At the end of the first episode, holding a bottle of kosher wine and wearing a nightgown, the star of “The Marvelous Mrs. Maisel” gets on a stage and delivers a searing impromptu monologue about her cheating husband and why her life is in shambles. All while cracking jokes.
Amy Sherman-Palladino and Daniel Palladino (the showrunners behind “Gilmore Girls”) created the Amazon Prime TV series, which follows Midge — an upper-class Jewish housewife played by Rachel Brosnahan — as she tries to pursue a career in the male-dominated world of comedy.
That’s where Emmy-award winning costume designer Donna Zakowska comes in. She’s responsible for Midge’s colorful, swiveling coats and immaculately crafted dresses, brought to life after extensive research.
“I always sort of say being a costume designer is like being a warrior. Costume design is always a bit of a battle. Making a film is a battle,” she said. “And so you have to be a bit like an athlete, I think, psychologically and physically, to actually do a project like this, because it’s so big and it’s so extensive and you’re in different locations and you have insane deadlines.”
A trip to Paris
“The colors have a very French, practically Marie Antoinette-esque spirit,” Zakowska said. “The whole feeling of it was like pastels and floating watercolor tones — it had that sort of that French painting, romantic vibe. That’s sort of where we began season two with her.”
She added that the outfit was important to her because she “knew it was going to be placed in some of the most beautiful, romantic environments in the world, and so it had to stand out in those environments.”
In the show’s very first episode, Midge wears a pink coat when she’s still in a seemingly happy relationship with her husband. Zakowska said the pink colors in this outfit harken back to her past. However, this time around, she’s also in different pastel colors.
“I think it was very much about her wanting to be a part of that world, but also feeling like she was still very much a part of the other world — her past romantic life — and so there’s sort of an emotional longing, to me, in the outfit,” Zakowska said.
The importance of red
Courtesy of Amazon Studios
“I purposely, again, worked a little bit with her classic pink tone. But then she’s in this very deep, deep, deep sort of burgundy wine-colored tone, with just a layer of pink over it,” Zakowska said. “There’s something about these red tones … it’s the color of blood; it’s the color of passion; it’s the color of strength. I wanted her to be very strong in that scene. But yet, there’s always that sort of softness that is a part of who she is.”
A visit to the past
“She is returning … to the sunny womb, in a way. And the Catskills [represent] the place where she and her family always went,” Zakowska noted. “So I wanted to make that costume as sunny and as bright as you possibly could.”
Midge takes the stage
Courtesy of Amazon Studios
“Amy [Sherman-Palladino] really framed it as her having a sort of breakdown that night. It was the night before Yom Kippur, which has sort of been a really joyous family moment,” Zakowska said. “But it’s also a moment where she discovers what her possibilities as a performer, so it’s rather important.”
Check out our interview with Amy Sherman-Palladino and Dan Palladino here.