Chances are you've seen (or at least read ad nauseum about) Comedy Central's latest smash "Broad City," the epically hilarious series that follows the misadventures of two 20-something best friends scraping by in New York City. In just two seasons, the show's stars and creators, Ilana Glazer and Abbi Jacobson, have become television's most celebrated anti-heros: Though they find themselves in unsavory, often humiliating situations in every episode, their spirits are never broken and, perhaps more importantly, neither is their friendship.
Glazer and Jacobson — whose characters are meant to be younger, more outrageous versions of themselves — have distinctive, larger than life personalities, and part of the way this is portrayed on screen is through each of their fashion choices. As any young women on a tight budget knows, beginning to build out your wardrobe can be an exercise in resourcefulness, and that's where the show's costume designer Staci Greenbaum comes in. Greenbaum, who admits to creepily taking photos of strangers on the street or the subway in NYC for inspiration, is just the kind of woman I'd expect the comedy duo to trust with their clothing. She's witty, outspoken and always down to try something a little crazy.
We sat down with Greenbaum in anticipation of Wednesday night's finale to discuss her favorite fashion moments (and mishaps) of season two, who she envisions as the "Broad City" girls' style icons and what uncharted situations she hopes to dress them for in season three.
When you started building the “Broad City” costume wardrobe, were there any pieces that you knew would become staples of Abbi and Ilana’s wardrobes that would appear again and again throughout the series? Like Ilana’s bra that has become pretty famous…
We did not know that was going to be one! It just came to be. With a principle closet, you really are building a wardrobe, as opposed to it being, like, one episode, one costume. Especially for these types of characters — people that repeat their clothes. Finances aside, that’s so important because that’s how people get dressed, especially young twenty-somethings living in New York. There was a huge shift from first to second season as far as seasonal dressing. For Abbi first season, she had those combat boots; we knew those were going to be a staple. They each have either a jean — I mean, Ilana doesn’t wear pants — but a jean or a short that’ll be a staple. What ended up happening with that bra … it just conveyed such a huge part of her personality in a way, and it was such a fun way to accessorize her because she doesn’t wear a lot of jewelry. You’ll notice that every time she does, it’s one thing and it’s a big earring usually or keys around her neck — it’s so intentional. The bra was such a fun way to give her a little bit more depth and excitement to her look. And it just kind of popped.
Certain looks have kind of become characters in themselves, like the “white power” suit and Abbi’s blue bandage dress that I guess never got returned…
She missed the return date. She tried. But you know, life gets in the way, especially in New York. So now she’s at the point where she’s trying to subsidize the cost for herself. She’s sort of the rock and the pragmatic one in the relationship and she’s got to justify the purchase, so if she could wear it a couple more times, it’s basically free. And then Ilana’s “white power” suit, we loved that. We tried a couple of things. Some were really bad; some were, like, cropped pants, and we just couldn’t. And then we found this amazing Tommy Hilfiger suit that read more like a cotton, which we really liked. Then we were able to make that whole sticker joke: She just bought it, she’s wearing it, she’s so pleased and she has the sticker still on it.
Because we don’t shoot chronologically, I’m pretty sure we established the boat look [from a later episode] first. So we had to really guess where that A1 sauce was going to fall on the suit when it first appears on screen. We had to make sure that she nailed it. We knew in advance that we were going to repeat it, but we were doing the aftermath first; sometimes that’s a funny thing that we have to figure that out. For the “Citizen Ship” episode when she re-wears the white jacket, she just put a American flag pin over the stain. Everyone has a friend like Ilana: If [a piece of clothing] is on the floor, if it’s on her hamper, if it’s at the bottom of her closet, just give it sniff test. You can wear it again, stains aside. I feel like she lives in an apartment with crack-den lighting and she can’t really see, and she’s like, “Yeah, it’s cool. I got it.”
Are there any other looks besides those two that you’d like to pull out again and again just to see what kind of shenanigans the girls will get into while they’re wearing them?
