Roseanne’s Costume Designer Spills on Who’s Gotten a Style Upgrade
It has been almost 21 years since Roseanne went off the air, but tomorrow night marks the Conners’ triumphant return to TV. Going into the reboot, we have plenty of questions—namely, how the writers will choose to explain the fact that family patriarch Dan (played by John Goodman) is alive, despite the fact that he died in the 1997 season finale (in a rather convenient turn of events, the death occurred off-camera). Besides Dan’s revival, we’re also curious to see how the show handles the return of both actresses who played Becky; Lecy Goranson portrayed the eldest daughter of Roseanne (Roseanne Barr) and Dan for six seasons, while Sarah Chalke played the character for three seasons. With both Chalke and Goranson back for the reboot, things are bound to get interesting.
We’re sure to get some much-needed answers in tomorrow night’s episode (airing at 8 p.m. ET on ABC). But in the meantime, there’s one thing we can count on to stay relatively the same: the Conners’ wardrobes. The family will be dressed just as we remember them, although they will get a bit of a modern update, according to the costume designer Erin Quigley. “It was really fun to rethink the characters in terms of what's happened to them over the past 20 years,” Quigley, who worked on the original series as well as the reboot, tells InStyle. “We had to figure out how that would be reflected in their wardrobes and what items would still be in their closets."
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"We also had to think about what happened to the people who stayed or left," Quigley continues. "For instance, Darlene [Sara Gilbert] moved to Chicago to work as a writer in the city, so we had to try to incorporate a little more of an urban feel for her as she came back home. But Becky, on the other hand, has stayed in Lanford. She's been stuck—she's in her forties now, single, and still working as a waitress. She still has her signature girly look with florals and pinks, but it has a harder, more adult edge to it.”
Each character’s look will subtly reflect the path that his or her life has taken over the past two decades. But one period of their lives will be forgotten altogether: the original show’s final season. In what will likely be music to fans’ ears, it’s as if events like the Conners’ lottery win, Roseanne’s glamorous adventures, and Dan’s death never even happened when the show picks up. “We really wanted the new episodes to feel like an extension of the eighth season, as opposed to the ninth season,” Quigly says. Keep reading for our full conversation with Quigley, in which she dishes on where the Conners shop, whose style has changed the most, and the real story behind Aunt Jackie’s “Nasty Woman” look.
Will we see anyone embracing the latest fashion trends? You know, somebody like Dan Conner is going to have the same type of clothes in his wardrobe no matter what. He probably has the exact same shirts that he wore 20 years ago, albeit a little more faded. But somebody like Becky is going to wear things that are much more contemporary, like [cold-shoulder] tops. We've tried to add in a little bit of spice, but these people don't have a ton of money to spend on fashion. The fashion they get is pretty much whatever Target or Kmart affords them, and we've tried to stay true to that.
Where do you shop for the clothes? We go to the mall and hit the big places that we think the Conners would shop like Target and Walmart. We fill in with some pieces from Macy's and Bloomingdale’s and Nordstrom, because we have to get all the sizes that we need. Then we also did a lot of thrift shopping this time around, because we wanted to maintain the feel of the Conners and the fact that some of their clothes have been in their closets for 20 years. Obviously we didn't keep everything from the original show, so we had to tether their new clothes with things that looked like they were well-worn and repurposed over the years. For instance, we saw everybody wearing the classic chicken shirt in the old show, and now we see Roseanne wearing it as a night shirt as opposed to wearing it around during the day.
What would you say is the most quintessential item in Roseanne’s wardrobe? There are two things, the first being jeans. She wears all varieties of jeans: stretchy jeans, legging jeans, regular jeans. She doesn't have to make a decision about what goes on the bottom, she just changes out the top. The other thing is quirky sweaters or sweatshirts. We have a couple of intentionally hideous items that we've thrown in that crack all of us up, so you can look forward to seeing those this time around.
Will there be any nods to her over-the-top style from the show’s final season after she won the lottery? Or is the more glamorous Roseanne totally gone? We’re not really paying homage to the post-lottery Roseanne. We're really maintaining the original, iconic feel of the Conners and land a little heavier on the fact that they're struggling economically. They don't have expendable incomes, and they're re-purposing things that they may have had for a long time.
So wardrobe-wise, do you think the show still reflects the average working-class American family the way that it did back in the ‘90s? I think that it does, for the most part. We definitely tried to do that, but we do have some new characters and we've had to walk a delicate line with some of them. We have a gender-neutral kid, and it took a lot of collaborative work on the part of the writers and design team and actor to find the right note in that sense. So that's something completely new that we didn't deal with in the past, and again we have a teenager who wants to retain their rebellious side but still has to fit in with the feel of the show. We've been able to keep the iconic feeling, but still have elements that reflect the changing of time.
Speaking of that, photos have been released showing Laurie Metcalf—aka Aunt Jackie—wearing a “Nasty Woman” shirt with a pussy hat. How did that come about? It was great, because the writers gave us a heads up about that. They really saw that as they were writing it. Laurie and her daughter, Zoe Perry, are both avid knitters and they had each knit many pussy hats over the course of recent times. So for the show, Laurie actually ended up wearing one of the pussy hats that Zoe made, which was great.
That’s amazing. Was there anything that you wanted to stay away from like in the costumes? Was there one thing you wouldn't put in? Over the course of the original show, the characters became so comfortable in their own skins—even Roseanne, who morphed in and out of varies styles, there was still kind of a range that we stuck within. So I don't think there was anything that we didn't want to put in. But other than the initial appearance of Jackie wearing the nasty woman shirt and the pussy hat, we didn't want to be too political going forward. We didn't always want her in tie-dye and peace signs, looking like the cliche hippie-dippie left-wing person, so after that first costume for comedy purposes, we tried to bring her—and the rest of the characters—back into a more realistic world.
One major plot twist for the revival is that Dan is alive, even though he died in the original series’ finale. What was it like to bring him back from the dead? Well, I was very happy to bring Dan back from the dead! But I think the way they've dealt with that last episode and the repercussions of it is a good one, and I think people will be accepting of it because it makes sense, in the same way that the last episode kind of made sense. So I loved it. Walking back on that set was just such a great feeling. The set is identical—it's the same actors, many of the same tech people and directors from the original run. It really was a time warp, as if no time had passed. It was truly special and very bizarre at the same time.
So many cast members went on to do major projects after the original series finale. How involved were they in the wardrobe process this time around? As designers, we’re really lucky because these people are real actors who care more about the character than what they look like, necessarily. They're not afraid of looking ugly or awkward or doing whatever it takes to get the character across, so they're very involved. Everyone on the design team is very welcoming in terms of their input, and we all crack each other up.
If you had to choose, whose style do you think has changed most since the original series? I guess I would have to say Darlene. It's not going to be a huge jump for her, but in the original series she was so uncomfortable as a teen. She was always in giant oversized shirts and very loose-fitting stuff. Her move into the working world in Chicago has made her more urban, as I said before, but her look is also more fitted and accessorized. She's looking for work and so she has to have an interview outfit that she can use repeatedly, because she doesn't have the money for a giant wardrobe. So I would say that Darlene has probably changed the most, but even then, it's pretty incremental.