Costumes play an interesting role on "Girls:" In addition to helping us relate to the people on screen and making the characters feel realistic, the clothes are often part of the comedy in the HBO series. And this was especially true during season five (the penultimate season!), which comes to an end on Sunday, April 17.
To help us dissect everything we've seen over the past couple of months (why are "Girls" seasons so short??), we called up Jenn Rogien, the show's costume designer since the pilot. Marnie's wedding aesthetic, her red dress from that haunting Charlie episode, the baristas at Helvetica, Shoshanna's Tokyo looks, and fashion-world cameos from Hamish Bowles and Johnny Wujek are among the many costume moments that struck a chord this season.
Here, Jenn Rogien tells us how they all come together, from the moleskin Marnie was wearing on her feet to walk around NYC "barefoot," to the number of suits Bowles brought with him to set.
Marnie says in the first episode how specific her vision was for her wedding to Desi. How would you describe that vision?
It was inspired a lot by the location and that beautiful historic farmhouse and property that we were shooting at; it’s in upstate New York near Bedford. I worked so closely with our production designer, our set decorator, our props master to make sure the whole event would have a cohesive feel to it, as though Marnie and her mom and her co-planners had really intentionally designed this event.
We wanted Marnie's dress to be very much in keeping with where her whole closet had evolved to, particularly at the end of season four. It was much more relaxed, more focused on her indie musician vibe, and I wanted to carry that through into the dress and how soft and romantic the dress was; same thing for the bridesmaids. We wanted the color palette to be very romantic and soft and somewhat rustic. The dresses were very both easy and fussy at the same time, and that was to help play into some of the comedy moments in the episode.
Did you look at Pinterest or Instagram hashtags for inspiration?
Oh, that's interesting. I often start bridal research in non-bridal searches, so for Marnie I was looking at a lot of 1930s art deco to get the shape that I had in mind, and then of course jumped onto Etsy and some non-typical bridal sites, including Bhldn and J.Crew. Lena had mentioned Stone Fox Bride, so I reached out and we ended up getting the most incredible dress from Molly and her team over there. [The bridesmaid dresses were] from an online bridesmaid superstore: Dessy. It's a very popular style so there were a lot of options available.
Something I'm sure you had to take into consideration that a lot of real brides have to consider was dressing a wide range of body types in the same look. How did that play into it?
In this case, there were a couple of requirements: We wanted to get the color palette, we wanted it to hit the vibe of the wedding, and there was some comedy with Hannah's character that I needed a dress that would support that. So there were a lot of parameters involved, and that particular dress helped with all of those elements.
Can you tell me about the flower crowns?
Stone Fox Bride did Marnie's floral crown for us. They actually made several for me because we were shooting the sequence for a little bit more than a week upstate. Their floral crown designer and maker sent me some extra bits and pieces, and I used those to make the groomsmen their boutonnieres to match Marnie's headpiece exactly.
Speaking of Marnie, I've noticed a lot of sweatpants and wedge sneakers from her.
Marnie's gone very casual this season, we're seeing a lot of her at home. That's an effort to reflect how they're comfortable with each other — sort of — at home. Part of it with the episode that just aired was very much inspired by Lena's direction about Marnie walking out of her house in not a great frame of mind, and you don't want to be in your sweatpants when you run into your ex.
Speaking of that episode, which was amazing, what was the inspiration for that red dress?
That was inspired by the joke in the script where Marnie says she feels like a 'Bob Mackie Barbie doll,' so we did a lot of research into '80s Bob Mackie, the Mackie dresses that he did for Cher, sort of '70s disco fashion. I ended up designing that dress for the show and we made several copies of it, because as you can see it gets soaking wet, and it's the thing that Marnie wears for most of the episode. There were several instances where we were going to shoot the wet, dirty dress before we would shoot the dry dress, so we painted one of the multiples to look wet and dirty.
Amarcord [where the shopping scene was filmed] is a fantastic vintage shop that we actually use a lot for the show, but because of production requirements we weren't able to buy one dress, so I wanted to make sure it looked like it came from the store as well and also would look great on Allison.
How did Allison feel about the outfit, especially walking barefoot all over New York streets?
She was a real trooper, pretty much walking barefoot on the streets of New York. Of course we did everything we could to make her comfortable and we did moleskin bottoms for her feet. We had several fittings with that red dress to make sure it fit exactly right, and that it would meet descriptive needs as well: it wouldn't fall off of her when she fell into the water, it would also unsnap easily in the scene where she's at Charlie's apartment. There were a lot of factors that weren't driving factors but that were all taken into account in the design of the dress.
