Donna Zakowska Interview: ‘The Marvelous Mrs. Maisel’ costume designer
Donna Zakowska, the Emmy-winning costume designer, has dressed the ensemble cast for all three seasons of “The Marvelous Mrs. Maisel.” She won her trophy for the 2008 HBO miniseries “John Adams” and was nominated for the first season of “Mrs. Maisel.” On Season 3 of the Amazon Video show, as Rachel Brosnahan’s stand-up comic Midge goes on the tour with crooner Shy Baldwin (Leroy McClain), Zakowska’s wardrobe duties expanded exponentially.
“We definitely had I think something like 9,000 extras. I think the record in America, who knows? It could be in the world, as far as I know,” she says in our recent webchat (watch the exclusive video above). “But we had an enormous, enormous amount of people. We had so many big scenes and the USO show and all those things.”
Of course, Midge is still front and center as the main fashion plate although Shy gives her a run for her fabulous garments. When she opens for the popular performer at a USO show in a cavernous airplane hangar before a massive audience of cheering Army men, she makes a subtle but still glam patriotic statement in her velvety dark blue dress, a red ribbon cascading down her back and white gloves.
With a band, back-up singers, a girl group and a Rockettes-style chorus line, the showbiz extravaganza that opens on the first episode of Season 3 could be “The Marvelous Mrs. Maisel’s” most costume-packed scene ever. “It was a lot,” Zakowska says. “I mean we also had all of those performers that you don’t see that much but each one individually was very interesting, like lots of different clowns and interesting characters and so there was all of those performers. There were the nearly 1,000 troops and then there was Midge trying to do something that was patriotic but elegant and fashion at the same moment. We really didn’t want to be obvious so it was pretty packed trying to get that scene on its feet.”
On the other side of the coin is Midge’s ever-loyal manager Susie Myerson (Alex Borstein) and her unisex sartorial sense when it comes to her wardrobe. “I actually did a lot of research on the West Village and the whole Village area… that whole element, the leather jackets and that sort of in-between masculine and feminine type of image, it is really the beginning of it in a way and it’s so radical for the ‘50s so it really all generated from the research.”
As for the keys that almost always hang on a chain around Alex’s neck,”We didn’t want to do jewelry but she said, ‘Well, I would always keep the keys to The Gaslight around my neck and my apartment because, if not I would lose them.’ And then the hat, there was something about the hat and the cap. When I put it on I just found the character. And it really was something that was beginning to enter late, late ‘50s, early ‘60s. And, of course, Bob Dylan made it really famous when he wore that cap. But something about it, that just for her and for me really created the full character.”
For Season 3, however, Susie upgrades to a more tailored version of her usual uniform as she joins her client Midge on her tour. Zakowska also speaks about the origins of Susie’s now-iconic red plunger from Season 2, how Midge’s dad Abe (Tony Shalhoub) wearing two sweaters became a joke, how Midge switching from her usual black dress to a glittery pink gown when she opens for Shy at the Apollo is the beginning of her downward career trajectory and what kind of fashion statements Season 4 might bring as the series moves further into the ’60s.