'Hairspray Live' ! Is Tonight - and Here's Just How Tough It Is to Get Those Costumes Perfect

Perfecting costumes for live TV musical - and a famous one at that - takes some work. Here, the show's costume designer shares how the looks came together

Hairspray Live! - 2016
Maddie Baillio/NBC

You’ve seen Hairspray on Broadway and in the movies, but now it’s hitting the small screen on December 7 for the first time as a live TV performance musical (appropriately titled, Hairspray Live!) on NBC, featuring an all-star cast lineup, including Jennifer Hudson, Kristin Chenoweth, Ariana Grande, Derek Hough and more.

And although you might recognize a few similarities to costumes in the past (the bright colors! the ’60s silhouettes!), Mary Vogt, the costume designer for this production, said designing looks for a live TV broadcast is unlike any previous iterations. “It’s not like in a play where you’re seeing things from a distance,” said Vogt, who’s worked on costume design in everything from Men In Black to Fantastic 4. “This is a heightened sense of reality. Everything is a little turned up.”

Hairspray Live! - Season 2016
Trae Patton/NBC

To achieve that exaggerated look while staying true to the musical’s original vibe, the team researched early ’60s fashion — and then amped it up.

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“With this, the camera is right on top of the actors at all times. So the hair, the makeup, the costumes, they have to look real, but a bit brighter. A little sort of tweak, but it should look like real clothes,” Vogt said.

Hairspray Live! - Season 2016
Brian Bowen Smith/NBC

Unlike traditional television shows and film, where actors get multiple takes to perfect a scene, the costumes, hair and makeup need to be planned perfectly in case of any unforeseen malfunctions during the live broadcast. “We’ve decided it’s not going to rain that day!” joked Derek McLane, Hairspray Live’s production designer – and we hope he’s right, as most of the show will be taking place outside on a studio lot.

“The makeup department has already decided they’re going to do waterproof makeup on [everyone]. And our hairdresser is talking about special hairspray that will hold more hair than usual,” Vogt added. “With the clothes,we may be Scotchguarding some things to help [if it rains].”

Hairspray Live! - Season 2016

Vogt also took plenty of precautions when creating the costumes, because as a seasoned costume designer, she knows anything can happen during a live taping – especially with a musical as dance-centric as Hairspray. “Suddenly when I got into it, I realized, ‘Oh no, this is going to be live,'” she said. “We’re putting wetsuit zippers in little thin dresses and the men’s suits all have stretch and everything is triple sewn. The idea of people ripping their clothes on the night, something going wrong or people not being able to get into their clothes for the quick changes is scary!”

Many of the actors, including Harvey Fierstein (who is reprising his Tony-winning role as Edna Turnblad), jumped in on the creative costume designing process with Vogt. “Harvey’s been fantastic. He was a big help because he knows the play just about better than anyone else,” she said. “He sent me paintings of characters that inspired him in his portrayal of Edna.”

Even 11-year-old Shahadi Wright Joseph, who’s making her television debut as Little Inez, selected a look for her role.

“I had five or six outfits I really liked for this particular scene for her. I said to her, ‘Well, you pick out the one you like’,” Vogt said. “She’s a theater actress and never had that before. She’s like, ‘I get to pick out my costume,’ and was so excited!”

Who’s costume are you most excited to see? Catch the live performance of Hairspray Live! on December 7 at 8pm on NBC.

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