Where has Hannah's style gone this season?
Hannah is definitely still Hannah but we have been evolving her look just a little bit to reflect her position in the classroom. The silhouette is just the tiniest bit more grown up, to have her look a little bit more like the adult in the room when she's surrounded by her 7th and 8th grade students.
How would you describe Fran's style?
Interesting nice guy. He has a very specific color palette: It's very rich, it's very saturated, it's a little tonal. He's kind of always a little bit dark — not a comment on the character at all, but just to make him a little more interesting visually than, say, a blue shirt and khaki pants.
Hannah's parents have gone through some significant life changes, especially Tad. How has that translated into their wardrobes?
Hannah's parents have been my favorite transformations this season. Both of them have had significant fashion evolutions based on these pretty big life changes that have been happening. Loreen went a little more rock 'n roll, a little more sexy, a little more out there, and Tad has gotten very trim and stylish. I call it the Elijah effect because there was a scene in an episode last season where Elijah had taken him shopping. The dad jeans are long gone, as are the mom jeans for Loreen.
So let's talk about Shoshanna in Tokyo.
The Tokyo influence was pretty significant on Shoshanna. It really was about finding the look that would incorporate all of the influences in her life in Tokyo, but still somehow be very Shoshanna. We did a little bit more layering than we used to do with Shoshanna, and we definitely tried to tie back to her color palette, which has been evolving, but there's been versions of mint greens and pinks and blacks. I tried to tie back to those to give some familiarity to her whole Tokyo closet, but then incorporate these new elements and new silhouettes.
Where did you look for inspiration?
We did a ton of street style searches; a lot of it was online magazines, some catalogs. When I got there, I did a ton of shopping on the ground a couple days before we started shooting so that I could get a feel for what every day Tokyo is like. The street style images are really fantastic, and they're very curated and styled and kind of a best-of. There are certainly neighborhoods in Tokyo that are known for their outlandish style, but there area also huge sections of Tokyo that are very business wear-focused, so I wanted to make sure we incorporated very realistic elements.
For Jessa, I just really loved that look with overalls and the green turtleneck.
A lot of people seemed to like that look. [The overalls were] Alexa Chung for AG and I think the top was either ASOS or Topshop. Her whole vibe this season is a little bit more simple, a little bit more paired down, a lot more functional. She's a student now, and we're seeing her really buckle down and take this seriously, so we wanted to reflect that in her look as well.
Can you tell me about the inspiration for the baristas at Helvetica (Ray's competing coffee shop)?
Lena's sister Grace played one of our baristas and she was amazing. She actually ended up wearing all of her own clothing. I ended up dressing our other barista in kind of crazy, monochromatic, aggressively casual pieces to really be the opposite of Ray. Clearly hip, very much in contrast to Ray's now-empty coffee shop, so we just wanted to play that up in the barista looks.
Dill Harcourt's party was pretty amazing in the most recent episode. Can you tell me about that and dressing fashion-world cameos Hamish Bowles and Johnny Wujek?
The focus for Dill's party was on creating a look that felt very different and very grown-up when compared to the rest of our show. The look of the party was intended to reflect how different Dill's very glamorous life is from Elijah's and underscore the discomfort Elijah is feeling at the party. Elijah wore a very fancy suit, presumably provided by Dill, so that he looked the part even as he looked very different from his normal casual wear.
Hamish very kindly brought me three completely fabulous looks after we chatted about his look by phone. Since Hamish was playing himself in the episode, a character look wouldn't have been right. He is also Hamish Bowles and dresses brilliantly. I would never want to interfere with that. And Johnny owns a mesh sweatshirt that inspired the joke in the script. He happened to be traveling when we shot the episode and didn't have it with him. My team pulled in every mesh sweatshirt in town and that one worked brilliantly.
With the final season coming up, is there any fantasy "Girls" scenario you haven't gotten to dress that you would want to?
I can't imagine that there's a scenario that I could come up with that would be better than what our writers come up with every season. Getting to go to Tokyo was pretty amazing, so if something like that were to happen again I'd be excited.
I'm sure it will be a bit nostalgic when we go back to shoot season six, but I'm ready for all the adventures and to see where the girls go.
This story has been updated to reflect the correct season finale date.