If you’ve become more aware than ever of the costumes on your favorite TV show, chances are you have Janie Bryant to thank. She singlehandedly sparked a national crazy for ’60s style thanks to her picture-perfect period costumes for the show. Audience fervor for the show’s mod looks, many of which she made from scratch or reconstructed out of vintage finds, even landed Bryant her very own Banana Republic collection. Now the costume designer is bringing her superb eye for detail to bear on a very different decade (and type of show): Eva Longoria’s new half-hour comedy, Telenovela. We spoke with the queen of style drama about all of the glitter, glamour and the endless parade of gowns we can expect to see this season.
What initially attracted you to working on Telenovela?
First of all, I’m obsessed with soap operas, so I loved the idea of designing one. I also wanted to expand as a costume designer and do something I’ve never done before. This is the first show I’ve done that’s been a half-hour comedy, which is very different than doing a one-hour drama in terms of design, color, and mood, but I love that over-the-top romantic nature. My aunt is a historical romance novelist, and I grew up with a love of the romance novel, so when they asked me to design the show, it really came at the perfect time. I met Eva and she’s just lovely. She’s an incredible business woman, she’s really smart, she has amazing comedic timing, she’s beautiful, and she loves glamour. I mean, I couldn’t have asked for a better actress to work with than her, really.
Is she very involved in the process of costuming her character?
Totally! We talked about gowns, the drama, the glitz, the glamour, the statement necklaces, the huge earrings, the high heels, and everything that shines and sparkles. Eva and I have a lot of those things in common. We love glamour, so it was really fun.
And the medium of a telenovela naturally lends itself to those very big, dramatic fashion moments.
Everything is big! The hair, the lashes! Seven-in. tall high heels, big dresses, I mean, it’s all big. It’s so fun and over the top. Every moment is stop and look at me. Stop and stare.
Related Video: Eva Longoria’s Changing Looks!
Aside from the obvious, how is this project different from the work you did on Mad Men?
Like I was saying before, to design for a half hour comedy is really different than to design a period drama. The thing that the shows do have in common is that Mad Men was an era of glamour, and Telenovela has aspects of that glamour. But the process, the way that the costumes are put together, is a little different. There’s many more resources, in terms of shopping contemporary garments, to create the characters as opposed to building so much from scratch, which is more common on a period show. But I did design some of the gowns for Eva. Also, the color palette is very different, specifically because the show is set in Miami, so there’s a lot of whites and pastels and all of those dreamy Miami colors. It’s like an array of sorbets. It’s about showing a lot of skin and it’s really hot. There’s a sensual quality to not only the [characters in the] telenovela, but all the characters in their real lives too.
But the really big difference in designing a half hour comedy is the pace is really fast. It’s so fast. Sometimes my head would be spinning, like, Okay, we’re on to the next episode already. It was like my team and I were really working on three shows at one time. And for some episodes, Eva had 14, 16 costume changes. Just her! That’s not even counting the rest of the cast. It’s pretty fantastic.
Where did you draw inspiration from for your looks?
I was doing a lot of research online just to get that atmosphere of the city. I watched a lot of telenovelas and, especially for the character Isabella, I was looking at the Housewives of Miami. I was also researching Ricky Martin, Marc Anthony, and Enrique Iglesias for inspiration for Xavi’s character [played by Jencarlos Canela]. For [Longoria’s] Ana Sofia, I was inspired by Jennifer Lopez, and also I was looking at a lot of fashion magazines from Mexico and Spain to be more specific and get that real authenticity of the culture. That’s really important, that it feel authentic to all the characters. [Ana Sofia] really possesses a chicness and a modern elegance, a sensuality and sexiness.
What can we expect costume-wise from this season? Are there any favorite looks we should keep an eye out for?
Oh my God, drama, drama, drama! That’s what you need to be looking for! It is gowns galore over there on Telenovela. The blue gown that Eva wore last week was one of my favorites. Originally, that was actually a very high-neck, long-sleeved romper that I made into a 3/4-length sleeve, plunging neckline bodysuit with a blue chiffon overskirt. It looks amazing on film. Also, I don’t know if we see it, but I designed her platforms for that scene too. They’re Moroccan blue silk 6-in. platform sandals that match the gown perfectly. I love Eva for the fact that she can walk in heels that high. She is my kind of girl. There’s also a great gown coming up that’s so beautiful. Eva has an incredible performance moment in this red mermaid gown, so I’m excited for everyone to see that. And then the finale … well, I’m not giving anything away, but it is fantastic. That is one not to be missed. It is one piece of fabulousness after the next.
It seems like the show is just one big red carpet moment!
[Laughs] It really is! Well, I love gowns. I love gowns so much. I love to wear gowns, I love to design gowns, and I love it that Eva loves to wear gowns. We often joke that we would wear gowns every single day if we could, and I said, well you get to!
Have you seen Telenovela? What do you think of the costumes? Which are your favorite?