Runway News

On the Rack with the Costume Designer for GIRLS: Closed Set with Julie Bensman

In the world of magazines, it’s easy to forget what’s currently popular – as in, right now, this second. We shoot fur coats in the dead of summer, preview designer lines a full season ahead, and screen films that won’t come to theatres until at least next year. So when I started hearing buzz about a new HBO show dubbed the younger, edgier, post-modern Sex And The City, I hoped this good thing was worth waiting for. Needless to say, the buzz was spot on.

Cast of Girls / HBO

Cast of GIRLS, left to right: Marnie (Allison Williams), Jessa (Jemima Kirke), Hannah (played by Lena Dunham), Shoshanna (Zosia Mamet)

Created by and starring Lena Dunham, GIRLS profiles four 20-something ladies navigating work, relationships, and life in New York City in the most comical, depressing, and painfully familiar ways. Just as each girl has her own storyline, each has her own style, expertly curated by Costume Designer Jennifer Rogien. Through Hannah (played by Dunham), Marnie (Allison Williams), Shoshanna (Zosia Mamet), and Jessa (Jemima Kirke), Rogien is able to sartorially channel each character perfectly. Here’s a peek into the hard work that goes into such an enormous, enviable role:

Julie Bensman: Describe your typical day.

Jennifer Rogien: One of the things I love most about my job is that no two days are the same. One thing they all have in common is an early start. Call times are often 7 AM but I’m usually at work before that, getting everything rolling, checking the background for the day, touching base with my team on set, and setting the look for every costume the first time it goes on camera. From there I head off to prep for the next day and the next episode, which usually involves a combination of shopping, vendor/showroom appointments, thrifting, fittings at the studio’s costume shop, and some time at my desk.

JB: How do you choose what each character will wear?

JR: GIRLS is an awesome show to work on because some characters are very brand-driven, while others are an eclectic mix. Hannah is a charmingly disheveled mix of vintage, thrift, Anthropologie, Madewell, and H&M, with vintage huarache sandals or Rachel Antonoff for Bass saddle shoes.

Marnie is more polished and wears brands that reflect that: Elie Tahari, DVF, DKNY, J.Crew, and Paige jeans for casual moments.

Shoshanna is a department store girl through and through: brands like Nanette Lepore, Marc by Marc Jacobs, BCBG, Rachel Roy, and Milly helped create the character. I mixed Old Navy PJs with velour pieces to create all her adorable lounge looks. 

Jessa is the most eclectic, by far. Her pieces are often vintage (some dating as far back as the 1930s), mixed with the occasional Zara piece, a piece from Pearl River, a couture designer unearthed at Century 21, paired with amazing designer shoes (bought on a budget from Bluefly), and accessorized with Cosabella bra & panty sets and crazy vintage jewelry from the Brooklyn Flea or tribal jewelry from 21 Tara in Brooklyn.

JB: How do you see each character’s style evolving as the season goes on?

JR: Season 2 picks up not long after the end of Season 1, so the changes I’m incorporating are very subtle. Hannah, in true Hannah style, explores a trend that only she is following. Marnie finds herself in unfamiliar territory so I try to support and reflect a little bit of that uncertainty in her look. She still looks polished but there are some faint hints with color and pattern that things aren't quite right. Shoshanna is starting to come into her own and I'm following suit: her jewelry is a little less cutesy, her colors are a little stronger, and her shoes are just a tad more grown-up. Jessa continues on her own path with her unique take on what’s appropriate for any given situation. I try to step back and let the wardrobe support what the GIRLS are going through in the story and be part of their evolution.

JB: Where are your favorite shopping spots in NYC?

JR: My absolute favorite store anywhere is Bergdorf Goodman. I get giddy when I have a character for whom shopping at Bergdorf is appropriate…I'm hoping one of the GIRLS will be incredibly successful at something and I can shop there every episode. Saks Fifth Avenue because Michael Santulli who runs the studio service office is amazing and my job wouldn't be possible without him. The new Zara Flagship at 666 Fifth Avenue has revolutionized my interactions with Zara. Atlantis Attic in Williamsburg always rewards a commitment to looking through every piece on every rack. And Daffy’s because you can design anything out of that store — period musical, modern law drama, Lady Gaga spoof, dapper European, homeless, you name it, they have it — and things with tags that say 1100 Euro that sell for $65.

JB: What’s the best piece of style advice you’ve ever received?

JR: Fit is 70% of the battle.

 

The season finale of GIRLS aired last night, which brings bad news and good news. The bad? The best excuse to spend Sunday evenings on your couch is no longer an option. The good? You have time to watch (or rewatch) the entire first season before the next gets underway.

 image: Mark Seliger/HBO

 

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