Megan McLachlan talks to Beth Morgan, Emmy nominee for Outstanding Period Costumes for GLOW on Netflix.
For her work on Netflix’s GLOW, Emmy nominee Beth Morgan and her team found costuming inspiration not on the pages of Vogue, but in old family scrapbooks and photos from the ’80s.
This research culminates in the Emmy-nominated episode “Every Potato Has a Receipt,” where Rhonda (Kate Nash) marries Bash (Chris Lowell) in the ring, with her GLOW bridesmaids surrounding her in what can only be described as “bridesmaid leotards.” But this memorable scene almost didn’t happen the way it does, until Morgan and her team pitched producers a crazy idea that would end up changing the whole aesthetic.
I had a chance to talk to Morgan about her Emmy-nominated episode, Debbie’s evolution as a character through her fashion, and the significance of wedding fashion.
Awards Daily: You established some iconic looks in the form of Liberty Belle and Zoya the Destroya in Season 1. What were the costuming challenges in Season 2?
Beth Morgan: Season 2 was so fun. We did have that great groundwork laid in Season 1. We really understand who these characters are and we have their iconic wrestling GLOW looks established. Within that, we got to play with the nuances of what was happening in their day to day life and how that would affect their look. And then we got to do the amazing wedding at the end of the season, which was so much fun.
As we were doing stuff in Season 2, we knew that was coming, and they were still trying to figure out how exactly it was all going to play out in the writers’ room. When the outline came out for that episode, it was scripted that the girls would walk down the aisle in their GLOW costumes. I went into [showrunners] Liz [Flahive] and Carly [Mensch], and I said, ‘I have an idea. Can I pitch it to you?’ And they were like, ‘Sure, Beth. What do you got?’ They’re very supportive. And I went and worked with my sketch artist and knew we had to present it fully done. We can’t just show one girl in a pink bridesmaid leotard—we have to sketch them all together. So we did this amazing sketch of Rhonda in a leotard and all of the girls on either side in pink or gold and what it would truly look like in a scene. I presented it to the showrunners later, the following week, and they were like, ‘Yeah!’ So it was a really creative collaboration between being in this really supportive community of creatives that gave me the power to use my voice and bring a different idea and not just follow the script. My amazing team, getting it together very quickly—the beauty of the bridesmaid dress is that it’s one thing that will look good on 15 different bodies. It’s all those things I wanted to showcase: the girls coming together for a friend who’s making a pretty crazy decision, in a hideous dress that they’re never going to wear again. Wedding fashion is such an iconic snapshot of the time period, whatever time period we’re in, so it was really important to me to get to show that.
AD: And it really shows. The wedding scene in the finale is really fun. I love the ruffles on the bridesmaid outfits. Do you think ruffles are underrated?
BM: Oh, yes! I love ruffles. Looking all the way back to the Edwardian and Victorian time periods, there were even little neck ruffles. Ruffles have had a beautiful history through the course of fashion, but in the ’80s, things tended to be very over the top and become avant-garde and mainstream. The ’80s was really a time where they took the ruffle and threw some cocaine on it. (Laughs) For me, on GLOW, it’s really about telling the little individual character stories and small moments and telling it through T-shirts and sweaters and jeans and what people pick. To be able to open up the lens on ’80s style was really fun through that snapshot through wedding fashion.
AD: Rhonda’s wedding dress looks really of the time. What inspired you with that look? What kind of research did you do?
BM: I had family members that got married during that time period, so looking at that and finding research online of real weddings. We didn’t really look at any magazine weddings. The only magazine I looked at was this amazing photo of Cindy Crawford in a wedding dress that had some inspiration for Rhonda’s wedding dress. Really, Rhonda’s dress was taking pieces from all of the things that were in style at the moment and putting it together. It’s pretty unbelievable that that was the style. The huge ruffle on the shoulder and the headpiece with a veil was the height of the over-the-top ’80s wedding. It really works for our characters because they have such amazing hair. It was great to show everybody’s body in a different way, to be able to show Machu Picchu (Britney Young) in a leotard. And to show yes, this is a challenge that will be forever in our history—putting people all in the same thing is really challenging.
AD: I’m so glad you asked the showrunners to do that, because I can’t imagine that scene without the bridal party outfits. I’m glad you stuck to your guns and went for it.
BM: I think why I feel so happy to be nominated for that episode is that it just feels that this is what the Emmys should be celebrating, a true collaboration where each artist is bringing something to the table and bettering the whole of the show. I’ve been on shows and I’ve had colleagues who’ve been on shows where you don’t feel like you have a voice. So it’s a testament to the ability and confidence of my producers and creators that they’re not threatened by an idea that wasn’t theirs that maybe elevates the story. I think that’s what GLOW is about in general—all of these women coming together and trying to support each other and lift each other up and become better. If we behind the scenes aren’t doing that as well, we can’t tell that story authentically. I think that’s why it feels so special to be nominated for this one. I think designing GLOW has made be a better person, human, boss, designer. It’s such an amazing environment.
AD: I know you costume a lot of stereotypes, like the Welfare Queen and Fortune Cookie. How often do you cringe when you’re working on these pieces and where do you draw the line?
BM: Ignoring the history doesn’t push us forward. Learning from the history and seeing how insane it was pushes us forward. I think that’s part of the responsibility of telling a story that’s set in the ’80s—be true to what was being said and being done so we can see how we can grow from that, where we’re at. You have to be really aware of where we’ve come from to see how to get to where we need to go.
AD: Debbie becomes a producer in Season 2. How did you show her power through her regular clothing as opposed to her costumes? I feel like there were some shoulder pads.
BM: In reality, the producer role was just supposed to be a name, that’s what Sam (Marc Maron) and Bash thought. But she sees an opportunity to grow as a performer, businesswoman, as a human. A lesser woman would have taken that and gone away, but she used it to rise to the occasion. She’s more about wearing skirts and blouses with a blazer. There’s this great outfit she wears in the middle of the season, a sexy suede fringe skirt and a body conscious blouse. She has been a sex symbol actress as a soap star and she’s always used that to her advantage, but as we go through the season, she really understands that her true talent is her ability as a producer and her brain, the way that she can creatively problem-solve. As we see her with the pink hat at the end, she’s wearing pants, they’re not super tight-fitting—it’s a well-styled suit that’s not a body-conscious choice. We wanted to show her trajectory of getting comfortable in not only her self-confidence that has been rattled, but also getting Bash and Sam to believe in her and getting all these women who have a little resentment—she has many layers of people to convince. Once she herself becomes comfortable, that’s when it all falls into place.
Seasons 1 and 2 of GLOW are now streaming on Netflix. Season 3 drops August 9.