FHM #30: Making Mrs. Maisel
My name is danny shapiro and i'm the host family secrets a podcast about the secrets kept from us secrets. We keep from others and the secrets we keep from ourselves cbs. Family secrets is show where you can hear powerful stories of heartbreak healing and hope listen to season two family secrets on apple podcasts the iheartradio app or wherever you get your podcasts trust your fashion is a production of iheartradio ever seven billion the people in the world. We all have one thing in common every day. We all get dressed. Welcome to trust the history of fashion a podcast that explores the who what went of why we were we are fashion historians and your hosts cassidy zachary and abra callahan and it's thursday today and our regular dress listeners will well no that that means. It's our weekly fashion history mystery. Were we answer listener questions and today's question us cast actually a pretty popularized laurent because more than one of you have written to us about this topic and just like those of you who have posed this query we are also huge fans of the amazon original tv show the marvelous mrs mazel yeah you can count me in as a giant fan and that is because the whole thing is just so well done on from the script to actors and i'm going to give a big shoutout to this being largely a female driven cast and also to the the costumes which are more or less what we're going to talk about on today's episode but i'm afraid that i'm a tad late to a party a fabulous nineteen fifties party casts and why is that do well in the summer as you know how has been very busy. We've had a lot of things going on. Presentations and other things are a writing and so i had yet had the chance to visit until until this week an exhibition that's at the paley center for media here in new york city and they are on display many of the costumes and sets from mrs mazel and have to say it was a super fun peep into the making of the show and you know this is way more your ruled than mine in terms of inner workings of film and t._v. Because this is actually your vocation you've worked on costuming so many productions cast us that our listeners probably have no idea that they were huge fans of an one notable one being breaking bad but do you want to talk a little bit about this and talk about some of the other predictions that you've worked on sure i would love to i've actually been costumer in various capacities for the past ten years and i'd have an opportunity which i love to really hone my craft a variety of different jobs so from being an onset costumer to sewing to aging and dying and then i usually cost him supervise the department but most recently. I designed so one of my very first t._v. Shows breaking bad as you mentioned but i've also worked on shows that ranged from adam sandler's comedic equestrian the ridiculous six to the much more serious sicario and most recently this summer i designed a film called the silk road but it's not what our listeners might think. It's actually really true story based on an online drug marketplace by the same name yeah. I mentioned this to like one of our fellow fashion. Historian friends like what's kassab too and i was like oh. She's working on this phone. Call the silk road and they thought that of course it was like but kara like you know many centuries ago yeah but i would really argue that this entire genre of costume design i mean to me has kind of shifted over the last twenty years i in our favor as fashion historians because i think that many audience members have become much more savvy and kind understand the point of the accuracy the detail that goes into historic dramas like a few of my favorite ones of the last you you know ten twenty years were the borjas and the tutors and to me just as somebody who watches you know subscription tv. I thought that these these two productions of particular felt like really huge turning points in terms of how historic dress was accurately presented on television but the this is what you do all the time so i think that you probably have your own thoughts on this yeah and absolutely i think probably in terms of of historic dress asked how it's presented accurately on tv is probably a product of the last twenty years or so because of the this huge new emphasis on television as you you know kind of what we're all watching now but historical accuracy has been around for many many decades and it really just depends on the costume designer right someone like john on bright who was a guest on the podcast earlier. This season was arguably and is arguably a fashion story and he's a collector fashion for many many years and so he's really been conscious of historical accuracy since he began designing films in the eighties so some of my favorite period films are something like barry lyndon which i still have not see oh yes it was on amazon for about twenty four hours and i watched it but it's an incredibly abused film and it was by one the costume designer melena cannon era won an academy award for those designs and she might be more familiar to our listeners. There's as the oscar award winning designer sofia coppola as marie antoinette so you know costume design is really an art form that designers have been cultivating well. Actually i guess for centuries now if you think of it on in terms of on the stage but now they're doing it for the small and the big screen and really cool and exciting ways and it it's it's a whole whole kind of history unto its own in terms of like the shifting trends for things being like super duper accurate or like maybe you can look back at some of the marie-antoinette film that was produced in the nineteen fifties. I'm not i don't remember the year exactly and the costuming and that film well as beautiful perform exquisite as it is and very seductive as it is it didn't have the same focus on historical accuracy and a lot of times when in the past