How Girls Costume Designer Jenn Rogien Handles Her Critics

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Jenn Rogien, the costume designer for HBO’s Girls, wants to dispel any rumors about “high fashion” items appearing in season two. “It’s totally not true,” she says, laughing. She’d mentioned Givenchy shoes in an interview a few weeks ago, and her quote got misconstrued through the Internet’s game of telephone: “Three versions later, the conclusion was that I had loaned my own, personal shoes to a guest star and how quaint and ‘Brooklyn’ that was,” she says. “And that isn’t what happened at all!"

Despite the gossip, Rogien insists that the characters’ wardrobes will stay pretty consistent. “When we came back for season two, the first thing that we did was unpack all of the closets from the first season and pull basics,” she says. “We reincorporated their existing pieces and used them as stepping stones, just like real girls do. It’s not very realistic for any of these characters to get an entirely new wardrobe every year, so we didn’t do that either.” Instead, she mined vintage and thrift stores like Beacon's Closet and Amarcord Vintage for new, but still worn-in, pieces to integrate.

Lena Dunham’s character Hannah Horvath, for instance, re-wears her entire shoe closet (think Bass loafers), and handbags and accessories. But some pieces that got too much play last season were taken out of rotation. “For instance, the blue plaid dress that Hannah wore last season — there was so much association with it, and it had too much attached to it, so we put it in storage,” says Rogien.

As for criticism of the character’s wardrobes, of which there has been plenty, Rogien says she does her best to steer clear of it. “I was incredibly thankful to be incredibly busy shooting this show, so I didn’t have a lot of time to read a lot of the coverage,” she says. “Some of the notes were quite critical. I read one piece that was like, ‘If I was dressing these characters, I would do everything differently,’ and that’s when I said, ‘Okay, I have to pull myself out of the blogosphere and just focus on making decisions for the characters the way we’ve been making them all along.’” She adds, “The real world is not the same as the world of our show. And I tried really hard to keep those things separate.”

Rogien will sometimes go to great lengths to make the characters look a bit off, as normal twentysomethings so often do. “For Hannah, there are pieces we completely re-cut so that they will fit in a slightly disheveled, slightly rumpled, slightly scattered way,” she says. “We’re trying to reflect the reality of the characters, but it’s also a TV show, so we did take some artistic liberty with the clothes.”

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