Both Meghan Markle and Midge From The Marvelous Mrs. Maisel Love Pulling This Style Move
The show's costume designer, Donna Zakowska, has taken notice.
Every time we binge-watch Amazon’s The Marvelous Mrs. Maisel, our reactions to Midge Maisel's outfits are the same: audible gasps and loving sighs, followed by extensive Etsy searches for similar vintage pieces. It’s doesn’t matter if the stand-up comedian is wearing a playful hat and coat combo, a sleek black dress, or even a polka-dot bikini — it’s always perfectly put together, colorful, and fun. And costume designer Donna Zakowska, who was nominated for an Emmy this year, is the woman behind it all.
“It's nice to see that people have loved the clothing as much as they have,” she tells InStyle exclusively over the phone, talking about the show’s late-‘50s style. “It must mean it’s the right moment and there's something they can identify with. And then we have these great scripts that really help us to animate it. It's all the factors together that really create something that seduces people.”
It also doesn’t hurt that Zakowska is meticulous when it comes to details. Armed with an art degree and inspiration from old issues of Vogue, she designs around 90 percent of the clothing for the show’s principle characters, and even works to style the extras.
“It’s a very packed schedule,” she admits when giving us a rundown of a typical day. “Supervising the background — which is really important to me — but then, every episode, really trying to decide Midge's look. It’s always a very key element that a lot of things branch off from. [I also] try to decide on the palette of her clothes — I call it the rhythm and landscape.”
Zakowska says there’s a decent amount of collaboration between herself and the show’s creator, Amy Sherman-Palladino. Sometimes, the costume designers’ ideas “come first visually and end up being a line in the script or something.” Other times, Zakowska uses the script to guide her choices.
“Like when the pink in some variation returns,” she explains, referencing Midge’s iconic pink coat from the first episode. “That’s a little bit of her reminiscing back to her past life in some way. We talk about how Midge is someone who never behaves depressed or acts depressed, even if she is. So, sometimes, certain colors harken back to certain moments that we've sort of set up — particularly if you have a flashback or something.”
That was also the reason why we saw Midge wear many romantic outfits in Paris.
“All of these things sort of mix together in the soup, do you know what I mean? There are these different elements: the story, the emotional take, my instinctual, artistic take on the use of color. Somehow, it all comes together, but that variety of factors always play a part in it."
Of course, choosing specific colors to send a message isn’t just something we see on TV shows. For instance, members of the royal family, specifically Meghan Markle, have done pulled this same move.
“I do say to myself, ‘Oh, interesting that she wore white that day,’ or ‘Interesting that she wore red.’” Zakowska said of the duchess. “Because you do see — and that's why I think it's valid to use that with the characters — that people, particularly when they're in public, make certain choices and are trying to make a statement about where they are, their state of mind. So, I am a big observer. I would say I've always been a big observer and, in my own mind, analyzing why they made those choices. I think every day of her life is about figuring out where she is, and it's interesting. It’s coding. Basically, people are coding themselves — there's a code that they're trying to communicate, you know what I mean? And the more famous you are, I think the more the code is active.”
Of course, we couldn’t let our conversation with Zakowska end without asking her how, exactly, to achieve Midge’s style in 2019.
“Full skirts are sort of wonderful,” she says. “You could pair them with small tops and [keep things] very minimal on your upper body. I think the full skirts have a great femininity and are really fun. But it is also about the color — investing in pieces that have a sort of color dynamic would be a way to dress like that. Sometimes, a whole look starts for me with a great handbag we have and I'm like, ‘Oh, that is really beautiful,’ and from there, I launch into ‘Well, let's make this dress’ or something. I think finding a piece that's special and then using that as a guide, things fall into place. Or there are amazing shoes and then, you know, 'Oh, if I just wear a solid red dress with these crazy shoes, that's going to really work.’ Sometimes, you have to find a piece and from that piece you create the whole look.”