GLOW’s Costume Designer Says That Each Season Requires 200 Fittings — A Day
Plus, she reveals where Sheila the She Wolf actually got those clothes.
As soon as the third season of GLOW was released on Netflix, we knew there was no point in making weekend plans. We simply needed to binge and find out what the heck was happening with our favorite (fictional) female wrestlers — especially since they were all headed to Vegas when we saw them last. What did this mean for their successful, character-driven show? How would it affect all of their love lives? And, more importantly, what kind of outfits would a flashy casino setting bring?
Thankfully, GLOW’s Emmy-nominated costume designer, Beth Morgan, gave that last one some serious thought. Season three brought a variety of jaw-dropping looks, from the showgirl ensembles to Sheila’s style transformation. Speaking with InStyle, Morgan revealed a bit of what went on behind the scenes, including how many people she has to dress per season, and where the characters (and especially she-wolf Sheila) are buying their clothes.
On vintage shopping for the costumes:
“When we started season one, it was an intense process of accumulating things, because you literally don’t have a stitch of clothing when you start. For us, we go to these rag houses where the clothes are container to container. You know when you see those pallets of cardboard, all smushed together with plastic string around them? It's like that but with clothing. They basically cut it open and it’s sorted — T-shirts, sweatshirts. You have to know your time periods really well because you're going through all of it find these glorious pieces. In the beginning, we sent out a small army of costumers to start accumulating all this stuff. That's really how we dress our background [characters], but I'll also go through it and pull out pieces I think are right for the principals. When we got to Vegas of, course, we had to do it again — send a small army to find things that are cocktail and suits, and things that we just didn't really have because that wasn't the story we were telling until we got there.”
On how many people she has to dress each season:
“Per season, thousands and thousands. I think we do on average 200 fittings a day most days. We have a team within our team. Luckily. It's 2019 and we have such great technology, so as a designer and a department head, I can still harbor some of the control of the look and can see every fitting photo. I have my team fitting the background, and then I look at the photo stream and they wait for me approve it. So, for a designer, it’s great, because you can kind of be in more than one place at a time.”
On how the outfits have evolved as the show moves through the ‘80s:
“With these characters, they haven't had money until season three. So, even if fashion was changing, they didn't have the ability to participate in that. We do see a large passage of time in season three, as well as them having money, and not only do we see time changes, we see different seasons — summer, fall, winter. All of the girls kind of stepped into kind of proper '86 looks — with the exception of Ruth, really. Fashion is not important to Ruth. It's a vehicle to tell a story through a character, more than the purpose of making a statement about herself. So, for her, that's not where she's spending her money. Whereas Melrose, Dawn, and Stacey are going out every night. That’s where they're spending their money — on these new, flashy, Vegas-type outfits. It was really fun to update it all and bring the outfits into the now of '86, and then, at the end, it turns '87.”
On the thought process behind those Vegas looks:
“It was so different for us because we were able to dress the characters in these sparkly looks. When all the girls are going out and coming home with their shoes off, hungover and drunk, I was thinking about them getting dressed together all in one hotel room, sharing jewelry, and putting makeup on each other. It's such fun nostalgia of that time as a woman — like in college, or when I lived in Chicago in my twenties. That feeling of everybody saying, ‘Oh come over our house, we'll pre-drink and get ready.’ I love to think about them getting ready and bringing two options over to their hotel room, like ‘Which one should I wear?’ The kind of girl bonding that happened. Those scenes were always really fun for me to think about.”
On creating the costumes for the showgirls:
“We ended up having our [original Fan Tan girl costumes] made in Vegas, at a shop by this woman Katherine. The showgirl is a dying art, so to be able to witness exactly how they had been doing this for years was amazing. Welders that had worked at places on the Strip forever welded our headpieces and also those big great backpacks with all the feathers. All of it is made of steel, and it’s really heavy and cumbersome.
“We were also able to rent some of the original Jubilee costumes from Vegas, because Jubilee had recently closed. Those were designed by Bob Mackie. They are the most elaborate, insane, over-the-top pieces. So, when Ruth is doing that dance and she takes off her shirt in episode three or four, that is one of the Jubilee pieces. And then when Geena Davis is in that huge, amazing one in the ninth episode, that's a piece from Jubilee. We just added the pasties, because that was a topless one.”
On Sheila’s style transformation:
“We decided the backstory for Sheila was that she went to a thrift store and was like, ‘Okay, $30.’ And then she bought whatever she could get with $30. But, it's similar to that idea with Ruth — these performers want to feel like they're a clean palette for the character they're playing, and especially with Sheila coming from this very stylized [look] that was such a part of her soul. I think she was ready to have a break from wearing something that walked into the room before she did. One of the reasons why she got rid of the corset is because it was holding her back. So, I think with the fact that she has some freedom now, she really wanted to hold onto it and keep everything out of her way.”
On Burning Sheila’s costume:
“We did actually burn it. After season one, we made three — I designed the corsets, and this talented craftswoman made them. They're so intricate. We had to have one that was long for when she wore the jeans, one that was short for when she was wrestling, and one without bones so that she could wrestle. They’re so much work, so I remember calling this woman and being like, ‘So, we're going to burn the corset...And I feel like we need to make one more to burn.’ We burned one of the original ones and then made a backup one.”
On her tricks for vintage shopping online:
“In general, vintage shopping online is all about your key words. Just be more detail-oriented than you would think — ‘80s, size 10, lots of sparkle, evening gown. I feel like especially when I was looking for cocktail dresses, it was like, ‘Knee-length, sparkle and shine, ‘80s.’ I would put in the weirdest things, otherwise the amount of ‘80 stuff gets so copious.”