The latest Girls episode has been a weekly discussion topic here in the Fashionista offices ever since the season premiere (and maybe a little before that too). We're kind of obsessed with Lena Dunham and Judd Apatow's cleverly written, hilarious, and disturbingly relatable HBO series. And even if the cast's racial diversity is--debatably--not 100% realistic, the clothes pretty much are. So much so that we wrote an entire article about it.
So, when we got the opportunity to interview the show's costume designer Jenn Rogien, we were over the moon with excitement. Rogien was a pleasure to talk to and I could tell she genuinely loves her enviable job costuming one of television's hottest, buzziest shows and working with its talented writers.
We're also glad our interview took place after season one had ended because that meant we got to chat about how the characters' style developed throughout and learn all about that *spoiler alert* surprise wedding--arguably the show's most important fashion moment thus far. (Also interesting: Refinery29 speculates that actress Jemima Kirke's just-announced pregnancy is going to be written into the show and that was the reason for the seemingly random wedding.)
Read on to learn all about that, as well as Adam's perpetual shirtlessness, that feathered amazingess that Jessa wore to the Bushwick rager, what to expect from season two and an interesting phenomenon she's started experiencing: seeing people on the street dressed like Girls characters. Hmmm.
Fashionista: How do you feel Hannah's style has evolved from the beginning of the season to the end of the season?
Jenn Rogien: It's such a short period of time in our story. It's a little bit more of the costumes folding into their adventure, and a little less of an evolution. It was more about the situations that they get themselves in and adapt their look to that particular episode. Hannah probably had the most obvious evolution because her look was going along with the growth of her relationship with Adam. In the episodes where they are together, her look definitely takes on a little bit of influence from his world. His pajamas, his athletic wear, which I think Hannah would never wear [otherwise].
Speaking of Adam, he almost never wears a shirt. Was that something that you thought of or was written into the script? It was requested in some of our very early meetings [that Adam not wear a shirt] before I had seen much of the script. I was very game, and Adam was very game. As we got [more of the] script we started to understand that it was a very specific part of his character.
Another unforgettable look: Jessa's feather outfit at the Bushwick party. What was that? Funny enough, that actual piece is something that we had found for an entirely different character much earlier in the season, and when I sent the photos, Lena said, "Hold on to that. Whatever you do, do not send it back; there's going to be a place for that in an upcoming episode." We held onto it, and when the script came out [for the Bushwick episode], and the description was of an ethereal, birdlike ensemble, we knew exactly what they were talking about.
The dress itself was a piece from the 1930s. I didn't know if it was going to hold up the production demands for the show, so we remade it so it could travel through the fight and the hospital and the potential blood. The look has to be right, but there is also a practical demand that we have to take into consideration for every single piece.
Where do you source most of the clothes? Do you borrow clothes from PR companies or fashion houses? We go all over. It's very character-driven and it's very script-driven and I want every piece to support the story, and for Girls specifically, we end up going places that would be realistic for the characters. There's a ton of vintage with a ton of thrift. We spend a lot of time in Williamsburg. We love H&M. We love Zara.
Is there much designer or is it more thrift store and high street? Very real girl. And that's one of the things I love about the show is that a lot of TV has become really brand-driven and we had a little bit of both but the primary inspiration in the shopping is what these girls really do. There are some pretty amazing designer pieces, whether they are vintage or whether they're time well spent at Century 21. We've gotten some really amazing things at Loehmann's and Century 21. And yeah we pick a bit from the occasional showroom--I have some great relationships with some people that I've been working with for years that I absolutely love, and it happened to be the right thing for the show.
Juicy details on collaborating with Lena and putting together the wedding looks on page two!
How much of a role does Lena have in coming up with the characters' looks and deciding what they wear? Does she ever veto an outfit? We are so collaborative, and I love working with Lena and Jenni [Konner] because they are the inspiration. They write the script. Lena created the characters. Sometimes, it's very specific. For example, Adam's pajamas--the union suit pajamas--were a very specifically scripted moment. It's a complete dialogue, and very open. I love that about Girls and about Lena.
I've read in other interviews that you did a lot of people watching in Brooklyn as research. Do you still do that or do you feel like you have the look down? I definitely still do that. I think I will always people watch all over New York City. It's also been really interesting to see a few things reflected back. We're starting to see a little bit of a Hannah look, but maybe it's just because of what I'm looking for.
That's interesting that you're starting to see people dressed like the characters. And I don't know if it's that they are or if it's that I notice, but it is fun!
Can we talk about the wedding? What was it like putting that together? Did it take a long time? It was fun and it was definitely a challenge. We have six days of prep for each episode. Lena threw me some hints that there was a special event coming our way and it was helpful to get a little bit of extra time preparing for it. She also said she was really looking for people to look the best that they had all season. That was fun because it was very different from what we do the rest of the season, which is make them look real.
I knew very early on that we would be looking for a dress for Jessa. We did an inspiration board; we looked at a lot of vintage pieces; we looked at some current runway and we really wanted to find something that would be true to her character's spirit. We found it at an incredible vintage boutique--Geminola, which Jemima's mother owns. We fit her dress and then we fit her shoes. I actually custom made the veil and the headpiece. Of course, we wanted Jemima to feel comfortable and radiant in the look. We wanted Lena and Jenni to feel like that was the right look for that moment because it was a big moment for her.
What were the shoes? Weren't they like blue suede? They were blue suede Alexander McQueen with the gold skull. Jemima and I both thought it was very appropriate in that it was a little bit of a nod to bridal tradition. It was a little punk, rock-and-roll, and it's very Jessa to be very free-spirited and sort of follow the rules and then not follow the rules at all.
Hanna also looked more pulled together than usual. That was a great little Theory dress that we actually fit her in at the very beginning of the season. Lena and I both said that we love this dress, and we don't know if there is going to be a moment for it but let's hold onto it. It turned out to be right for that episode, and I think it's the prettiest we've ever seen Hannah look and I think it was a really nice way to close out the season in terms of a look and in terms of where she is with her character.
I know that you guys have begun filming season two. Are there any big costume moments that are coming up that you can talk about? Does anyone's style change dramatically? The season does pick up very shortly after season one so anything that we are doing is very subtle. We're supporting where the girls find themselves as the season opens and true to Hannah's style, she's following the beat of her own drummer and pursuing a trend that only she's aware is happening.
Photos: Jojo Whilden and Phillip V. Caruso for HBO