Lucy Hale and Katy Keene costume designer Jenn Rogien on the fab four's style
“Like, nobody walks around the city in heels! Everyone’s in sneakers. I didn’t even bring anything but boots and sneakers out to New York,” Hale recalls about moving to The Big Apple to work on the show. “In my fairytale version of New York, I’m running down the street in Prada heels, and Katy’s always in a skirt. She’s always showing her bare legs, no matter what the temperature is.”
The upcoming show’s otherworldly quality is intertwined with the clothing of a stylish ensemble cast: Katy Keene (Hale), Josie McCoy (Ashleigh Murray) Jorge/Ginger Lopez (Jonny Beauchamp), and Pepper Smith (Julia Chan).
“I think there are more fittings [on this show] than any of the projects that I’ve done,” muses Rogien, who’s used to dressing iconic ensembles on Girls, Orange Is the New Black, and Russian Doll. “Yes, [the show] is all about really sparkly, colorful clothes, but one thing I always try to do is make it about character first and then about fashion.”
We spent a New York minute speaking to Rogien and Hale individually on the phone ahead of Katy Keene’s series premiere to learn how these vibrant characters were brought to life through their wardrobes.
ENTERTAINMENT WEEKLY: Lucy, how did you become Katy Keene and how much was her style a part of that?
LUCY HALE: Katy Keene is based off of the Archie comics, so in the pilot, they really wanted to replicate a lot of the outfits within the comic. As the series unfolds, there is a heightened feel to everything that Katy wears.
She’s very colorful. She’s very bright. She’s obsessed with sequins and hearts, and she rarely strays from pink and red. Her wardrobe is so much of who she is since she’s an aspiring designer. She loves fashion from every cell in her body. Stepping into Katy’s clothes every day definitely helps me step into her shoes and understand her a little bit more because every detail is thought out. It’s very opposite from me.
How does Katie’s style differ from yours?
I’m just a little more subdued and a lot more casual. I live in jeans, sneakers, and a leather jacket, and I don’t think Katy would be caught dead in that! I definitely love fashion and I appreciate it. There are moments where I’ll get dressed up and everything, but Katy definitely has a different kind of love for it.
Your styles may differ, but I read on your Instagram that you were drawn to Katy Keene because of how similar her life story is to yours. Tell me a bit more about that.
When I was reading the first scripts that I got sent, I was like, she reminds me so much of how I felt moving to L.A. to become an actor. You really see the struggle, not just for Katy, but for all the characters. You get to see the ups and downs of what it takes to make it. It’s very grueling. There’s so much negativity and you just have to keep your head on straight and find good people that support you and make you want to be better.
The whole moral of Katy Keene is to go after your dreams. Doesn’t matter how big they are, because they will come true and they can come true. Each of these characters has crazy big dreams: my character’s an aspiring designer, Josie wants to be a singer-songwriter, Jorge wants to be a Broadway star, and Pepper, well we don’t quite know what she wants to do yet. She does a little bit of everything.
I just think it’s so important that we’re sending that message out to people that you can go for it. It won’t be easy, but it will be worth it. That’s kind of how I still feel about my life. I still don’t feel like I’m at my destination. It’s always a journey. You just have to appreciate every moment.
Jenn, since Katy makes clothes for herself and her friends, how is that made believable, especially when there’s an Emmy-winning costume designer like you choosing the looks?
JENN ROGIEN: The heightened reality is something we wanted to come through, with Katy being a fashion designer and working at this insanely high-end, incredible department store. But we still want them to feel like real people. So that mix of high, low helps to achieve that. We use that across the board with all of our characters.
If Katie talks about making it, we made it for the show. Whether it’s for Katie or whether it’s for one of her friends, especially for Ginger (Jorge’s drag alter ego), where there’s a lot of performance looks.
For the off-the-rack staff, we literally go everywhere. You name it. We are there from vintage to department stores, to high street fashion. It’s a treasure hunt for us.
