While HBO Max’s The Flight Attendant is an exploration of a woman forgiving herself and facing her trauma, it’s a feast for your eyes with luxurious locales and sleek costumes. Costumer Cat Thomas had a blast giving the freshman series a glamorous side even though its leading lady is going through the wringer.
When you have a beautiful lead like Kaley Cuoco, you immediately want to dress her in fabulous clothes. Her Cassie is a party girl so she doesn’t shy away from bright colors and flashy dresses–the dress she wears on her date with Alex Sokolov is gorgeous. The more Cassie goes down the, uh, rabbit hole to confront her past, her clothes really reflect her inner demons plaguing her emotions. You could watch Kaley Cuoco’s performance completely on mute and you would understand her emotional arc.
Not only did Thomas snag Cuoco’s first post-sitcom gig, but she gives the supporting cast some truly fun and playful clothes that echo The Flight Attendant’s lively tone. As Rosie Perez’s Megan finds herself in her own espionage story, she dresses the part with big sunglasses and floppy hats. Thomas even got to revisit the part of an assassin in Michelle Gomez’s Miranda. Her designs nail the tricky tone of the series–they are rooted in character but vibrant and stylish.
Awards Daily: I love the blue Imperial Airlines uniforms. I feel like if Pan Am was still around, those would be what the flight attendants would wear. They feel like a throwback to a time when air travel was very glamorous.
Cat Thomas: In the script, Steve Yockey referred to the attendant uniform as a Diane von Fürstenberg wrap dress. That’s how it was described.
AD: That’s very specific.
CT: Very specific. Our whole idea for this airline was for it to feel luxe and like another time of travel. We need to have the fantasy of this airline. I used that as a first departure point. It was this A-line, chic, faux wrap–it was not a wrap dress. The nice thing about it is that it lends itself well to different body types, so anyone could wear it. Kaley [Cuoco] is different than Rosie [Perez] and then I had to make it look interesting at every angle. They are constantly moving and this whole show is constant motion. Every angle has a different combination of panels.
AD: And it looks like Megan’s uniform was different than Cassie’s.
CT: That was intentional. There are two different versions of the dress. One is the DVF wrap dress and the second one is this suit that we made that had a swooping front and another A-line skirt but it was two pieces. I wanted Kaley and Rosie to have their own moments in their clothes. I didn’t want them to be compared to one another. Both of their bodies are amazing, so it’s like they can choose what they want on a certain day.
AD: Kaley has this sexy, sparkly dress when Cass goes on her date with Alex Sokolov. I wondered if that’s Cass’ go-to slinky number when she goes on dates with hot men and it’s one of the more glamorous things that she wears the entire season.
CT: That dress was really important because it sets the stage of the drama of that night. I was really lucky that I got to go to Bangkok when they scouted locations–that’s something I don’t always get to do. It’s a long way to go for a scout (laughs). I think it was really important because Bangkok and Rome really are characters in our show and the light is so beautiful there. You should be able to see Cassie. She’s almost glowing. Is it real or a dream?
AD: Glittery catching of her eye.
AD: When Cass goes to Alex’s funeral, she wears this really dramatic outfit, and I think it’s hilarious that she doesn’t realize that she’s probably calling attention to herself with the hat and the deep cut, off the shoulder dress.
CT: It’s such a good scene. I’ve talked about it a lot and the more I talk about it, the more I love it. Steve scripted her wearing a hat. That’s the only description. But I wondered how we were going to make it work because we are always bridging the line between the absurd. If she’s going to wear a hat, we had to go for it and embrace it. She doesn’t know or understand what Greenwich, Connecticut is like. Neither does Shane. The cape, I designed.
AD: My god, the cape. I’ve told my husband that I want a cape numerous times.
CT: We just decided to go for it. There’s this moment of them walking up to this house and then she’s in this dress. It’s modest but it’s not. Her tattoo is showing and it all falls apart and then flinging her shoe on the train. It turns into this noir, bizarre thing. It was a really fun scene to do.
AD: I was surprised by the sucker punch emotional element to the entire season, and I wanted to ask about planning Cass’ arc throughout. As the season progresses, she starts to wear more layers and heavier fabrics as the mystery unravels and I think her journey is reflected very well through what she wears.
CT: We talked a lot about it. There is a lot of emotions in it. She’s holding in a lot of different things in from her childhood. As we move linearly through the scripts, she comes undone but is desperate to keep it all on her body. We definitely took a lot of the color out of it. We had more fun with color towards the top of the season, but when she gets released from prison, she changes into the I Love NY shirt. We wanted her to change something up because she would’ve been in the same outfit for three episodes. The beautiful thing is that it was something that anyone or any tourist could grab on the street.
AD: I love that we get a woman assassin in this with Michelle Gomez as Miranda. She has to live in the shadows and blend in, but sometimes details on black clothes don’t always read on camera. You did the costumes for Kill Bill so she is a very different kind of assassin.
CT: It was really important to say important things about her but I didn’t want to draw attention to her. You literally have no idea what she is going to pull out. Is it a gun? Is it a knife? What’s going to happen? We used a lot of high-end clothes in dark charcoals with a lot of really beautiful details like a tight wrapped belt. Or a tiny bit of fringe here and there. She wore a lot of Burberry but she has a pair of pants that I love with the stripe down the side of the leg. It was a little bit of an homage to myself, but it looked so beautifully graphically when she is jumping off the roof. It gives her this kind of superhero, crazy vibe that pops.
AD: God help the poor salesgirl who gets Miranda at the store. You know Miranda doesn’t shop online.
CT: For sure (laughs).
AD: Modern costume design doesn’t get the attention it deserves, especially when we think of awards and we gravitate towards films with big skirts and corsets and bold patters. What is something that you hope people take away about modern costuming with this project?
CT: That’s an interesting question. I think there is a misconception that modern costume design is just styling which is a different artform in itself. People who style celebrities are dealing with a real person. Costumers are kind of psychologists and psychiatrists and we are taking the insecurities and all that baggage in their psyche and figuring out how they interpret that. We all do that as humans. There’s a lot more behind what you end up seeing on the screen.
AD: I could out this show on mute and understand where the characters are emotionally.
CT: Thank you.
AD: What outfit from the set would you want to put in your own closet? I love the green coat that Shane wears despite not being tall enough to pull it off. Griffin Matthews wears the hell out of that.
CT: Is it real me or fictional me?
AD: Oh, no one has come back with that before. Either or…or both!
CT: I personally would love to rock a cape, you know what I mean? But if I, as a human, tried to wear that, my assistant would ask me what I was doing.
AD: How I would feel in a cape and how I would look in a cape would be two very different things.
CT: Exactly. I think it would be fun to be the person who could dress up that way. There are so many coats of hers that I want to wear because it’s fun to be comfortable and be stylish. Those were a lot of fun. It’s the season of the coats with all the shows rocking the long coats.
AD: Heard it here first. Season of the coats!
The Flight Attendant is streaming on HBO Max.