On Tuesday evening, renowned costume designers spoke on a panel hosted by Penn Fashion Collective. The designers work on shows like 30 Rock, Saturday Night Live, Girls and The Good Wife, as well as movies like “Wall Street: Money Never Sleeps“and “Behind the Candelabra.“College senior Lynn Nguyen spearheaded efforts to organize the panel, which was moderated by Wharton and College senior Tim Chai.
“Winning an Emmy was better than getting married … by a lot.”
Veteran costume designer Ellen Mirojnick won an Emmy in 2013 for her work on “Behind the Candelabra.” She said that when she is designing, she takes into account actors’ personas because actors’ personalities influence the producers’ visions of the characters.
“You are basically a translator,” Mirojnick said. “You have to be a really good listener. And really listen, not just pretend. You have to be neutral and find the common ground. You have to make sure every single person is on the same page.”
“Every English project I ever had, I made a dress.”
Jenn Rogien, costume designer for “Girls“and “Orange is the New Black,” had an interest in design even in high school. She started her career in Saks Fifth Avenue’s buying department. One night, she volunteered to help an overwhelmed friend sew costumes for a television show. She fell in love with costume design and never looked back.
Rogien recently worked on a short film whose director had a Chanel sponsorship, and many of the costumes came straight from Chanel’s showroom. Most of her other projects do not have sponsorships, which allows the costumes to speak more for themselves.
“You’re really creating the identity of the show, not layering on your personal brand,” she said.
“Costumes allowed me to play all of the roles.”
Dan Lawson, costume designer of “The Good Wife,” originally planned to be an actor, but found passion in costume design. He shared that in his experience, defensive actors are not completely confident in their roles. Lawson said he always reminds himself to “check [his] ego at the door” to remember not to be offended.
After having difficulty finding suitable business attire for women, Lawson collaborated with a British boutique owner to create his own clothes for his characters. The endeavor lead to a larger collaboration to create a fashion line sold in the owner’s shops.
“I got into fashion because I wanted to create a chic, elegant business woman who doesn’t dress like a man,” Lawson said. “I wanted my characters to be feminine and be confident in a woman’s look.”
“I wanted to be a child psychiatrist.”
Tom Broecker, who has worked on shows like “Saturday Night Live,” “House of Cards” and “30 Rock,” originally wanted to be a psychiatrist. “I’m basically a psychiatrist [now],” he said of designing costumes. “I listen to people, but I also tell them what to wear.”
Broecker said that to succeed in costume design, it is important to love people and actors. He explained that the main job of a costume designer is to start with the scripts and build the characters from there.