See the Stunning Looks of Z: The Beginning of Everything
Zelda Fitzgerald, the spitfire author, style icon, and wife of F. Scott Fitzgerald, has been making headlines lately as stars like Christina Ricci, Jennifer Lawrence, and Scarlett Johansson aim to portray her on big and small screens. Ricci has taken the first stab at bringing this vivacious woman to life on Amazon’s Z: The Beginning of Everything.
The series focuses on her rarely told story from the early days as a southern belle in Alabama to the more notable flapper-filled scenes of New York’s prohibition era that eventually consumed her. Zelda’s story as a powerfully influential women of the Jazz Age was part of the draw for SNL and House of Cards costumer Tom Broecker to join the project—that and Christina Ricci herself.
“Anytime [Ricci]'s involved in a project you sort of go Oh that's gonna be really interesting,” Broecker said when we caught up with him before the show’s streaming premiere. “There’re only a couple people who I would do anything in the world for, and she's one of them.”
Broecker said Ricci had a hand in piecing together many of the final outfits she wore. The costume team would put together a closet and let her select from the scene’s top picks, but she often paired accessories herself paying special attention to the themes of the filming locations: ruffles and florals for the South, glittery lace and darker hues in the North.
“It’s really nice to work with someone who can help bring life to the clothes and really crystallize what we want the outfits to say,” Broecker said of Ricci.
The costume designer said each dress is meant to look like an upside-down tulip in the South, but turn into a skyscraper as silhouettes elongate when Zelda moves to New York. He named one dress as the shining example of what they wanted her New York outfits to represent: the idea of a moth drawn to a flame. The concept mirrors Zelda’s actions as someone attracted to the effervescence and sparkle of the limelight even when it will eventually lead to her breakdown.
The costumes are also meant to reflect Zelda’s emotional state in each scene. With a documented history of what would likely be diagnosed as bipolar disorder or manic depression today, she was in and out of mental institutions frequently. The series attempts to show her heightened emotions in their entirely to give a fuller picture of Zelda than is more popularly seen. Broecker said Zelda’s emotional highs and lows were major considerations in finding, recreating, and modifying the vintage dresses he used.
“I hope through the course of the series is you really see her develop as a woman and, then in the end, to have the strength to do things like wear a man's knickerbocker linen suit that matches her husband's,” Broecker said. “Because she was thinking, even back then, ‘Men and women should be the same, I should be able to wear a suit if I want to’.”
Working with vintage fabrics proved to be quite the challenge for Broecker and his tailoring team. One dress, worn through days of shooting for an entire episode, proved especially difficult.
“Every third day we would have to reinforce the back of it with more material and more net,” Broecker said. “By the end, the back of that dress was completely shredded.”
It’s the risk of wearing any vintage garment, according to Broecker. The fabrics are different from ones produced today, making them difficult to mend. If you’re buying vintage, he recommends being extremely delicate and avoiding too much air conditioning, deodorant, or sweat that can rot older fabric. He added that you can “rub yourself down with a lot of baby powder” instead of deodorant to avoid tearing the garment.