Costume designer Elisabeth Vastola has joined the Marvel Netflix family for Jessica Jones season 2 and Daredevil season 3. She takes over from previous costume designer Stephanie Maslansky who designed the costumes for the first season of the shows through The Defenders. Now that Jessica has saved Manhattan and made new friends, it is time for her to go back on her own again and face more personal threats. We spoke to Vastola about creating costumes for and how hard it actually is to dress a character who doesn’t care what she looks like. And don’t worry, we won’t spoil season 2 for you!
TMR: Is there anything you’re excited for people to see when it comes to this season? Anything new and different?
Elisabeth Vastola: This is my first foray into the Marvel Universe, Jessica season 2, and so I’m very excited and always felt very supported by the show and by everyone at Marvel to bring my ideas and aesthetic and set of eyes to their world. And I think that there are subtle changes, there are more pronounced changes in some of the costumes, there are also a lot of really fun new characters that I was really excited to be a part of. I’m so honored to be a part of the world, really the universe.
For Jessica, it comes a little bit later in the season via a specific story point, but we’re able to kind of tweak her look a little bit to be sort of more reflective of where she’s at over the course of the season. We’re able to give her new boots, new jeans, she has a whole new closet of tops. I’m really excited about that.
And for a character like Trish we really re-examined her wardrobe and took it to a place that was more indicative of where she was in the second season. I tried to kind of look at her and keep the soul of the character as it pertains to wardrobe. She’s a professional, she’s a little more uptown to Jessica’s downtown. She tends towards things a little more conservative, but I think you can have that sense of style and still be playful and adventurous and colorful. And athletic. Obviously Trish comes into her own a little bit more this season in an athletic way-there are certain scenes in the trailer where we see her fighting- so her needs out of her closet were different as well. So I was really proud of where we were able to take that character.
TMR: In episode 2 she has that bright pink blazer on and it was something so different and cool to see her in.
(Editor’s note: This is not the blazer we are talking about!)
EV: The women on the show dress for themselves. Whether or not they’re aware of it, even someone like Jessica who probably picks up and wears whatever’s closest to her on the floor in the morning, they all have a really distinct point of view. And I am a firm believer in using clothing to express that. Trish is really powerful and strong this season, and last season, but especially this season. I loved using color for her in daring ways. But at the end of the day it’s a blazer, it’s not something crazy. But it’s a really awesome pallet for her. She’s wearing that blazer when she’s at lunch with her mom, which is always kind of a tete-a-tete, it just felt like the right moment for that kind of slightly aggressive but really cool interpretation of how she dresses.
TMR: How is it doing something for a character like Jessica? Because it’s such a perfect balance. She looks looks so cool, but she doesn’t care about how she looks!
EV: People don’t realize, but it’s actually the hardest character on the show. We really, really hem and haw and go really deep about every t-shirt and tank top and knit and denim that is offered in the world. This season, because they strike the perfect tone and the perfect look, we had things sent in from Europe. I will not leave any stone unturned to find what I want for Jessica. It seems so easy and simple, but it’s really complicated because you’re trying to get the right tone, you’re trying to make sure it looks like something that’s accessible to the character and that she could conceivably buy in the city somewhere. You’re also trying to make sure it’s going to work for Krysten and her body (which of course is very easy and wonderful to do), but everyone has a different shape and you want to make sure that things fit correctly. On top of all that she has such an incredible amount of stunt work to do. So you have to figure out how the tiny tank tops will hid padding and get flameproofed and all kinds of stuff. I always want her clothing to feel as if it’s a bit of an afterthought for Jessica. But it’s so difficult to figure out from a costume design perspective. It just has to look effortless and communicate all these things and hold up to a lot of rigor.
TMR: Were there any new characters you were excited to dress this season?
EV: We have three really exciting new male characters. And what’s really exciting for me is that they’re all so different from each other. They’re so distinct in how they approach clothing and it’s so refreshing and wonderful to have all of these different guys to dress. Because a lot of times I feel like a lot of males in their 20’s to 40’s on television look very similar to each other. It’s sort of this thought that all guys wear the same denim and the same hoodie and the same t-shirt. There is some of that on the show, but what incredible characters I’ve been gifted to dress in very different ways.
And then of course I’d be remiss if I didn’t mention Janet McTeer’s character. She comes into her own a lot more through the middle and end of the season so it’s hard for me to talk about her specifically, but she is such an incredible actress I was such a fan of her coming to the show. So being able to work with her was like a dream.
TMR: What about Hogarth’s character and the journey she’s taking this season? How do you reflect that in her wardrobe?
EV: It’s interesting because when someone is going through something are they changing they way the dress and present themself to the world or are they shopping differently? Jeri, like Trish, is a character you would assume shops quite a lot or has somebody shop for them quite a lot. When she the ability to wear whatever she wants, what is it that she would wear? I think it was important in the beginning to regard her wardrobe almost like Jessica as a layer of armor for her. We keep her in black and very high end dresses and suiting as something that she still hangs onto as her expression of her power and self possession as she’s kind of losing control in other areas of her life.
I think one of the really lovely and intimate things we see for her over the course of the season is we see more of Jeri in her own home wearing more robes and comfort wear and things that kind of put her in more of a vulnerable light which I think it’s nice for the audience to see. We have expanded her closet this season to a serious collection of loungewear which I absolutely love doing. My biggest thing is find a robe you absolutely love and wear the crap out of it! Jeri just happens to have quite a few. I think it’s been a really interesting turn for her clothing wise. There’s definitely some surprises as the season goes on for her which I think is exciting.
TMR: What’s the one thing you want people to know about being a costume designer or something they may have misconceptions about?
EV: I think sometimes there’s a misconception that it’s a department that just shops. We just have a closet and you pick things out. But really it’s such an integral part of a character’s development, of the visual fabric of the screen, of the color and the tone. It’s so important. I think recently there’s been more of an appreciation which has been lovely, but it’s not only for historical drama or fantasy, but contemporary clothing as well. I would like designers who work on shows that have mostly contemporary clothing to really get the respect they deserve and all different types of shows. Because it’s a wonderful tool for storytelling as well.
Sometimes the shows where you don’t even notice the clothing is just as successful as when you do. It shouldn’t be something that takes you out of the story. Of course I prefer shows that allow the costume designer to take a little bit of creative license and help in a more poetic way and that’s what I’m given at Marvel. It’s just incredible. I think it probably comes from the history of how important a costume is to a superhero character because in a comic book or on television or in a movie once you’re suited up into that costume, it’s everything. It’s basically soul and identifier of the character. I think there’s a built in appreciation for costumes in the Marvel cinematic and television universe which is amazing. I would love for it to extend to all costume designers working in contemporary.
Jessica Jones season 2 premieres March 8th on Netflix.