They’re always getting into shenanigans! Another look that was fun, but I am not sure if we will see again, is Val [Abbi’s blackout-drunk alter ego]. But I think elements of Ilana’s shiva outfit may come back. That cropped black lace top that had short sleeves and some fancy glasses. That look and Abbi’s blue dress are, believe it or not, from a company called Hot Miami Styles. If you ever go to Hot Miami Styles and you want to choose a category under the “dress” section, there are bandage dresses and there are “other” dresses. So they’ve really broken it down for you. And I had no intention really of getting Ilana’s look, but she did wear that lace top when she and Abbi went rooftop partying on the first season. And she has that long braid.
Every scene and every script, there’s always some opportunity for something fun. But even at the heart of the show, it’s really about them and their every day. The shiva costume is funny in that for Ilana, on paper, it makes perfect sense. Like, she’s doing the appropriate thing. If you’re going to be more conservative, you know, let’s say at your grandmother’s shiva, you probably want your sleeves to be covered, a higher neckline and a longer skirt. But the shirt was completely see-through and then there were sheer panels on the skirt just an inch below, you know. And for her, she’s like, “yeah, I’m like, dressed.” It just doesn’t always click. So it’s fun to explore that.
The girls are in various states of undress a lot, especially in very humiliating situations. Is that a challenging thing to capture — to pick lingerie that your character is completely humiliated in — when you’re not necessarily looking hot or feeling sexy? Like, when she’s maybe wearing a strap-on at a stranger’s apartment…
We definitely take those things into account. I think that for Abbi this season, we’re definitely seeing another side of her altogether, which is really fun. It’s been nice to see that side of her because everybody associates Ilana as the crazy one. For Abbi, that thong we ended up going with seemed perfectly appropriate — she just looked like such a bombshell. It was a Hanky Panky retro thong. It had a much thicker band and it had a nice curved line up the leg. It was reminiscent of a pin-up girl. There’s something about Abbi’s lingerie that I feel like is more aspirational than what we usually see her in. She’s generally a more utilitarian type, you know, a t-shirt, jeans and an army jacket, or something casual with boots. We catch more of her feminine and artistic side underneath. It’s a little personal anecdote, even if only you know about it.
Then Ilana seems to own her sexuality a little bit more. And is never wearing pants. Never really dressed at all.
She’s very sexually liberated; it’s very fun and it’s freeing. And in some ways, it kind of goes against how someone might typically approach dressing someone in lingerie. Ilana is fairly busty. It’s hard to imagine that someone who’s busty would choose a bra with very little support. But for her, it’s not about that. It’s the comfort and the freeness she feels wearing it. Her underwear tends to be boy shorts — relatively masculine looking — and she’s happy to wear that as PJs with a shirt. Nothing for either of them ever really matches as far as undergarments are concerned. For them, it’s not part of their lifestyle. They don’t pick out their clothes in the morning. You know what I mean? Not every building has laundry. I think that’s also part of why we make some of our choices. I’m like, how often do you think Ilana packs up a bag of laundry and takes it to the laundromat? Abbi’s probably like, “Ilana, your clothes are disgusting.” So we try to take that into account, too.
What kind of fashion media do you think these girls consume? Are they on Tumblr? Do they read magazines? Who do you think they might consider style icons? Or, on the flip side, do they just not give a fuck?
I would believe that Ilana is inspired, not haphazardly, but maybe less intentionally. I feel like she reads publications like Nylon and I think she looks more at musicians for inspiration. I hate to throw it back to Rihanna, but Rihanna and Nicki Minaj. She likes the big moment. And I think she’s unintentionally inspired in that respect. I think Abbi is looking at much more traditional icons. Just like she has Oprah tattooed on the small of her back, she’s looking at the greats, like Meryl Streep and Diane Keaton and Oprah, as strong, powerful, successful women. I think she’s sort of looking to them, even if it’s so out of her immediate lifestyle, it’s what she aspires to do. She wants to be an artist. So I see Abbi on Pinterest and maybe reading Fashionista. More plugged in, in an intentional way.
I can see Ilana getting stoned and scrolling through Tumblr, seeing a Missy Elliott video and wanting to get dressed like that.
