Big Little Lies‚ Clothing Reveals the Emotional Fallout in Season Two

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Big Little Lies had all of the trappings of a bonafide hit: a spell-binding tale of a school dance that ends in murder, a soundtrack bolstered by Michael Kiwanuka’s soulful „Cold Little Heart,“ and the blue-tinged backdrop of Monterey’s picturesque coast. Most of all, it had five women: Madeline Martha Mackenzie (Reese Witherspoon), Celeste Wright (Nicole Kidman), Renata Klein (Laura Dern), Jane Chapman (Shailene Woodley), and Bonnie Carlson (Zoë Kravitz), whose nuanced and unflinching portrayals of mothers grappling with tragedy, trauma, and loss, won over audiences and pushed HBO to commission a second season for the mini series based on Liane Moriarty’s novel of the same name–even though no such source material existed at the time.

Season two grapples with the fallout of the death of Perry Wright (Alexander Skarsgård) and the suspicions of a new character, Perry’s mother, Mary Louise Wright, played by Meryl Steep. The trauma following the Monterey Five–as the women are now being dubbed by nosey townspeople–reflects in their wardrobe. To offset the gravity of the season, there are also a few fun costume moments here and there (keep an eye out for a disco moment in episode four). Along with bringing back the cast and crew for a second turn, HBO tapped costume designer Alix Friedberg, who picked up an Emmy in 2017 for her work on season one, to create the up to 60 and 70 different costumes for each character for the sophomore venture. „You always start with a character’s emotions,“ she tells CR. „I think contemporary costume design is all about character, and not so much about fashion. And Big Little Lies became about fashion because these are women of means.“

Here, CR speaks with Friedberg about the five leading ladies‘ costumes, what to expect for the second season, and sourcing clothing from vintage shops and TheRealReal.

Bonnie had the most bohemian, skin-baring clothes in season one and she was the one who actually pushed Perry. How do we see her deal with that and how is that shown in her wardrobe?
„She showed a lot of skin. She was earthy, bohemian, incredibly fit, beautiful, kind, and warm, and all of the things that would drive Madeline completely crazy as a new wife for her ex husband. As they bonded towards the end of season one and protected each other, [Bonnie’s] the one who pushed him. And as the months pass, that lie just kind of broke her down. You see in her face, the color has left, and we really gave her a very neutral palette. She’s very shapeless and wearing old vintage shirts and baggy sweatpants, just not really looking in the mirror anymore. She’s just depressed and it’s almost as if she’s wearing a prison uniform. And you really see it.“

There’s a major fashion moment for Renata this season in a red gown. Was that a conscious choice?
„She’s doing the cover of Forbes and dressed in a red lamé gown, over-the-knee boots with a big metal belt, and it’s our nod to Wonder Woman. It’s a metaphor for Renata’s character: she’s Wonder Woman. That was quite conscious.“

Where do we see Madeline’s character go this season?
„Madeline is similar to the way she was in season one. She has a job as a real estate agent and she’s got a little more coordinated work look. It’s very similar and put together, with bolder colors and a lot of prints. I always felt like she already dressed like a real estate agent, so it was a natural transition. She always had on lipstick and heels.“

How do we see Celeste deal with Perry’s death?
„Celeste is a little more of a naturalistic, classic mom, in that she is effortlessly casual. In season two, she’s unraveling, too. She lost her husband, who she loved despite his abuse, so she’s holding it together by a thin thread. You see that reflected in the way that she dresses and the way that she has her hair. She’s not looking in the mirror anymore. She’s basically waking up and getting through each day at a time for these boys, and struggling quite a bit.“

In the season one finale, Jane finds out that Perry was her attacker. How do we see her change this season?
„[She’s] got the light back in her eyes. She’s definitely more confident. You see a little bit more of her body than you did in season one, when she was always kind of wearing baggy shirts and was sort of sexless. She really financially put all of her efforts into [her son] Ziggy and now in season two, she’s moved, she’s got a place by the beach, she’s surfing, she has a job at the aquarium, and she’s got a love interest. She’s more confident, so she has this vintage surf, Monterey boho vibe going on. She has a little more swag and little more style.“

How did you approach Streep’s character?
„She brought a lot to the table, obviously, she’s Meryl Streep. Moriarty and [showrunner] David Kelley gave her a bit of a back story, including where Perry grew up, where he went to school, who she was married to–all of those things factored into what she looked like. Ultimately, we dressed her in a very traditional, conservative, East Coast kind of way. She comes from money, so her pieces are quite expensive, but they’re very unremarkable. There’s no vanity or flash or style to her; it’s all very classic and prim. She wears a cross and pearls every day and the most flair she shows is when she wears Hermès scarves around her neck for a pop of color. It gives her a sort of grandmotherly feel.“

Are there any specific designers you turn to for each character?
„With Madeleine, there’s very specific silhouettes that work for Reese. It’s the same for Renata, played by Dern, and Nicole. . And same for Renata, for Laura Dern, and Nicole. Zoë could wear a trash bag and look good. She’s truly one of those people who could put anything on; it’s difficult to make her look bad. In terms of Reese, we do a mix of high-end and ready-to-wear. A lot of J.Crew, Dolce and Gabbana, Sandro, and Valentino. The designers that do stronger colors work for her. Celeste, we do a lot of classic Max Mara and Ralph Laura. For Renata, we have some Alexander McQueen this season that was really fun. We did some Stella McCartney and Alaia is always a go-to for Renata. Certain people can do that silhouette really well. We also make things so it doesn’t feel like we just shopped out of one store for the season. We have a lot from TheRealReal.“

What did you get from TheRealReal?
„Things from the past season work for us, because again, it looks more like a real person’s closet. We got some coats and bags from TheRealReal, things that are very specific and price prohibitive. If you want to express a character’s level of income and don’t have five grand to spend on a bag, TheRealReal is a great option. We got a lot of Streep’s Hermès scarves on TheRealReal and some gently worn shoes. It’s a great store.“

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