Costume designers unpack the process at Art of Costume event

Like a spool of bespoke fabric, the acclaimed costume designers from this year’s Emmy-eligible shows showed off a bit of the intensive collaborative process their work requires during ‘The Art of Costumes’ discussion celebrating costume design. televised at NBCU’s FYC House in Hollywood.

The conversation — moderated by TheWrap’s Jen Laski — featured Oscar-nominated “Angelyne” costume designer Danny Glicker. He was joined by “Gaslit” costume supervisor Patricia Peppard and Emmy-nominated “Hacks” costume supervisor Karen Bellamy. Deirdra Govan, costume designer for “Harlem”, and Matthew Hemesath, costume designer for “Dr. Mort” and “Girls5Eva”.


For a series to run smoothly, costume designers must work in tandem with writers, producers, hair and makeup artists, and the rest of the production team toward a singular vision while maintaining their perspectives and expertise. unique when creating characters – whether fictional or based on real characters – dress and live authentically.

Glicker recalls drawing more than 700 costumes for Emmy Rossum, who plays the 1980s billboard icon in “Angelyne,” and an “intense” but “helpful” pre-costuming process, which required gathering at least 40 key pieces of art recreating high school yearbook headshots and photos. The costume team also designed three different bust lines to coincide with Angelyne’s different eras (“The younger era is a little more cheerful,” Glicker said, drawing laughter from the audience).

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“We really had a crash course in what worked, what didn’t,” he added. “We would just keep creating all these looks, but everything was custom made, and everything was difficult because the body is really hard to drape.”

Bellamy echoed Glicker’s sentiment, emphasizing the importance of preparation and the ability to get scripts in time to plan ahead. In “Hacks,” veteran comic book icon Deborah Vance (Jean Smart) and reckless rising comedian Ava (Hannah Einbinder) often clash and act as foils for each other. Dressing both meant grounding the characters in authenticity and reflecting that divide. Because Smart’s character is so “glamorous”, it can often be more difficult to dress the sensitive Ava, which Bellamy says required a lot of research, working with extras to blend in with the crowd and often”[taking] ourselves” to avoid excesses.

Karen Ballard/HBO Max

“We found this costume for Deborah Vance, which was made by a company called Casablanca, and it was just perfect because it was so over the top, and we added a hat, which made it even more overdone,” she said. “And Ava’s outfit was harder to do, actually, because it had to be true to character, and it’s definitely rough around the edges, and it’s more real.”

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Hemesath described a particularly messy behind-the-scenes process in the third episode of “Girls5Eva,” where members of the long-forgotten 90s girl group – draped in gold dresses, jewelry and headpieces – act as extras in the clip video that samples their single hit track. The script was completed midway through the second episode, while the music video song itself had yet to be written.

“When I read the words ‘Met Gala, fabulous,’ my heart sank, like, ‘Oh my God, how are we going to do this?'” he recalled. “We just had to move on… We just started buying all the gold we could find, and we just filled racks with stuff and put everything in there.”

For “Gaslit,” Peppard had a two-pronged approach, fitting more conservative pieces for Martha Mitchell (Julia Roberts) in professional settings and lavish outfits for dinner parties and galas.

“When it comes to the parties and the photo shoots that Martha has thrown — and the galas, the fundraisers — we really, really glam it all up and use color and the craziest palettes and sparkle of 70s,” Peppard said. “And Martha was from the South, so she liked a good outfit.”

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The goal of ‘Harlem’ – which follows four single friends in what Govan calls New York City’s ‘cultural mecca’ – is to showcase the main characters’ distinct personalities through clothing and establish signature pieces. “reference” to do this. She drew on her own personal experiences, including her time living in Harlem, to create a “new renaissance” with “vibrant” edgy looks. Describing herself as a “dumpster diver”, Govan said she appreciates vintage items and brings back previously worn outfits to ensure that once her show airs, the costumes don’t get out of touch with the current trends.

Sarah Shatz/Amazon

“What really got me excited about this show is that we’re really exposing women — women of color — who are stylish, who dress ambitiously, who have careers, who are whole women and also fractured in some areas and not in others”, she mentioned.

Closing out the Q&A session, the costume veterans offered advice for aspiring designers, ranging from being “fearless” in pursuing one’s point of view to acquiring the skills and education necessary for the domain. Glicker said his go-to advice for young designers is to hone their specific worldview.

“It’s not just about clothes,” he said. “So I often say to people who are new to costume design, the most important thing is to look at things that aren’t just clothes, because then you can bring that whole perspective to clothes.”

You can watch the full panel here.

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