asked when historic dramas have been produced the costume designers are actually trying attempting to walk this fine line of making this styles of dress palatable to people looking at it at that time in terms of what contemporary fashion looks like but also putting in all those historical article references so it's just been really interesting to see how that has kind of shifted in the last twenty years. Yes absolutely okay so we've gotten off topic a little bit. Let's get back to our subject at hand which is mrs mazel and for any of our listeners who might not already be familiar with with the show is set in the late nineteen fifties. I think in the initial scene it's starts in nineteen fifty eight and the main character image mazel who has played stupendous -ly by rachel brosnahan. She's an extremely witty young wife and mother who you grew up in an upper middle class jewish family on the upper west side and when the show opens her life is kind of like this seemingly perfect nineteen nineteen fifty s dream. She's housewives with a handsome similarly well-to-do husband she has two young children a beautiful apartment and frankly it's norma's in terms of new york's two-thirds right now she also has this extraordinary harry wardrobe to match. All of these quote unquote successes that she's accomplished at this point in her life. Yes midge is extremely well. Put together reprint but not exactly proper. She's very outspoken with a sparkling intellect conflicts get introduced in the show early on when her husband joel leaves her for his a secretary an fit of indignation and more than a few glasses of wine she stumbles into this comedy club that she had frequented with joel who dreamed of being a stand end up comics so taking over the mike she unleashes abiding diatribe on the state of her marriage and the pressure is put on women to conform to unrealistic ideals and in that moment a star was born it certainly was and there's a lot more hilarity that ensues with midge because she starts to pursue a career as a stand up comedian all the while attempting to hide it from her friends and family so you can imagine how that all works out but she's basically soclean living two different lives and one of the main ways that this is communicated to viewers is through her wardrobe which is really really interesting because <hes> you know oftentimes it. Her wardrobe feels to be in direct conflict with her comedic riffs. Which are you know pretty brash. They're raw out on more more than one occasion. They warranted her arrest on charges of sanity so she's presenting herself as dainty lady where hat hat wearing perfect gloves and designer dress but you know cast the stuff that's coming out of her mouth is in direct opposition to that and that's i think that one of the things that makes this amazing tension and it makes her character really so interesting and compelling and part of that tension comes comes to us courtesy of emmy award winning costume designer donna tsukasa for her the closer yet another character and the show and while the extras on the show of which there are many where vintage clothes from the period as well as i'm sure beings that are rented from rental houses as a casket and her team of twenty five people create original sambas for all the lead actors on the show yeah and cast one that struck me immediately when i first saw the show is the way in which the cosco uses color and i've read many many interviews with journalists that she's done about creating the costumes and she this comes up again and again and again for her this this matter of color and she has said quote quote. There's an emotional response that is inherent in color. You know for for instance. Some of the initials cs of the show sakaba dressed the character of mitch and pink and it was kind of symbolic of this rosy nature that she believed her life to be that her marriage to be but after where everything falls apart the color pink almost instantaneously disappears from her wardrobe for a while but it would reappear a little bit later as as the series goes on as mitch begins to establish her own identity separate from that of her now estranged husband yeah in color is a very common and important storytelling telling tool used by costume designers to really visually manifest you know these underlying narratives in any giving setting as of course the clothing itself so you know the semiotics capabilities of clothing costume have you is essential to the creation of these characters and the show's creator amy sherman palladino has called a casca a quote unquote mad scientists and remarked. She doesn't believe a hat is a hat. You know a hat is a character. It's a person the hat needs to reflect where the person in is internally exactly and a speaking of hats. These were not just any old hats sakau ska and her team put a a ton of effort into researching periods sources that include french fog as well as a lot of fashion photography of the era including shooting works by irving penn and norman parkinson who we have already discussed briefly or you of discussed briefly on a prior episode on season one in about the history of fashion photography but frequently the clothes that appear in mrs mazel are adaptations of haute couture designs which is very interesting and they might have been adaptations of designs are originally buy your bonds siaga and if anyone wants to go back and listen into our also recent episode about the history of haute couture industry you will know that these adaptations were readily available on the american burkett vis-a-vis high end department stores such as bergdorf goodman or b altman which is also interesting about the show because the altman was like this this now defunct jam department store <hes> doesn't exist anymore but it was recreated for the show and actually at one point midge works there air briefly at the makeup counter and make counters actually part of the