Jennifer Moeller interview: ‘Dickinson’ costume designer
During the first season of “Dickinson,” the recently orphaned Sue Gilbert (Ella Hunt) spent much of her time onscreen in mourning. But Sue blossoms in Season 2 of the Apple TV+ series, an evolution that allowed costume designer Jennifer Moeller to unleash the character’s full sartorial potential.
“She goes from this poor orphan in Season 1 who only has a handful of dresses to this glamorous socialite who never wears the same dress twice and is throwing all these soirees,” Moeller says during the Gold Derby Meet the Experts: Costume Designers panel. Watch the exclusive video interview above.
To dress the young cast of “Dickinson” in period-appropriate clothes, Moeller does loads of research into the era. “During the 1850s and 1860s, there was a publication called ‘Cody’s Lady’s Book,’ which was one of the early magazines — women’s magazines. There are all these beautiful fashion plates in them and we really didn’t get to use those in Season 1 because this is Amherst, a small town in Western Mass,” Moeller says. “But this season I got to look at those and use those for Sue’s looks and go into more sumptuous shapes and beautiful fabrics and trims and buttons. We got to go whole-hog for everything.”
A hallmark of “Dickinson,” which stars Hailee Steinfeld as the title character, is that it balances its bygone era with modern embellishments like an anachronistic score and soundtrack and a diverse cast of characters. But for Moeller, the goal is to make sure the clothes match the era.
“I do design to be as accurate as possible in the period. I look at real period clothes and what’s happening in the world at the time because context is everything,” she explains. “My hope is that when the viewer is watching you think you’re in the 1850s and 1860s. I’m not trying to bump us out of there. I do think the contrast, the play between the contemporary and the period is really the joy of ‘Dickinson.’ That said, I definitely take a lot of liberty. I try to appeal to the modern eye whenever possible.”