Girlboss costume designer breaks down Sophia's best outfits
Girlboss, Netflix’s new original comedy series, is about a young woman named Sophia Marlowe (a fictionalized version of Nasty Gal founder and Girlboss author Sophia Amoruso, played by Britt Robertson) who starts a successful business selling vintage clothes online. But a series built around a real-life protagonist — with a keen eye for fashion — can only work if the outfits onscreen are both chic and believable. That’s where costume designer Audrey Fisher comes in.
“This show is unusual because we have a live, human person that we’re working to try to emulate,” Fisher tells EW. “When you’re working on a show where there’s a scene of a character just hanging out in their pajamas, you’re like, ‘Oh, okay, just get some pajamas.’ But in this case, you have to have some incredible vintage t-shirt worn inside out and some cool little satin shorts that look like they’re from a ’70s roller derby. Everything had to transmit such a clear, strong story of her obsession with clothes, and her budding relationship with this business.”
Fortunately, the real Sophia gave Girlboss‘ creative team a library of photographs from the time around when the show is set (2007-2008). “Those were a huge reference for me, because it showed what Sophia and her friends were wearing in great detail,” Fisher says. “[It’s] this sort of effortless chic, where even though she’s just pulled on a t-shirt she was wearing the day before and the red jeans she was wearing for weeks, she looks like she’s going to Studio 54. There’s this magic dust about her.”
Armed with these photos, showrunner Kay Cannon’s (Pitch Perfect) script notes (sometimes, Fisher says, as detailed as “Sophia, wearing an amazing East West jacket and red jeans, walks into the frame”), and research from photography books and mid-2000s magazines, Fisher set about calling vintage store owners around L.A., shopping like crazy, and even making certain costumes herself.
Below, Fisher tells us the stories behind some of Sophia’s best pieces, from the statements to the staples.
The East West Jacket:
By far, the most iconic piece in the show is the East West leather jacket Sophia finds for $9 and then sells on eBay for hundreds more, before — spoiler alert — eventually buying it back and — second spoiler alert — giving it to her mom. “The jacket is sort of like her talisman,” Fisher explains. “It’s a symbol of her finding herself, and then growing up enough to be able to let go of it again.” Because the jacket’s importance was literally written into the script, it was crucial to find the right one.
Robertson is very petite, so Fisher’s search for vintage clothes always started with size. “I started the hunt for ‘tiny East West jackets’ on eBay,” she laughs. From there, she reached out to high-end vintage vendors in L.A. at stores like The Way We Wore. “What we heard back was like, ‘Yeah, we have a size 10, but it’s black…’ or, ‘We have a size 6 but…’ Everything was a little off.”
Finally, vintage dealer Brian Cohen had just the thing. “I went to his studio in Coronada, and it was the first one on the rack. It was gorgeous,” Fisher says. Sounds just like Sophia’s experience finding the jacket on the show, right? Well, not quite: “I mean… it was $3,500,” Fisher laughs. “It was not $9.” She took photos of the jacket and sent them to the producers to get permission to spend that much on one item (the most expensive piece she bought for the show), and the team loved it.
A fun tidbit: Robertson actually had to practice putting the jacket on and taking it off because the calfskin is so thick. “She made it look much more comfortable to wear than it is in reality,” Fisher says.
The Frye Boots:
For a stunt-heavy scene — like Sophia pushing her busted car up one of San Francisco’s infamous hills in the pilot — Fisher explains that you can’t rely on one vintage piece, because if, say, a heel broke, you’d be completely out of luck. So these Frye boots fit the bill, looking straight out of the ’70s, but available in multiples. She also had to alter the shaft of the boot to make it small enough to fit Robertson’s legs.
The Turquoise Bomber Jacket and Frame Jeans:
In that “lexicon of photographs” Amoruso shared with the Girlboss team, a few pieces captured Fisher’s attention so much that she actually recreated them — including the “turquoise baby cord bomber” TV Sophia wears to the estate sale in episode 2. “I just thought it was so perfect I had to recreate it,” she says. Fisher actually made about five copies of the jacket, including extras for people like stunt women and stand-ins.
Fisher needed to find a pair of jeans that could be unbuttoned and unzipped quickly enough for Sophia to flash her hernia to a bookstore employee. The exposed zipper made this pair from Frame work perfectly, and the high-waisted flare style made them “a good cheat for a ’70s jean.”
Sophia often wears shades of reds and burgundy — a nod to the real Amoruso, who Fisher says was “always in red jeans.” It made sense to keep that detail true for the fictional character, too. “She’s so intense and passionate — it just felt like the right color reference for her,” Fisher says.
“The orthodox cross necklace is something I recreated from Sophia’s closet,” Fisher says. “I was inspired by a Greek cross that Sophia herself wore a lot during that time in her life that was her grandmother’s. I took the dimensions, took a lot of photos, and made [a smaller version] for Britt so it was the right proportion for her body.” Fisher noticed that Amoruso often wore it in the archival photos that she’d taken of herself: “It seemed like one of her pieces that was important to her look when she was presenting herself.” On Robertson, Fisher frequently layered the cross with the shorter medallion necklace pictured above.
Silk Bomber and Rocker Tank:
This bomber is another recreation — but it wasn’t one of Amoruso’s. “I have a stock of pieces I’ve collected over the years that I frequently reference when I need a little something special. I call it my gold stock,” Fisher explains. “I have this vintage Japanese bomber in my collection, and it just felt like it could be really great for this character, so I pulled it out and it looked incredible.”
Though it’s a simple piece, the back rocker tank Sophia wears under the bomber was actually a huge headache. First of all, Fisher had to have multiples of the look since the character wears it during a whole “day” in the second episode. But what she initially wanted to use — a Black Sabbath t-shirt — proved impossible from a legal perspective. “We couldn’t get clearance for a Black Sabbath logo, so I had to sort of recreate one,” she says. That meant finding the right graphic, in the right size, printing it in the right color, on the right tank — all, ironically, to get the perfect “effortless chic” look.
This white sweatshirt — which would look right at home in 2017 — came from an L.A. store called Raggedy Threads. “I couldn’t believe it when we found that Gucci sweatshirt,” Fisher says. “It’s perfect because she’s trying to create that level of brand: Glamorous, amazing, iconic. I know it’s a trend right now, but it felt right for her to wear that kind of logo stuff in this time.”
Fisher says this denim jumpsuit — which she created — is her favorite piece from the series. “It was the right denim, the right pattern, and it just fit like a glove,” she says. “And it’s a very loving wink at Sophia [Amoruso], because Sophia is famous for just rocking a denim jumpsuit and always looking fantastic. It’s kind of one of her uniforms, so I was trying to lay that groundwork of a young Sophia starting to wear the jumpsuit we see her in today, frequently.”
Girlboss is streaming on Netflix now.