exhibition at the paley center right april yeah. It's an it's stocked full of elizabeth arden cosmetic products and the make up counter set piece is just one of a few pieces of sets that are on view. There's also the beauty beauty salon from upstate summer resort steiner that all the characters in season two. There's the telephone switchboard where midge worked for some time and and even her armoire filled with rows and rows and rows of shoes and when i was there i was like her feet are tiny it house how how small itchy and and also like i just have to say about the costumes in general as well that are on display. She must be really small all because some of the wastes of the dresses that are on display are like to hand spans and fun fact april. I don't know if you know this but i actually had the pleasure of working working with rachel on another period t._v. Show that was filmed in new mexico some years back at this point but it was called manhattan that she would remember me. I was <music> only on set a few days to help agent die but it's still cool to make that connection. I think that you have to explain the agent die thing because might come across cross and a different way oh aging and dying as a department and the costume department that it's a highly specialized skill that you kind of learn to could do but it's too you know you get closed new and you have to make them look old or warn. Of course that's the aging aspect my husband's currently working on a zombie film elms the aging time departments incredibly important and making all of these zombie costume or reading department right and dying is is this highly specialized skill that is you know. Can you match this perfect pink or can you diet to this shade or that shade so there's a lot of things that go into into making a costume ready before. It actually goes to camera so agent. Dying is one of those things yeah but as a costumer. I know that there's a lot of this work that goes unseen to the audience to create the precise look of any given era so for instance those tiny waists you're talking about were sculpted with foundation garments. Casca said were integral creating the look as they of course would have been in the nineteen fifties so an addition addressing elite and extras alike in corset. She says we worked with playtex and they had a certain bra. They created for us that we use and so you do have to sort of pull women in you know bring the bust up. There's no way around it otherwise we could not get people into those stresses and this is also something similar <hes> that we take into consideration has fashioned a story ends when we dress mannequins for museum exhibition because if you don't have the effect of the particular undergarments of an era whether they're actual period authentic undergarments from from that time period or if they're recreations oftentimes the way that the mannequin looks the way. It's dressed doesn't look quite right. Oh absolutely and we all have horror stories about going to exhibit or presentation does things and seeing something that was not properly supported so going back to what you mentioned the borgias and the tutors april the very specific types of undergarments and course issues on these shows are one of the main ways that the very specific authentic look can come from across all of this is hidden labor on the part of the costume designers and thirteen yeah and so i just want to give a shoutout to all that hidden labor her we adore in appreciate your work if you'd like to check out the paley center exhibition to appreciate the sets and the costumes and person i'm afraid aid is coming to a close on september seven. That's just only a few days from this episode will air. I'm really sorry guys. I wish i had gotten her suitor but cast sometimes pesky things like life tend to get in the way also. If you haven't already checked out the marvelous mrs mazel it's an amazon original and you can stream it online now and we didn't mention this earlier april but the show has already garnered nineteen emmy nominations and two golden globes including including best actress wins for rachel brosnahan at emmys and the golden globes. Yeah it's fantastic show so check it out and i think that brosnahan and herself has summed up quite well when she said quote the show is equal parts fantasy and reality has beautiful clothes beautiful sets i think in some ways it's aspirational to it's about a woman who's reinventing herself. After completing the dream she laid out for herself. Everything falls apart. She finds herself new you. It's never too late to do that. It's funny and i think filled with joy at its core and that's something that we need a lot more of in the world right now l. agreed and who does not need more joy. I think that does it for us to speak dress listeners. May you consider incorporating a little fifties flare into your wardrobe. Next title get dressed. Please join us for our fooling episode this coming tuesday if you'd like to write to us with a question for our future fashion history mystery many so you can do it dressed underscore podcast. This is also our twitter handle. Then of course you can follow us on facebook at dress podcast without the underscore last at least thank your producers casey pilgrim holly ali fry and everyone else. I heart radio that makes this show possible. Each week catches soon. Uh dress has your fashion is a production of iheartradio from our podcast. My heart radio is iheartradio app apple podcasts or wherever wherever else you listen to your favorite shows my name is danny shapiro and i'm the host of family secrets a podcast about the secrets kept from us secrets we keep from others and the secrets we keep from ourselves. Family secrets is a show where you can hear powerful stories of heartbreak healing and hope listen to season to a family family secrets on apple podcasts the iheartradio app or wherever you get your podcasts.