Between its music videos, flashbacks, performances and hilarious heightened version of showbiz, “Girls5eva” seems like a fun playground for any costume designer to play in. For Matthew Hemesath, who took over for Tina Nigro in Season 2, it was his dream job. “I was already a fan of the show before I was hired to do Season 2. And I just knew it was my dream job, so I begged them to hire me, basically,” he tells Gold Derby (watch the exclusive video interview above). “What was so wonderful about it was that the show was already fabulous. Season 1 was great. I didn’t feel like there needed to be any fixing. It was just taking these characters further and just building on what had already been done and watching it grown. And it also was exciting to put my own stamp on their look – things that I love like a lot of color, a lot of pattern.”
In keeping with the Peacock comedy’s bright aesthetic, Hemesath sought to “banish neutrals, earth tones, pastels and keep everything really bright so that the costumes really matched the tenor of the script.” He also wanted to add more depth to the main four characters through their clothing while also keeping it fun and joyful. For Busy Philipps‘ Summer, Hemesath’s goal was “taking her a little bit out of the pink and Barbie and making her a bit more of a housewife and giving her a few more signature colors to play with.”
Sometimes the joke-heavy scripts dictate what the designer and his team, who custom-made 25 percent of the season’s clothing, have to do. The second episode opens with a joke about Wickie (Renee Elise Goldsberry) wearing a coat from the “Nicole Kidman Undoing Collection” — a floor-length belted green coat with a purple fur collar, resembling Kidman’s memorable green coat from the HBO series. Hemesath, who is friends with “The Undoing” costume designer Signe Sejlund, says getting the color right was the first priority.
“I wanted the same shape, but we needed that gorgeous acid green, a little more pumped up than what the actual ‘Undoing’ coat was. So we made that. My tailors made that in our shop in about three days,” he shares. “This coat seemed so special that it needed to be a brand new thing you couldn’t get anywhere else. So they made it. It was silk panne, which is really tough to work with, but they did it quickly. And then we had some fur swatches laying around and I just said, ‘This would look really fabulous with a fur collar.’ Like that would really add that Wickie touch to it because it couldn’t be an exact copy of it. And I love those colors together.”
The coat was less difficult to realize than a blink-and-you’ll-miss-it look at Dawn’s (Sara Bareilles) “sheers” in the fourth episode as she gets ready to watch “Business Throne”: “TV pants where you put in so many ass hours they’re kind of clear.” Hemesath and his team used Fiber Etch, a gel that burns away fabric. It required lots of trial-and-error testing with lots of sweatpants over Thanksgiving weekend before they were able to achieve the desired appearance.
“It took a lot of experimenting on different sweatpants to get the right effect and then making sure they can see it and giving her the right pair of underwear underneath. It’s kind of a quick, little simple moment, but it’s funny,” he explains. “My craftsperson sort of figured out, ‘OK, if I put it on for five minutes and then I hit it with a heat gun and I scrape at it…’ But he said, ‘If I do it any longer, it’ll eat away at another part of the fabric.’ And the heat gun kept burning holes in it. He had to practice on a few. So finally once we picked the sweatpants with the right fiber content, I think it took him four or five tries to get it burned away without leaving any holes because of course we didn’t want it to look ratty. In this TV world, you want things that are sort of pristine.”
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