Warning: Spoilers for 'Glow' season three below.
After what seems like an eternity, Netflix series "Glow" is back for a third season on Friday, but this time in a new exciting locale: Las Vegas. Now settled in at the fictional Fan-Tan Hotel and Casino, the gorgeous ladies of wrestling perform their hit show each evening, while partaking in the excesses of Sin City and tackling the next stages of their lives and careers.
"My goal going into this season was to really give the people what they want, which is a ton of over the top sequins," says Beth Morgan, who's been costume designing for still-struggling thespian Ruth (Alison Brie), soap star turned actress-producer Debbie (Betty Gilpin) and the rest of the "Glow" cast since their hardscrabble first season days in Los Angeles. After establishing the characters in their grittier, realistic '80s LA looks — and show-within-a-show flashy leotard-wearing personas — Morgan enjoyed the relocation to explore the MTV-influenced and aggressively '80s glitz.
"[There's this] opulence to the way people in Vegas dress," adds Morgan. "So over the top, ridiculous, like throwing money in the air."
However, not everyone's embraced the Vegas aesthetic and mindset: Specifically, Ruth, who's always been more interested in studying scripts over perusing an issue of Vogue. "She's been wearing the same pair of jeans for three seasons," laughs Morgan — that same faded, 2,000-inch inseam denim has been offending Marc Maron, who plays Sam, since season one.
In the premiere, Ruth does hit the opening night after-party in the tiniest, tightest gold lamé dress (above) imaginable, which she explains Sheila (Gayle Rankin) scavenged out of the Fan-Tan lost and found. "Sam predictably thinks she looks great like that; just to show that male construct of how they are animalistic still," says Morgan.
Ruth also wears an adorable sporty shorts outfit layered under a green Members Only utility vest, which Morgan actually bought for season two, but didn't have a chance to use. (The costume designer has amassed a treasure trove of '80s vintage just waiting for the right scene.) "They were camping and I was like, 'finally, the perfect place for this vest,'" Morgan explains. "Ruth is the girl who is always prepared [and would think]: 'You would need more pockets. You couldn't just wear these shorts without any pockets.'"
Debbie, juggling motherhood, acting, producing, old boys-club politics and dating, enjoys the chance to explore various — and very extra — facets of 1985 fashion. "I do feel like this season is the most aspirational for her," says Morgan, who enjoyed the chance to break out "the quintessential 'Dynasty'-type looks of the '80s" on Debbie for her more formal occasions — like the blue velvet strapless gown and gloves in the first episode (above) and going big for date nights with wealthy, bolo-tie-wearing "Tex," who's not actually from Texas.
Ruth even references Debbie looking like a "Jordache commercial" — so quintessentially mid-'80s — when she test rides a horse while wearing a Western suede jacket embellished with snakeskin panels, metal studs and fur-trim. Because why not?
"Even when she was in Pasadena and married to Mark, she really did have this Ralph Lauren-inspired look and this Americana Western flair," explains Morgan. "So that was fun to tie it into [Tex's] ranch and it felt like you could really see Debbie becoming part of that world."
Season three also introduces Geena Davis as Sandy, the entertainment director of the Fan-Tan — or, as Sam jokes, Debbie's "Ghost of Christmas Future." The former Vegas showgirl makes her grand entrance in a shimmering leopard print suit, meticulously cinched at her waist by a luxe Chanel belt (above).
"Because she was originally a showgirl, we wanted to show she is a person who understands how to use her body," explains Morgan. "But she has risen into a position of power in a man's world. So we wanted to tie that in with Debbie, who sees what can happen and how she can take it further than what Sandy did."
Morgan hunted down vintage '80s skirt suits with particular flair, along with sparkly beaded cocktail dresses, all around Los Angeles, plus Ebay and Etsy. The pieces were then altered to perfectly fit Davis's figure. "We had a more power suit, couture element to her with these mid-'80s, really beautiful structured, really architecturally designed suits," she adds.
Sandy is also a ringside fixture at the "Glow" shows and hobnobs with the Vegas sharks and big wigs on the casino floor. "She's no wallflower, by any means," adds Morgan. "All these sequin numbers, these gowns. She still wants to be a known entity of her place in the hotel circle of life there."
Understandably, performing the same show, in the same costumes, night after night becomes a bit of a routine. Compelled by Tammé's (Kia Stevens) worsening back, the ladies decide to switch things up, literally, by trading costumes and wrestling personas in the delightful "Freaky Tuesday" episode.
