“I didn’t think about their age when I was thinking about who they were,” reveals “Grace and Frankie” costume designer Allyson B. Fanger. “I was thinking about who they were, and how they’d express themselves through dress.” Fanger has worked on all four seasons of this Netflix comedy about the title characters (played by Jane Fonda and Lily Tomlin, respectively) who become friends after their husbands (Martin Sheen and Sam Waterston) announce they’re in love with each other. She made a conscious effort not to make Grace or Frankie “look like old ladies,” which “is very in-keeping with the times.” Watch our exclusive video interview with Fanger above.
From the beginning Fanger wanted to create a “distinctive character differentiation” between the two women. For Frankie, an eccentric art teacher, Fanger tried to “go outside of typical stereotypes of a bohemian woman or a hippie lady.” So she looked to female artists — such as French filmmaker Agnes Varda — to come up with a style that felt “unique, and not pedestrian.” Each article of clothing “has to feel like she found it on a travel, or she made it maybe.” Fanger looked to her own mother-in-law, the daughter of photographer Dorothea Lange, for further inspiration. “[Lange] traveled a lot, and had a ton of jewelry from everywhere,” a trait Fanger gave to Frankie.
For Grace, a retired cosmetics mogul, Fanger drew from her own mother, whom she describes as one of “those classy ladies that always have everything just right.” She distinguished their color palettes by dressing Grace in “anything from black to white” while Frankie wore “the colors of the Santa Fe sunset.” Over time “we’ve brought color into Grace” to reflect Frankie’s growing influence on her.
Fanger has twice competed at the Emmys for “Grace and Frankie” (Best Contemporary Costumes in 2016 and 2017), along with nominations from the Costume Designers Guild in 2017 and 2018. Over the years she has worked on other shows including “Nobodies,” “Melissa and Joey,” and “Hollywood Heights,” as well as the films “D3: The Mighty Ducks” (1996), “Wild Things” (1998), and “10 Things I Hate About You” (1999).
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