and Frankie, Schitt’s Creek, Killing Eve, Unorthodox, and The Politician. I mean, there are so many good shows!
Csilla: For me, Euphoria stood out the most. There was an amazing collaboration between the costume and makeup department, they truly created something unique and the whole show played on a different, fresh perspective. The stories of these teenagers were beautifully present through the evolution of their styles. I really enjoyed this stylized version of contemporary fashion. I loved every frame of that show, so fingers crossed for them!
Elizabeth: Every nominee in this category is incredible. However, the costumes of Unorthodox caught my eye immediately. With so much of the story taking place within a New York City Hasidic community where the way of life is vastly different from most viewers. While it could be hard to bring people into that world without exposition; however, Unorthodox manages to do just that. The costume is a huge part of this, with no detail of the community’s stringent dress code or its religious significance overlooked. This accuracy tells you immediately who the people in this community are and what is important to them.
Candice: This is a hard category for me because I loved the brilliance of Schitt’s Creek and how the costumes truly defined the characters. Unorthodox allowed us to see into a community that we normally would not be allowed access. The details that went into making sure that the Hasidic Jewish community was represented correctly while still working to convey a visually compelling story is a true testament to the costume designer’s talent. I love the character’s costumes in Grace and Frankie and how each one has their own distinct style but they still blend together in this hodge-podge of a group that wouldn’t normally gather together except for their circumstance and family. The Politician truly redefined the “Power Suit”. Black-ish is iconic and whenever I watch the series, it makes me wish I could be as cool as costume designer, Michelle R. Cole, and the characters she designs.
Jada: This category is so hard because each show brings something new and interesting to the table. Black-ish introduces heavy topics yet always brings comedic relief. Lily Tomlin and Jane Fonda’s chemistry in Grace and Frankie is everything I need and more! However, my vote goes to Euphoria. I love the idea that Euphoria challenges societal norms in fashion. The costumes are so aesthetically pleasing with a striking balance between fantasy/illusion and contemporary design. You can’t forget the makeup looks! They’re so bold yet deep and convey messages about each character’s feelings and personalities.
Spencer: Okay I can hardly wait to talk about Schitt’s Creek. Schitt’s Creek is one is of my favorite shows. The costumes play a large role in that choice. Debra Hanson, the costume designer for Schitt’s Creek, has such an eye and really brought these fascinating characters to life. I am such a fan, and I personally would love to see the finale season of this show celebrated at the Emmys. I also want to mention costume designers Claire and Lily Parkinson who served as costume designers for The Politician. I will forever be obsessed with the colorful wardrobe created for this show, specifically for characters Dede Standish and Hadassah Gold (Judith Light and Bette Midler). They deserve awards for those costumes alone! Finally, Euphoria was beyond fantastic. The costume design of Euphoria by Heidi Bivens captured the street style trends of today’s youth so perfectly. Years from now when e are looking back at this time, we will refer to Euphoria to explore fashion trends of the decade and I assume these costumes will be setting trends for the years to come.
Finally, let’s move into the OutstandingCostumes For A Variety, Nonfiction Or Reality Program. This category includes Dancing With The Stars, Drunk History, The Masked Singer, RuPaul’s Drag Race, and Saturday Night Live.
Jada: I’ve watched Dancing with the Stars and Saturday Night Live ever since I was young. I love how fun, expressive, and representative Rupaul’s Drag Race is. One of the major parts of the show is the costumes, which makes it an even tougher decision. But if I had to choose, I would vote for The Masked Singer. The time and effort put into each and every one of these one-of-a-kind costumes is extraordinary. Plus the ability to make each of the costumes ready to perform in takes a lot of talent. Their hard work has definitely paid off.
Candice: It is truly fascinating, how the Dancing with the Stars’ costume designers can create such beautiful costumes that have to work on a dance / technical level in such a short period of time and how those costumes perfectly convey the contestants’ themes before a note of music or dance step is even performed. However, I did love Drunk History’s episode Fame, as it was one of my favorite episodes. The simplistic design of the unitard costume representing, Masterpiece, the poodle, worn by Ken Marino, and the Catwoman scene was comedic gold.
Spencer: I always have a special place in my heart for RuPaul’s Drag Race and the work of Zaldy Goco. However, this year I have to agree with Jada on this one. Marina Toybina’s costume design work for The Masked Singer is beyond impressive. So much work goes into these costumes. These characters that Marina has had to make are so creative and innovative, then she takes these unique ideas and turns them into fully functional performance-based costumes. So much technology is infused within them. The textiles are extravagant. Everything about these costumes just brings me such joy. I am in awe and I think it would be so deserving of Marina to take home the Emmy this year.
Well, team, this has been so fun! Thank you again for joining me. I am so blessed to have you all apart of the team, and I look forward to the great work we will do together. Most of all, thank you to the readers for following along with us. We are beyond thrilled for all of these talented costume designers and are cheering on each and every designer nominated this year. See you all at The Emmys!