But, as life imitates art — and lucky for Morgan's costume budget — the actresses really did just "swap" each other's existing costumes. "It's so funny because we talked about it so much and did the fittings, and [writer/creators] Liz [Flahive] and Carly [Mensch] were like, 'why do [the leotards] all just fit?'" laughs Morgan. "Because they're spandex."
Realistic adjustments were made, like Yolanda (Shakira Berrera) wearing her own pants to play Junk Chain, Reggie (Marianna Palka) throwing on a nun's habit rummaged out of Jenny's (Ellen Wong) costume trunk and Debbie needing extra foundational support (i.e., a visible bra) to fit Ruth's one-shoulder and "yeast infection"-inducing Zoya leotard. "We wanted to show that not all girls can be wrestling without a bra on," explains Morgan. "We had a makeshift covering of her bra that Jenny would have put together, but then Carly's like, 'you can't tell.' We wanted it to be more obvious."
Oh wait, but "Freaky Tuesday" does unveil one complete bombshell transformation: Sheila the She-Wolf's (Gayle Rankin) appearance as Liza Minelli in a red sequin dress (above), presumably lent from Bobby's drag costume closet. Sheila later doffs her crutch of a canine persona to find her true aesthetic. The team pondered ways of illustrating the process, including the time-honored montage of Sheila trying on her colleagues' clothes, which may have actually been fun to watch.
But at the end of the day, "we just wanted her to be softer and just really honestly simple," says Morgan, about Sheila's "blank slate" of pastels and neutrals on relaxed silhouettes. "She's gone from having something that gives you an immediate reaction when you see her to something a little bit more malleable. Because the actress in her really wants to be versatile and have more freedom in that."
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Rhonda (Kate Nash), now married to dilettante-turned-producer Bash (Chris Lowell and his glorious hair), also embarks on a fashion evolution befitting her elevated socio-economic status. Sort of. After a shopping trip with her intimidatingly patrician mother-in-law Birdie (Elizabeth Perkins), Rhonda puts her own twist on the blue blood designer skirt suit look. "The pieces are really expensive and designer, but there's something a little off about them or a little trashy still with the way she puts them together," Morgan says. "She takes everything and it's very Vegas-afied."
Initially, Birdie tests Rhonda to pick one of two designer suits and Rhonda forgoes the one that's "Oscar de la Renta and very expensive." Morgan confirms the "posh" suit really is vintage Oscar, which she sourced, along with other '80s-era high-end pieces, from Los Angeles hotspots: Recess, The Way We Wore and Regeneration Vintage, plus First Dibs and The RealReal. To complete a very Rhonda, pearl-bedazzled all-white suit, Morgan custom built a skirt to match (above).
Along with Davis, another icon appears in "Glow": Bob Mackie — although not technically in person. The legendary fashion and costume designer's storied career involves many a Vegas outing, starting in 1966 with Mitzi Gaynor's show at the Riviera to longtime collaborator Cher's multiple tours and residencies in the 2000s. He also designed the burlesque extravaganza "Jubilee!," which ran from 1986 to 2016 at Bally's. When the show permanently closed, Las Vegas Weekly mourned the moment as "the Las Vegas showgirl goes extinct."
Through connections, the "Glow" production had the privilege of renting the original "Jubilee!" costumes (above) to sprinkle in throughout the season, including Rhonda accessorizing her glorious white suit and Ruth pairing a black and blue crystal headpiece with mom jeans (and nothing else) to make Debbie laugh (and accidentally flash Sam). (Morgan and her team custom-designed the ombré blue feathered and clamshell bra-top showgirl ensembles introduced in the first episode.)
"He would have been in this time period and doing this work," says Morgan, who credits Mackie as her inspiration to become a costume designer. "If we [include his costumes in the show], we should pay homage to him. It was the right thing to do."
Mackie pops up in scripted moments, too, including a reference as "the master himself" at the Libertine Ball and a pretty meta (and realistic) moment when Jenny leans in to Debbie for fair compensation: "I know I'm not Bob Mackie or Pete Menafee or Michael Travis, but all of the costumes require maintenance and doubles." Which is also a fitting show-within-a-show tribute to Morgan and her team for three seasons of stellar work.
Top and homepage photo: Ali Goldstein/Courtesy of Netflix
Follow Beth Morgan on Instagram @patternattack.