Just like the show itself, there is definitely more than meets the eye when it comes to the costumes on Lifetime’s UnReal.
“We have two different worlds that we explore on the show,” says costume designer Cynthia Summers. “The characters in front of the camera are sparkly, happy, and looking for love, so everything is super colorful. And then there are the characters behind the camera, wearing working clothes, which means a lot of dark colors and earth tones.”
Both end up being a challenge for Summers, who outfits the cast including Constance Zimmer, Shiri Appleby, B.J. Britt, and the 26 contestants looking for love and fame on The Bachelor-like dating show, Everlasting. “For each girl, we had to have bikinis, casual looks, date looks, and elimination ceremony gowns,” says Summers. “I looked at the backstory of each contestant and where they were from and then I would put together a storyboard of what they should look like.”
And as for her two leading ladies? Both have upped their fashion game this season, according to Summers. “Quinn and Rachel have come back in season two in more powerful positions and everyone has gotten a raise,” she says. Enter, Quinn’s enviable collection of Victoria Beckham sheaths and Rachel’s sexy Helmut Lang leather pants. “Rachel looks to Quinn for a lot and now that she’s taking her position, she starts to dress like her in her own way,” says Summers. Baggy jeans, be gone.
Read on for more details about Quinn and Rachel’s changing style and seven other surprising facts about the costumes on this season of UnReal.
1. Quinn will never, ever wear flats
“I think it’s hard to be a powerful woman when you’re walking around in flats," says Summers, who adds that Quinn (Constance Zimmer) wears everything from Christian Louboutin to Dior on her feet this season. And now that Quinn is calling more of the shots on Everlasting, her wardrobe had to be as sharp as she is. “Quinn is a force to reckoned with and she has a sexy woman-in-charge look,” says Summers. “We went straight to Victoria Beckham for body-conscious sheath dresses. They’re perfect for a working woman like her—you put them on, you look great, and they stay in place all day.” Though Summers didn’t put Quinn in many suits, she did find a tailored Donna Karan jacket and slim-cut trousers that fit the girl boss bill.
2. Darius’s Style is inspired by Carolina Panthers QB Cam Newton
After Summers found out that Darius (B.J. Britt), this season’s suitor, was a professional football player, she started to do her research. “I began to follow what some of these pros athletes wear and I landed on Cam Newton,” she says. “His fashion sense is off-the-charts. And the way he puts together outfits is amazing. The best part about these guys is that they are big men, so they aren’t afraid to wear something a little more feminine, like pink, or floral prints. They have fun with it. And that inspired me to go colorful and more daring with Darius.”
3. Rachel’s Inner Turmoil Comes Out Through Her Clothes
If you want to know how Rachel (Shiri Appleby) is doing psychologically, just take a look at her outfit. “Outwardly, her look is driven by her inner psyche, so when she’s a mess inside, she’s a mess outside,” says Summers. “But you have to be subtle with that, because you don’t want her to be a caricature of emotion.” And now that Rachel has more responsibility in season two, she is looking to her mentor Quinn for fashion cues. “We wanted to clean her up and make her look like she could come back to this group—who remember her as a nutcase—and command the room,” says Summers, who chose a black Helmut Lang jacket and leather pants, with Valentino booties, for Rachel’s first day back on set. “Some of her new looks stay with her throughout the season, but when she falls back to her old ways, she starts to dress like she used to.”
4. There were 97 Evening Gowns Worn For the First Elimination Ceremony
Since there were 26 contestants on the show for the first three episodes, Summers had her work cut out for her when it came to eveningwear. “I really needed to map it out to keep the outfits straight,” she says. “So I made this big 5' x 6' chart that had all of the characters across the top and the episodes down the side. There is a photo of every single girl in every single gown that they wore. It was the only way to make sure that I didn’t have two people in red, or two people with the same silhouette, and just enough variety to make it visually interesting.”
5. Sometimes The Clothes Make The Plot Point
Case in point: the infamous Confederate flag bikini. “Before we even started filming, Sarah [Gertrude Shapiro, the creator] told me that the bikini was going to be a very important part of the story, so I started looking for it right away,” says Summers, of the scene where contestant Beth Ann (Lindsay Musil) wears it in front of Darius. “The sad part is that we could actually find them online.” Even so, Summers calls Beth Ann one of her favorite characters to dress because she is “a little trashy and even when she is making an attempt at style, everything is a little off.” Summers’s other faves to dress? Yael, the fashion blogger; Tiffany, the NFL wifey; and Chantal, the Southern debutante.
6. Darius has more wardrobe changes than anyone else
“Most of the episodes take place within 24 hours, so the women don’t usually have to change too much. But with Darius, if he went on a date, we changed him, and then if he went back to his room, we changed him,” says Summers. “Anytime we had the chance to switch his outfit, we did it.” So what was inside his massive closet? “Strellson suits are just the right cut for B.J. and we put him in great colors like fire engine red and ice white,” she says. “And we also did a lot of suits from Zara, mixed with jackets and coats from Boss too.“
7. Most of the Contestant Gowns are From the Same Store
“When I came on to the show I didn’t know anything about the contestants yet, but I knew that I’d need a lot of dress options,” she says. That led to her La Femme, a boutique in Los Angeles, where she did her first big buy and continued to go back to throughout the season. “Their dresses are perfect for the show and they have enough tackiness to them to make them appropriate for this sort-of pageant world. My first time in the store, we bought 20 dresses, all in size four, so we could make them bigger or smaller depending on who would end up wearing it,” she says. “Then I went back again just before we starting filming and bought another 20 gowns. By the end of the season, I would say probably 75 percent of the gowns were from La Femme.”