While taking a look at the Costume Design & Supervision nominees for the Emmy Awards this year, I was stunned by how genuinely excellent costuming has been this past year. All twenty-two nominees across the four categories are incredible examples of how costume design is integral to creating the characters and worlds we love to escape into. There was nothing to not like, from the bright, bold, and energetic costumes of The Marvelous Mrs. Maisal to the subdued, stark surrealism of the Handmaids Tale. This also got me thinking, who were the costume design nominees for the first Emmy’s? Where they all as excellent as this year and who won? To find the answer, I visited the Television Academy’s list of all the Emmy nominees and winners of the last 72 years, scrolled down to the first awards in 1949, and found nothing. I thought ok, television was just getting started in the forties surly by 1950 it should be a category. Again I found nothing. So I went through each year until I found the very first-year Costume Design was a category of the awards.
At the 18th Primetime Emmy awards in 1966, the first two tv shows to be recognized for their costume design were nominated under the category, ‘Individual Achievements in Art Direction and Allied Crafts – Costume Design.’ The nominees were The Hollywood Palace on ABC with costume design by Ed Smith, and Danny Thomas’ The Wonderful World of Burlesque: Second Edition on NBC with costume design by Ray Aghayan and Bob Mackie. Unlike today where most nominees are from scripted dramas or comedies, both The Hollywood Palace and The Wonderful World of Burlesque were variety shows.
The Hollywood Palace, nominated for its second season, was an hour-long program hosted by a different celebrity every week. Each week the host and other guests would perform multiple musical numbers and sketches unique to that week. Needless to say, there was a lot for Smith to keep up with. For example, in episode 20, Smith had to design two large musical numbers. The first number was for host George Burns called History of the Dance, where he sings about several decades of dance trends. Each dancer was dressed to represent a different decade of dance in the song.
In the second number, Connie Stevens performs, Married I can always get. She is accompanied by an ensemble of bridesmaids and groomsmen dressed and ready for a wedding. Stevens wears a beautiful tea-length dress that takes her from a wedding guest reluctant to get married herself, to become the bride of her own wedding effortlessly. Another stand out from the season was episode 19, when the Harlem Globetrotters visited to play the Palace ‘Dribblers’, a team comprised of that night’s celebrity guests. For the match, Smith designed custom basketball uniforms for the home team and a chic jumpsuit for Connie Stevens as she played referee. These are just a fraction of examples from the 35 episodes season. With such a high volume and quality being delivered weekly, it’s easy to understand why Ed Smith was honored with a nomination.
Danny Thomas’ The Wonderful World of Burlesque, nominated for its second edition, was also a verity show hosted by Danny Thomas with guest stars Jerry Lewis, Shirley Jones, and Lucille Ball. While the designs by Ray Aghayan and Bob Mackie are excellent in each sketch, it is the second skit, a parody of “White Cargo,” that really stands out. In this sketch, the costumes really do their job, letting you know exactly who each character is. Lewis and Thomas look the part of quintessential 19th-century English explorers while Ball is dressed to the nines as the “temptress.”
However, the night’s truly unique look was a ballet costume designed by Bob Mackie for Lucille Ball’s slapstick burlesque routine. As Ball hilariously stumbles through the performance, Mackie’s beautiful butterfly inspired costume provides the perfect foil to her actions. It is also essential to the performance, with the removal of the detachable wings are a huge part of the routine. Ray Aghayan and Bob Mackie character-defining costumes that genuinely add to every performance earning them the nomination
With each of these shows equally matched in 1966, the Emmy for Individual Achievements in Art Direction and Allied Crafa – Costume Design wasn’t awarded to either nominee. I couldn’t find out why there wasn’t a winner only that it wasn’t uncommon. In the early years of the awards, occasionally, categories only had nominees no winners. While my question of who the first nominees were had been answered, I still didn’t know who the first winner was. Thankfully I didn’t need to go far to find the answer. The first Emmy from costume design was awarded in 1967 to Ray Aghayan and Bob Mackie for their work on the 1966 TV movie adaptation of Lewis Caroll’sAlice Through the Looking Glass on NBC.
The costumes designed by Agheyan and Mackie bring the fantastical world of Lewis Carroll’s Wonderland to life, with an infusion of the mod style popular during the 60s. This mixture of current fashion was a departure from the usual Victorian-inspired designs reflective of when the books were first published. This creates a unique look for the movie and helps make distinctions between Wonderland and Alice’s world. Wonderland’s fantasy is evident in the design of red and white, kings, and queens. Their costumes are lavishly designed and over the top, bringing Wonderland’s whimsy to the screen as soon as they appear. In contrast, Alice’s simple mod-inspired look makes it apparent that she doesn’t belong in Wonderland. Since it’s never clear if Alice is dreaming, all the other characters are designed with a mix of mod and whimsical elements, creating the possibility that she imagining everything.
For the movie, the costumes were essential to telling the story and creating the world because the set design was minimal. This may be because it looks as if it was performed and shot in a theater. Aghayan and Mackie’s designs were genuinely worthy of the honor for bringing Lewis Carroll’s world alive in such a unique way. In addition to being the first winner of the costume design award, Alice Through the Looking Glass was the only program nominated for costume design in 1967.
I didn’t expect costume design to appear as a category so late in Emmy’s history; however, it’s first nominees and the winner did not disappoint. The Hollywood Palace and Danny Thomas’ The Wonderful World of Burlesque, this glitzy, celebrity-filled verity show created new unique designs every week, earning them the first nominations. To the fantastical skeptical of Alice Through the Looking Glass, that brought new life to the classic story. These designs by Ed Smith, Ray Agheyan, and Bob Mackie helped set the bar for excellence in costume design for television that every year designers surpass and set higher.
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!