Magazine article Variety

Costumes Don't 'Lie' on HBO Murder Mystery Set in the Lap of Luxury

Magazine article Variety

Costumes Don't 'Lie' on HBO Murder Mystery Set in the Lap of Luxury

Article excerpt

MANY HAVE GUSHED over the enviable real estate featured in HBO's Monterey, Calif.-set miniseries "Big Little Lies." But it's not just expansive ocean views that offer character clues among the social strata in this sophisticated crime tale.

Costume designer Alix Friedberg's meticulous work guides the viewer into the world of five women - Madeline (Reese Witherspoon), Celeste (Nicole Kidman), Jane (Shailene Woodley), Renata (Laura Dern), and Bonnie (Zoë Kravitz) - caught up in a town where daily life is all about appearance.

"People often dismiss contemporary work in costume design, even though designers put as much research and thought into it as they would in period," Friedberg says. She admits she was lucky that the scripts for all seven episodes were available when she started. It's a rarity that enabled her to fully track the characters' emotional journeys.

Friedberg also received some major pointers from director Jean-Marc Vallée.

"He made playlists for all the characters," Friedberg recalls. "It's such a beautiful way to get into what influences a character visually."

Three of those characters - Madeline, Celeste, and Renata - put a great deal of emphasis on what they wear.

Friedberg dressed Madeline, with her type-A personality and unapologetic attitude, in striking colors and bold prints. Her clothes include floral dresses and a red trench coat that makes a statement. A wide range of designers were used to craft this facade: high-end labels such as Dolce & Gabbana, Burberry, and Carolina Herrera, along with more accessible ones like Tory Burch and J. Crew.

"With Madeline, it was all about her portrayal of a perfect exterior," Friedberg explains. "She's got this competitive edge that comes out in the choices she makes with her clothes."

With Celeste, a quieter personality stuck in an abusive marriage, Friedberg highlights a timeless simplicity that favors a tranquil, neutral palette - flowy, subtly romantic pieces combined with sharply tailored ones, all in synch with her understated elegance. …

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