Emmy-nominated period costume designers unzip their behind-the-scenes secrets
The designers from The Marvelous Mrs. Maisel, Pose, Hollywood, and Mrs. America discuss their nominated work on PeopleTV's Couch Surfing.
There’s so much more to costume design than just a passion for fashion. And in these recent episodes of PeopleTV’s Couch Surfing, five of the artists who picked up Emmy nominations for Outstanding Period Costume Design this year break down how they brought four decades of the 20th century America to life on the small screen.
This isn’t The Marvelous Mrs. Maisel costume designer Donna Zakowska’s first turn at the Emmys, having taken home a trophy for her work on the Amazon Prime series last year (and nominated the year before). Midge Maisel's (Rachel Brosnahan) journey to becoming a successful stand-up comic brings plenty of drama on its own, but “many times her clothes have, for me, sort of dramatized her emotional state or emotional dilemma,” Zakowska tells Couch Surfing host Lola Ogunnaike in the video above. “They go beyond the physicality of the cloth or the actual physical piece, for me.”
A costume’s physicality had to take on a tricky new dimension in the season 2 premiere of Pose, when Elektra (Dominique Brebner) competes as an ‘80s Marie Antoinette, complete with a functioning carousel in her crinoline. “Every script is like opening up a present at Christmas,” says designer Analucia McGorty, for whom this season marks her second consecutive nomination for her work on the FX series. Inspired by a sculpture she found from the period, she worked out a plan with her tailors to create the revolutionary look. “It was so much fun. It was like engineering and creativity and very DIY — and also having to make it feel like this was something that the community at that time could make.”
Meanwhile, on another Ryan Murphy show, a few last-minute changes made for a huge costuming challenge. On Netflix’s Hollywood, in addition to a decision to shift the color palette, the year changed from 1949 to 1948, “which is a huge difference,” costume designer and longtime Murphy collaborator Lou Eyrich (also nominated for The Politician) tells Ogunnaike. But “it is sometimes the drama that helps make the best product,” reflects costume designer Sarah Evelyn, for whom this marks her first Emmy nod. The change in color came from a spontaneous inspiration on Murphy’s part, which “I’ve learned not to question,” Eyrich says. “He’s always right. It’s always spot on. I don’t know how he does it.”
While Hollywood sprinkles in some famous figures from the era, FX on Hulu's Mrs. America puts people making history front and center — so first-time nominee Bina Daigeler had a lot of research material to dig into. And she found that “all the women — it doesn’t matter if they’re conservative like Phyllis Schlafly, or [not, like] Gloria Steinem or Betty Friedan — everybody somehow used how they dressed as a statement.” The commingling of style and politics bled into the very costuming process: “Mainly, we talked politics in the fittings. And we talked about the emancipation. We talked about women’s rights, we talked about the current situation, we talked about our lives,” Daigeler says. “And in the meantime, we put some clothes on.”