Totally. And being like, “Yeah, that’s dope. I’m going to do that.” And then like doing it all the way. A lot of people, usually when they have questions or they don’t get something, I’m like, it’s because it’s Ilana. She’s going to go all the way. A lot of people had questions about that jersey with a black lipstick that she wore. Because it’s like a moment for her. I can see her on Tumblr for sure. But she’s not pinning to boards. Abbi, I can see having really organized boards of not just what she wants to wears, but like rings and summer dresses — super specific and isolated so that she can go and have a very clear reference to what she’s hoping to do and achieve that day.
Let’s just say that in one episode, the girls come into a bunch of money and you could have them go shopping or pick something out. What do you think they would each splurge on when it comes to fashion?
I think Abbi would splurge on outerwear. She would splurge on a very cool but chic coat or jacket. Again, I think because in her mind, that’s a reasonable decision to make. That’s something that would get a lot of air time in her life. She also might buy a purse; she’d splurge on a fantastic Phillip Lim or something, and it would be a really big thing that she’d immediately regret.
Ilana would buy something absolutely ridiculous like a Moschino look, you know, like something really outrageous. She might wear it once if she wears it at all. Or she might wear it to work and it would make absolutely no sense. She would probably buy a micro mini skirt with lips all over, or a huge print or pattern — maybe marijuana leaves. Or she might have something custom made for herself. She’s not much of a planner, though, so she’d have to stumble upon it. She’d have to be like, “That’s awesome, I have to have it.” Abbi, the character, struggles with feeling a little bit more confident. We see that in all those awkward moments. But Ilana is truly through and through so confident. She doesn’t care what anyone thinks — well, except for maybe Abbi. It’s the sweetest friendship. And it’s like that in real life and on the show. It’s a refreshing sort of thing.
Do you have any personal favorite looks from this season? I know the finale's coming up.
I tend to really like some of their character looks, just because they stick out so boldly. But I did love Abbi’s “FOMO” look, that confetti party dress. There’s something very easy breezy about it and a little whimsical, which was fun. It was more of her artsy side. As far as a low-key look is concerned, I love what Ilana wore when she was in the office just before she got her white power suit on. I love all those looks. It’s hard not to. It’s such a fun collaboration that we get to do. And then they go to the set and everybody actually said this was OK for them to wear on camera! I love when Ilana wore a mint green crop top and her high waisted pleated shorts and she had her American flag socks in “Citizen Ship.” There was something really easy breezy about that, too. And I loved Ilana at shiva.
But yes, I loved “Citizen Ship” the most because I also loved the evolution of the costumes throughout the duration of that night. First of all, it was kind of like a weird jolting thing. We see Bevers looking so nice in a seersucker suit. Then as the night continues and they progressively become more intoxicated … Ilana has Lincoln’s tie on her head and Abbi at one point is wearing Jaime’s boater cap. It’s just really real, you know? Ilana is wearing her white power suit jacket on backwards to keep her warm. It’s just a real way for something to evolve. In the end, they were probably the most festive of anyone at the Americanization ceremony. It’s such a drab space, and here were these hungover Americana kids. Jaime was red, white and blue from head to toe. And even his shoes, which I think we never saw, were red, white and blue.
The costumes really are a means to convey the story. Oftentimes, I don’t want the clothes to stick out; if you’re noticing the clothes in those moments, then I’ve ruined it, you know? You want to let that moment be so natural between the two of them. Like in the episode when Abbi gets trapped in the hole in the ground, Ilana had repurposed Abbi’s shirt from season one by cutting it up and fringing it, and she’s like, “Smell it. You’ll find her.” It was a nice little interaction between their costumes and their closets and each other. They both have such a special place in each other’s hearts for each other. I mean, in real life and on the show. That’s why it’s so much fun to work on.
Is there anywhere new that you want to take the characters next season when it comes to getting dressed? They’ve already been to a wedding and Ilana wore a tux. Is there a certain situation that you hope to create a look for?
We’ve seen them dress sort of upscale. I would love for them to go a really formal, fancy affair where they weren’t working it or they didn’t stumble upon it, where they knew they were intentionally going, but I’m thinking of what that would be. I feel like someone else would take them. Like, if Lincoln had a dental convention or something. You know what I mean? Something funny. Equally, I would love to do something like a music festival where they would be intentionally going out in a club kid kind of way. There are so many fun opportunities there. They write in so many fun things. I’m just excited to see what season three brings.
This interview has been edited and condensed.