Ruth McGhee, Alita Bailey interview: ‘P-Valley’ costume designer
For costume designer Ruth McGhee and her sister and co-collaborator, Alita Bailey, creating the wardrobe for the dancers on the Starz series “P-Valley” began by listening to showrunner Katori Hall.
“She’s so inspirational and brilliant,” McGhee says of the writer’s notes during the Gold Derby Meet the Experts: Costume Designer panel. Beyond Hall’s words, however, was the show itself. “The colors of our set and then also the colors of our actors. We’re dealing with skin and body, all the different hues and tones of our actors, their beautiful skin,” McGhee adds. “Putting that all together, the blues and reds and pinks, and just making it a delicious palette on skin, with their clothing and telling the whole story. Making it inviting and delicious and exciting and mysterious as well. We put that together from getting her notes.” Watch the exclusive video interview above.
Set in a fictional strip club in a fictional Mississippi town, “P-Valley” celebrates the exotic dancers at the focus of the story, and treats their profession as a physical skill that requires expert determination.
“The fittings were very detailed. We were like doctors of costume,” Bailey says of making sure the costumes were functional. “[We were] really exploring the body and measuring the body to every point. The movements — we would watch the rehearsals and even in our fittings we had them do the actual movement. A lot of the costumes we would create them and they would physically move in them so we could see where we could adjust.”
“We also made sure to work with the lighting and it was practical and functional and sexy for the pole,” adds McGhee. “They didn’t have too many clothes, it was the right fabric so they could physically work the pole. Putting those elements together. What they wear is called floss, donned by Katori Hall. All that they wore when they dance is called floss. We just continued to work their bodies to make it look the best. To highlight their shape, their legs, their thighs, their stomach, their arms, all of it.”