Costume designer Leesa Evans walks us through Ali Wong’s wardrobe in the Netflix rom-com
Romantic comedies continue to have their moment — and Netflix continues its reign as the foremost purveyor of new works in the genre — with this weekend’s release of Always Be My Maybe, starring Ali Wong and Randall Park.
The hilarious rom-com, co-written by Wong, Park, and Michael Golamco and directed by Fresh Off the Boat creator Nahnatchka Khan, hit the streaming service on Friday, perfectly poised to charm Netflix-and-chillers throughout the summer (just like its predecessor Set It Up did last year). Wong stars as Sasha, a celebrity chef who returns to her hometown of San Francisco after 15 years, where she reconnects with her estranged childhood best friend Marcus (Park), who still lives and works with his dad, lacking the push to take his own dreams seriously.
In creating the look of the film, costume designer Leesa Evans looked to beloved romantic comedies for inspiration. “I wanted, from the very beginning, to create this kind of throwback to all of our favorite rom-coms — with, of course, the most modern interpretation of it,” she says. The traces of When Harry Met Sally… specifically aren’t hard to spot in the narrative, and Sasha’s San Francisco style is as specific (and enviable) as Sally Albright’s perfect New York wardrobe of tweed blazers and smart little hats.
“I always joke and say I can’t get out of flip-flops because I grew up in Laguna Beach. You know what I mean? I think that’s true in the case of [the] characters in the movie,” Evans says. “It is a San Francisco story.”
In Sasha’s wardrobe, that influence translated to a funky, inventive SF-cool. “She was using shopping and fashion and dressing as another part of her artistic expression, and that she was a person that wasn’t afraid to push herself to be and do anything she wants in life. And yet at the same time, there were things that felt real and honest to her,” Evans says. “A lot of the clothes that Ali wears in the movie, they either have an architectural element, or they have an edge to them.”
That’s evident in the final scene, when the heroine wears a wide-leg, tie-necked white jumpsuit. “It was a cool-girl look to wear for a black-tie event. The minute she put it on we were like, ‘Oh, yeah, that’s going to be the end sequence,’” Evans says. “It had an architectural element, it had the edge, but it also had this sweetness. The white that just played up her fragility in that moment, and her innocence and her honesty — all those things that something white can do.”
The piece comes at the end of a chromatic journey for Sasha. After first appearing in sweet pastels as a child in throwbacks — which she returns to, full-circle, with the airy white jumpsuit at the end — she opens the movie in bright red, and often wears it as an accent. “It tells the story a little bit in color,” Evans says, as Sasha’s evening wear, in particular, progresses from vivid red to earthy metallics to purest white. “You feel a boldness and a need to make a huge statement, and then you feel the subtleness and the groundedness in the end. When she’s wearing the white jumpsuit, you can tell she just feels really herself. There’s an effortlessness there.”
In one of her more effort-ful moments (and one of the most hilarious dinner scenes in recent memory), Sasha and Marcus go on a double date (but, in another hint of When Harry Met Sally…, not paired with each other) at a spectacularly pretentious restaurant. Sasha wears a truly fabulous floral Isabel Marant blouse with a single voluminous sleeve, paired with a bright green midi pencil skirt. “We wanted to be like, ‘What is Sasha’s version of the sexy date outfit?’” Evans says. “That top is the ultimate cool-girl hot-date look.”
Evans, who is also a celebrity stylist and recently launched the clothing line Le Cloud along with her client and friend Amy Schumer, collaborated with Wong and Park, both of whom she had worked with previously, to create their characters’ style. “Randall’s character [is] still wearing clothes that were right for him when he was a teenager, and in some ways that’s so charming, because he hasn’t lost a sense of himself, and yet in some ways it’s stopping him from being able to reach for the stars,” Evans explains. “From the get-go, [Park] was like, ‘I was thinking of kinds of T-shirts that this guy would wear and how much he loves music; I’m going to send you all these band ideas and T-shirt ideas.’ And every single one that he sent me, I was like, ‘Yes, yes, yes-yes-yes-yes-yes-yes-yes!’”
When it came to styling Sasha, “Ali and I were like, ‘Let’s just play with fashion and see what comes out of it.’ Because this girl loves fashion, she has money to buy the clothes that she wants, and she’s playing with it and she’s artistic and she’s enjoying it,” Evans says. “Just from the second that we started trying on clothes, Ali was like, ‘I love this! I didn’t even know I, Ali, could wear this! I’m glad I can, so that Sasha can wear it!’ Everything we did and every outfit we came up with, we couldn’t wait for the day to come for the scene for her to wear it — we were so excited for everyone to see the next outfit and the next outfit.”
Funny, that’s just how we felt watching it.
Always Be My Maybe is now streaming on Netflix.