Broad City’s Costume Designer on the Importance of Keeping Wardrobe Pieces "Accessible"
Much of Broad City’s genius hinges on how its female leads are shameless and unapologetically broke. So it makes complete sense that their clothing would be a direct reflection of that. For all of the racy, oft-inappropriate, post-millennial looks we see onscreen that bring each characters' ridiculousness to new heights, we have Brooklyn-based costume designer Staci Greenbaum to thank.
As it turns out, Abbi and Ilana's weekly 30-minute, drug-fueled shenanigans are something she could personally relate to. "If nothing else, my escapades in the city mirrored theirs," she tells InStyle. In advance of tonight's Season 2 finale (10:30 P.M. EST on Comedy Central), we talked with Greenbaum about Abbi and Ilana's style, consignment shopping, and Nicki Minaj. Here is an excerpt from our conversation:
How did the Broad City gig come about?It was a weird fluke. At the time, I was the associate costume designer on the The Amazing Spider-Man 2. I kept having low positions on big-budget projects, and then the opportunity came up for a big position on a lower-budget show. I read the script, and I felt like I could easily relate to these young women in New York. So I put a presentation together. Three days later, I got the job.
What was your initial approach to each character's style?It was very specific. I will say that, off the bat, I probably had Abbi a little more figured out than Ilana. Abbi to me was this young adult who is measured and practical—she’s creative and she’s got big aspirations, but she sort of embodies this normcore, “I don’t care, but what I’m wearing provides some sort of utility for me” attitude. It’s not quite together yet. With Ilana, we realized that she is an occasional dresser, and she’s sort of inappropriate, and yet it seems to be acceptable until you take her out of context. It’s experimental for her. She’s confident, and she’s unapologetic about it. When she goes big, she goes big.
Do you plan out their outfits for the season well in advance?It’s very unusual that you get all of your scripts for the entire season upfront, but Abbi and Ilana deliver them all at once. There are changes that happen during production, but it’s basically like planning for a five-hour movie, which is great, but also very scary, because it's an overwhelmingly large amount of costumes that you are diving in headfirst to address. We have costume meetings where we talk about the characters and how they dress and how we see them evolving, and what we want their looks to say about them as a person. Once we have a pretty good idea, we do an insane amount of shopping.
What stores do you shop at?We try to choose places that are accessible for younger New Yorkers. We go to H&M, Zara, Forever 21, a little bit of Urban Outfitters and American Apparel—brands that seem to resonate with what’s going on currently. Then we start to team them with things that round out the look. Thrift or second-hand garments provide depth and realness to the costumes.
A little Beacon’s Closet? [Ed. note: Abbi and Ilana head to the Brooklyn consignment shop in "Kirk Steele"]Definitely some Beacon’s Closet! There is something to be said about going into those thrift stores—there’s a huge intimidation factor. For that episode, we had to choose things that were recognizably pricey. There was definitely an Hervé Léger dress and a pair of Louboutins in the mix.
Do Abbi and Ilana dress like their characters in real life?I would venture a guess to say that we’re closer to the real Ilana than we are to the real Abbi. Abbi dresses very chic in real life. She loves Creatures of Comfort and Steven Alan. I think we do it a little more simply in the show for her. Ilana is not nearly as crazy as we make her in the show. There’s that alternative, individualized style she has going on, but it’s not quite as experimental as we clearly make it. She’s a champion of the crop top and no pants. It’s become somewhat of a uniform for her.
How big of an influence is Nicki Minaj in Ilana’s wardrobe?Huge. Ilana embodies such a confident, cool, fun-loving, sort of evil personality, and she is a woman who just does it up. For her, that is in essence what she wants out of life: to be whoever the f*** she is.
For more style tips and Broad City intel, follow Staci Greenbaum on Twitter at @staci_greenbaum.