Decoding The Hidden Messages In ‘Insecure’s’ Vogue With The Show’s Costume Designer
When i spoke with Ayanna James, costume designer for Insecure, days before the second season of the series premiered on HBO, our conversation touched on all of our favourite characters. When she talked about that one in every of her targets when costuming Molly Carter, finest good friend to Issa Dee and excessive-powered lawyer, is to elicit a “wow, I really wish to gown like her” response from viewers, I thought for a second about interjecting. Molly is definitely The Fashion Woman of this group of buddies, with a wardrobe that all of us may placed on a temper board titled My Most Fashionable Self, but James’ true reward has been making almost every little thing that she puts these characters in, from tees to sweatshirts to fits, the stuff of wardrobe envy and inspiration.
We appear to only get a seminal comedy series about black female friendship once a decade, within the 90s we had Dwelling Single and in the 2000s, Girlfriends, and James was dedicated to serving to make the world of those girls, the kind of girls whom we don’t usually get to see front and heart on our tv and laptop screens, full, advanced, and layered. From the moment the pilot opens, James’ work does precisely what good costuming should. It aids, amplifies, and strikes forward the story being told without overshadowing it. The clothes inform us one thing about who Issa, Molly, and Lawrence are and the place they are by immersing us of their world.
After we meet Issa Dee, she is standing in front of a room of wildly judgmental center salvatore ferragamo belt at barneys schoolers. That form of gauntlet is the stuff of nightmares but this isn’t any dream sequence. This is Issa’s job. Issa’s “very insecure and her wardrobe kind of reflects that. She hasn’t really found her footing,” James stated of the character in that first scene. Though we don’t comprehend it on the time, this look, We Acquired Y’all Tee with a brand of James’ design, vintage Levi’s, and Solange Knowles for Puma sneakers, is something of a uniform for Issa when she is out in the sector with the children.
She isn’t a vogue lady, no less than not in the identical means as her best friend, Molly, but she is trying. The topper, a boldly colored, printed piece that lives someplace between blazer and oversized cardigan, makes that effort obvious, and it really came straight from James’ personal closet. “I wore it to the interview when i met with Melina [Matsoukas]. She was like ‘I love that! Bring that again!’” James told me. But the remainder of the look is impressed by the woman who brings the character to life. “We wanted it to sort of be true to Issa Dee and pull elements from Issa Rae. Issa Rae, on a day-to-day,” James stated, “she’s dressed pretty very similar to that, a jacket, blazer, a cardigan, some jeans, a t-shirt. So we took her model and simply elevated it.”
Molly Carter is taking part in a special career recreation from her best good friend, and very similar to Issa’s iffy footing is immediately apparent, so is Molly’s nearly flawless navigation of the legal world. And it’s not just because we don’t need to cringe by way of her getting heckled by a room stuffed with tweens. “White people love Molly. And black people looove Molly,” Issa says in voiceover as Molly Carter greets the viewers, first commanding a gathering after which dominating a recreation of dominoes. Her confidence shines by means of not solely the way through which she slams down that final tile but additionally in the look that she does it in. In discussing Molly, James began to listing a few of the most popular manufacturers round. Molly wears Balenciaga and Alexander McQueen. She carries a Salvatore Ferragamo briefcase and wears Fendi heels. And even without the introductory phrases of her finest friend, we will see that she is a grasp of code switching. “Molly even code switches in the way in which she dresses,” James stated.
Not solely at the office, the place her mild-colored palette demonstrates how she is “trying to fit in and go beneath the radar however [additionally] stand out,” as James put it, but also in her dating life. “When she’s out, I kind of made her a bit darker to present contrast from how she is at work. As a result of at work she has all of it collectively, but in her courting life she tries to make it seem like she has all of it collectively but she doesn’t.” At first glance, the Stella McCartney and Opening Ceremony and Jonathan Simkhai dresses that she wears when assembly men from courting apps or attending a disastrous engagement party with Chris, a personality performed by Jidenna, wouldn’t make clear the entire methods during which Molly thinks she’s failing at discovering somebody.
But that is what James has carried out. She has taken the central tenet of the sequence, the various insecurities that we all feel about adulthood, friendships, and our romantic lives, and translated each character’s struggles into palette and fabric and silhouette.
This talent is most obvious in her work with the character of Lawrence. He greets us on a couch, a sofa he has been on for years, and James put Lawrence in 3X t-shirts and 3X sweatpants. She did this partly to show how little Lawrence cares about his appearance, and much of something actually, and partly to mask the thirst-inducing physique of Jay Ellis till it was time for Lawrence to complete his full aesthetic transformation. “I gave [Ellis] some socks and that i informed [him] to go stroll round outdoors so that they’d be soiled.” She aged the Georgetown tees that he wears. From head to toe, we will see that he has given up and in flip we perceive why it is that Issa has started to surrender on him. But the adjustments he makes, with the help of the costuming arc that James created for him, make us notice that we might have been hasty in our judgement.
“[B]y the time we get to episode four the place he and Issa have recommitted to one another,” James mentioned, “he’s interviewing, so he’s pulling out all these previous suits that are just a little bit unwell-fitted. But, you already know, he’s trying. He’s going to do that.” James caps the transformation with the Vivienne Westwood go well with that Lawrence wears to the We Got Y’all fundraiser, a sartorial indicator of his getting his life together. She puts Lawrence at his sharpest right before all the pieces he made the modifications for falls apart.
As the sequence strikes into season two, James continues her exemplary work. We’ll see the fleshing out of the type tales of Kelli and Tiffany. Molly, coping with the revelation that she is being paid less than her while, male colleague, “immediately goes into survival mode and her palette darkens,” James stated but nonetheless with the “crisp, sleek, body acutely aware forms” that we now know as pure Molly.
Lawrence and Issa might be dealing with being without one another. “What does a man appear like when he gets his coronary heart broken He’s buys some new sneakers. He will get a haircut,” James stated. More specifically James might be drawing from Ellis’ own love of sneakers to up Lawrence’s shoe game. In season two, “Issa’s type is just on the market. She’s attempting to catch. You gonna see some leg. You gonna see some cleavage,” James said. She purchased some present season looks for the courting however still pining Issa but largely she needed it to appear like Issa was reexamining the clothing she already owned. She’s dealing with her turbulent life by rediscovering a part of herself that had become hidden. We see it at her celebration, in a costume with, skin baring, Molly-reminiscent lower outs down the center.
We see it when she goes in the hunt for Lawrence at Chad’s home in a tight pencil skirt that leads Chad to ask Lawrence if “previous woman” at all times regarded like that. And we see it because the second episode involves an in depth with Issa looking at the empty space in her closet left by Lawrence’s now absent clothes and filling it salvatore ferragamo belt at barneys with those forgotten pieces of herself. Pieces that, with James’ deft hand, will likely be as covetable and narratively revealing as ever.