TV Costume Designers Say They Are Finally Getting the Recognition They Deserve

We caught up with the designers behind TV's best-costumed shows at this weekend's 16th Annual Costume Designers Guild Awards.
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We caught up with the designers behind TV's best-costumed shows at this weekend's 16th Annual Costume Designers Guild Awards.
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The winners at Saturday’s 16th Annual Costume Designers Guild Awards -– given each year for excellence in costumes for TV and movies –- included Trish Summerville for "The Hunger Games: Catching Fire" and the imitable Tom Broecker for "House of Cards." But regardless of who took home awards at the end of the night, Hollywood’s top costume designers were gushing on the red carpet about how they feel like they are finally getting the exposure and recognition they deserve inside and outside the industry.

Janie Bryant, who has already done several brand collaborations and is gearing up for her own reality show, said she sees her work on and off "Mad Men" as being a big part of the emergence of costume designers from the production shadows. “I have always felt costume designers are one of the stars of the show,” said the designer, who lost out in the Period/Fantasy category to "Downton Abbey"'s Caroline McCall. “But we never got enough attention, we never got enough recognition, and we never got enough appreciation.”

"The Mindy Project"’s Salvador Perez (who also designed Mindy Kaling’s gown for the event) explained that part of his role as the new Guild president is to work to promote the integral role costume designers play in production. “I think for a while people thought our job was easy,” he said. “But there is so much more to [costume design] than just going to the mall. We are part of the storytelling process.”

While the show’s devoted fans obsess over every detail of Dr. Lahiri’s wardrobe and can find the Nanette Lepore, Trina Turk, and LK Bennett dresses she wears weekly with the help of a blog exclusively devoted to the show’s style, tracking down her trademark coats can be impossible because Perez designs most of the them himself. “If I could buy these coats, I would,” he told us. “But the colorful, lightweight coats that fit Mindy’s character just aren’t out there.”

Bryant noted that sometimes clothes that fit the character can take on a story of their own. During "Mad Men"’s sixth season, when Bryant dressed Megan Draper in a red star tee that actress Sharon Tate was once photographed in, it resulted in the great Internet Megan Draper Death Watch. “The choices we made with Megan were about the political statement at that time. Megan was wearing a Vietnam star shirt, which was a timely political thing for her to wear. It was not even about Sharon Tate.”

Speaking of politics, we have discussed our minor obsession with Tom Broecker, his next-level (and now, award-winning) work on the first season of Netflix’s "House of Cards," and our surprise at his absence during the show’s recent second season. Broecker was diplomatic about his departure from the drama. “It was a great first season,” he told us. “And new people came [onto the production] and things started changing.” When we told him we don’t work in Hollywood so we don’t really understand what all that means, we just want him back dressing Robin Wright’s Claire Underwood in the sheath dresses and asymmetrical necklines that killed last season, he gamely told us: “We’ll just put it this way, there are talks.”

As exciting as Broecker potentially returning to Cards is his next project, "Flesh and Bone," a gritty ballet drama for Starz by "Breaking Bad" alum Moira Walley-Beckett. While he had us at ‘gritty ballet drama,’ Broecker describes the show as “like 'Breaking Bad' meets 'The Turning Point'" and he is currently immersed in “storytelling through a leotard.” Given what Broecker can do with a simple crisp button-up, we cannot wait to see him work with a leo.