I wanted to talk about Jorge/Ginger’s style. Especially his red kimono with dripping mint feathers. It seems like the piece where he is his most self: he wears the kimono at home as Jorge and while getting ready to become Ginger. Tell me more about that look.
ROGIEN: I just wanted a beautiful vintage dressing gown to be the segway between Jorge and Ginger. When Jorge’s getting ready to perform as Ginger, or when he’s coming out of makeup as Ginger. Those are the moments where you see that kimono. It feels like it comes from another era, that he found it in a vintage bin. It’s a really special piece that’s a visual signifier of transition for him. When everyone is wearing different clothes, that is a constant. It’s a nod to how much of the character’s identity Ginger is, as much as she is her own thing.
Lucy, I know Jenn makes the clothes your character makes on the show, but do you know how to sew?
HALE: I know the basics of it. In the show, [Katy] uses this old sewing machine. So, they taught me how to know my way around that. And I can do some stitching. We always have an adviser on set when I’m doing anything technical to make sure that it looks right.
My grandmother was a big sewer. I used to like cross-stitch growing up, I know my way around a needle, but I’m by no means the seamstress. You know who actually [sews]? Ashleigh! We’ve talked a bit about it.
Jenn, Ashleigh’s character Josie has such a rockstar look. Tell me what inspired her style and how you made her grow as a character from her time on Riverdale.
ROGIEN: Well, our show is on a different timeline than Riverdale. Josie’s a little bit older in a new situation. I 100 percent looked to Ashleigh as the expert on Josie to help guide us in the fitting room when we were actually choosing looks.
We also have long conversations with [showrunner] Michael [Grassi] about what it meant to bring Josie to New York and look to her history on Riverdale. It’s a really exciting transition, and It’ll be really fun for Josie fans to see.
And last but certainly not least, Pepper: “the most connected person in New York.” She’s such a fascinating character, and her clothes are as creative and intriguing as she is. Tell me about the concept for her character.
ROGIEN: The inspiration for Pepper was, “Let’s take all of the crazy fashion things that we can find and put them all together and see what works.” It’s a huge compliment to Julia, who has a knowledge of fashion that is insanely helpful when I try and throw completely unrelated things at her. And it works, because she’s like, “Oh yeah, oh yeah, we’ll make this work. It’s going to be great!”
There’s a lot of layering with her, but we actually keep her jewelry relatively consistent so that it didn’t feel like we were trying to make her into a street style icon. We wanted something to feel very grounded by repeating her jewelry. She’s not dressing for a runway, but she still has these amazing, eclectic looks that feel very fashion-forward, but also still feel like a person.
Lucy, if you could step into any character’s wardrobe, which one would you choose?
HALE: I obviously love Katie’s wardrobe, but Pepper’s wardrobe is so Carrie Bradshaw: so fun, and just wacky. I always get excited to see Julia walk out of her dressing room because I have no idea what she’s going to wear.
How have you felt yourself grow while playing Katy?
HALE: Definitely being in New York has been good for me. I like to play it safe, stay in my bubble. My job makes me an outgoing person, but when I’m just myself at home in my natural habitat, I’m very much an introvert and I’m a little bit shy. People probably don’t know that about me. So, being in a new city and having to just walk everywhere…I just feel like I’ve come into my own a little bit more. We’re almost done with season 1, so I’m going to go back to L.A. for a bit, but I can’t wait to come back.
You’ve played some iconic roles in the TV teen shows. What about Katy Keene do you think is special?
HALE: I don’t think there’s anything quite like it for that demographic right now. So many of the shows out these days, they’re amazing, but a lot of them are really dark and moody: a murder mystery, or someone stalking or killing someone. On and off TV, there’s some crazy stuff going on in the world. Katie is a breath of fresh air in a world of darkness, a little beam of light.
Katy Keene premieres on the CW Feb. 6.
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