“Costume design is the act of taking a character on the page and bringing it to life with clothes,” said Sophie de Rakoff, a costume designer for the critically acclaimed Apple TV+ series The Morning Show. “You have to get to know the characters on a cellular level. It’s about putting yourself in their minds.”
De Rakoff joined Kristin Hahn, an executive producer of The Morning Show, in the Katie Murphy Amphitheatre on Oct. 20 for a special screening of an episode that featured FIT and Valentino—and fashion designs by alumni. They spoke about the show’s costumes with journalist and boldface name Hal Rubenstein, whose book about TV’s influence on fashion, Dressing the Part: Television’s Most Stylish Shows, debuts Oct. 31. (If you missed the event, catch the archive video on our Vimeo channel.)
The three started by discussing the differences between fashion design and costume design. In costume design, they said, the clothes must build character. And actors rely on their costumes to help them understand their characters.
“They are two completely different worlds,” de Rakoff explained. “Fashion is a world of editorial, of beauty, and art for art’s sake. Filmmaking is storytelling.”
A perceptive viewer can get a glimpse into the future by studying the costumes, Hahn said. “The costume designer is telling you secrets about the character.”
Rubenstein emphasized the importance of creating a cohesive visual palette on screen. “When you see a fashion show, the clothes come down one look at a time,” he said. “Each dress gets its own spotlight. Yet when you’re doing costume design, it doesn’t work that way. If one costume is discordant with anything else on set, it doesn’t work.”
In the episode, the series’ namesake morning show hosts a benefit to raise money for FIT’s scholarship program. In the middle of the event, it comes out that the Supreme Court is going to strike down the landmark abortion rights decision Roe v. Wade, and the celebration of fashion and femininity becomes a tragic flashbulb moment.
“We found the juxtaposition of talking about women’s autonomy and fashion to be fitting,” Hahn said.
Costume plays a role in this plot turn. A sultry pink Valentino gown worn by Nicole Beharie’s character, the height of femininity, becomes an ironic statement when she erupts in the women’s bathroom about the loss of abortion rights and the deaths that would cause.
“The dress becomes a cage,” de Rakoff said. “The huge train is in her way.”
Hahn and de Rakoff said they had fun creating the episode. They worked with Pierpaolo Piccioli, creative director of Valentino, who supplied looks for the on-screen gala and even appeared in the episode. For Alex Levy, played by Jennifer Aniston’s character, Piccioli created a replica of a gown Aniston wore to the 2010 Golden Globes. The producers and costume designers also did street casting for the models showing off Valentino couture—and Piccioli approved each one. De Rakoff’s costume team bought the rest of the formalwear used in the episode from luxury fashion marketplace The RealReal and designer outlets in Palm Springs.
As the event concluded, Rubenstein introduced the three class of 2022 Fashion Design BFA alumni who designed looks that appeared in the episode: Karisma Hishikawa, Alex Liandro, and Layla Rispoli. Liandro asked the panel for advice for breaking into design.
“Do whatever you can do, and say yes to everything,” de Rakoff advised.