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Tag Archives: House of Cards

TV Costume Designer Secrets Revealed at Vulture’s First Festival

29 May

Costume designers from some of the shows TV Ate My Wardrobe covers extensively took part in a panel at the inaugural Vulture festival a few weeks ago and it is about time a roundtable like discussion went beyond just the actors, directors and writers. It is a discussion I have been highly anticipating and it doesn’t disappoint as the costume designers talk about their process and the shows they work on in an insightful and detailed manner.

The panel consists of Lyn Paolo (ScandalShameless), Jenn Rogien (GirlsOrange is the New Black), Jenny Gering (The Americans) and Tom Broecker (SNLHouse of Cards). Scandal and The Americans are two shows we cover extensively on an episode-by-episode basis and Girls is another TAMW regular. We’re also pretty excited that season 2 of OITNB lands on Netflix in just over a week!

Vulture Festival costume designersA variety of genre, time period and socioeconomic situations provide the backdrops these costume designers work on. One of them has to deal with a live show and the parameters for that are very different from working on a pre-filmed comedy. Live TV is generally chat show based which is all about wardrobe rather than costume design, not SNL where a sketch can get changed at the last minute and Broeker’s 20 years working on the show has informed how he handles these quick turnarounds. Time constraints are something all panelists have to work with as scripts can come in very late; Lyn Paolo mentions this can be as late as the night before on Scandal, so she preps a lot ahead of time.

One important aspect they all agree on is what is on the page is the biggest influence and it is the writing that informs their design process. Sometimes this can be incredibly vague and Jenny Gering mentions how the disguise descriptions on The Americans are often sparse in detail. The disguises are not meant to call attention, they should be invisible and this is part of the reason why it will say “generic bureaucrat” and nothing more. As it’s a period show, costume helps establish time and place without distracting from the story they are telling. It’s why their version of the 80s is not about the big trends, especially on the adults as this wouldn’t be how a regular mom in 1982 would dress and especially one who is trying to fit in. Gering goes on to talk about the evolution of Paige and how as a 13/14 year old girl this is a very transitional period in her life where she wants to look older and be taken seriously. In the season finale while they are on their impromptu mini-vacation Paige very much looks like a mini version of her mother in similar sweaters and heeled boots; the slight tightening of her clothes/heel addition reflects her desire to look older.

Evolution of a character through costume is something all the panelists talk about and Jenn Rogien mentions color palette and silhouette changes over the three seasons of Girls. Shoshanna started with a very feminine shape and cosmetic color scheme of blush pinks and pastels, in season 2 yellow and purple were added and by the third year she has graduated to stronger color and way more black. Shoshanna has become more aware of her body and so her very feminine style has been altered in response to this sexual awakening. Silhouette and color reflect how the “emotional landscape” has either become looser or tighter. Marnie has relaxed over the seasons and so her costuming reflects this. It might explain the beanie.

Rogien has a lot more restriction on how she portrays character evolution on Orange is the New Black as everyone pretty much wears the same thing and the prison uniform reflects the loss of identity through the khaki color and baggy fit. Some characters have altered their uniform, but only the ones who would have the ability or inclination to do so and Sophia is an example of this as her khakis are a lot more fitted and feminine.

On Scandal Abby and Quinn’s style has shifted the most from where it was in the pilot; Abby fell in love and so there’s less structure and Paolo uses lighter fabrics on this character now – all those scarves and wrap dresses I love – with Quinn as she’s got darker so has her attire. Some of these shifts aren’t meant to be all that apparent and it can act on a subliminal level. With Olivia Pope we associate the color white with her wardrobe and as Paolo points out Olivia doesn’t wear all white all that often. Gray is her staple and the reason we remember the white is because these outfits tend to come at heightened moments like the amazing Burberry trench from the season 3 premiere.

The absence of costume is discussed and nude scenes take place on most of these shows; it hadn’t occurred to me before watching this panel that the costume designer would play a pivotal role in this process. This even includes being the one who tells an actor how much skin they are showing. On OITNB they have had to come up with inventive ways to solve their modesty cover issues as a lot of their nude scenes occur in the shower room and water/adhesive don’t work well together. They also have to think about clothes coming off during sex scenes so while on Scandal you might want that top to come off with ease, on Girls or Shameless the more awkward this undressing act the better.

It’s an incredibly insightful and fun conversation, to watch the whole thing (and I’d highly recommend it) head over to Vulture.

 

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Hollywood Reporter’s 2013 Drama Actress Roundtable

30 May

It’s the time of year when The Hollywood Reporter produces Emmy related TV roundtable discussions and while the quality of the conversations varies, the drama actress one is always lively and is generally my favourite of the bunch. Once again they have a group of women from shows that cover both network and cable, with the added new platform of Netflix to discuss their roles on TV, the industry and their past experiences. This year the participants are Monica Potter (Parenthood), Kerry Washington (Scandal), Kate Mara (House of Cards), Connie Britton (Nashville), Anna Gunn (Breaking Bad) and Elisabeth Moss (Mad MenTop of the Lake).

Hollywood reporter cover

The nature of this kind of roundtable discussion means that some candid remarks are made, but the participants are also guarded as they tell stories of bad experiences but don’t fill in all of the details. Monica Potter discusses her first post-baby audition where she was considered “too fat” for the role and body image is a topic that comes up more than once (I’m intrigued as to whether the guys will cover this area, doubtful but you never know as Hollywood has body issues with both genders). Elisabeth Moss rightly mentions that “It’s not just actresses, it’s all women. We all have this perception of what we’re supposed to look like.”

Expectations of how an actress should look comes up later but in a different way as they mention the backhanded compliments that people give such as they look “younger/skinnier” in real life. So don’t ever say this, it’s bad. This is part of the notion of intimacy between the viewer and the characters that come into our living rooms on a weekly basis and how the relationship is different between movies and TV; there is an investment in TV that doesn’t exist in the same way as in movies that generally have a beginning, a middle and end (depending on how long running the franchise is).

One aspect that I enjoy about these discussions is how they try to dispel the idea that everyone hates each other and it’s a relentless competition; while I’m sure there are those factions they make a point of mentioning how supportive actresses can be. Monica Potter mentions that having successful women on TV “should be fun and celebrated” and Connie Britton reiterates this by saying that “It’s a lot more fun if you can share stories and make friends, and be in it together with people as opposed to if you isolate yourself.”

Several topics are covered including other audition woes (Kerry Washington talks about the lack of roles for women of color), social media, political involvement and if they contribute to the creative process of their character. One thing I would like to see with these roundtables is a change in some of the questions as I feel like the best advice/worst advice comes up every single time. The penultimate question is a fun one as they are asked if they could be on any show in history what would it be? I love that both Kate Mara and Elisabeth Moss geek out over My So-Called Life (and earlier Moss is very open about her love of Parenthood).

With any group discussion there are always some participants that are more vocal than the rest but at no point does it feel like one person is railroading the conversation. Elisabeth Moss comes across as very funny, something we don’t get to see that often on Mad Men and Connie Britton seems as wise as Tami Taylor. This is definitely a group of women I would like to go for drinks with.

Watch the whole interview below and head over to The Hollywood Reporter for behind the scenes photos of the group. The monochromatic styling of the cover is on trend and I much prefer this more casual approach they over last year’s gown affair. In unsurprising news I really want to find out the shades/brands of lipstick they are wearing (especially Elisabeth Moss’).

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