“A Series of Unfortunate Events”

April 20th, 2018

Anna Wyckoff

Watching the character come to life is a particularly singular experience for Costume Designer Cynthia Summers of the Netflix show, A Series of Unfortunate Events. Count Olaf (Neil Patrick Harris) wears a variety of dramatically transformational disguises, and it is during the costume fittings that he begins finding and assuming the mannerisms and voice of the character, as each disguise has a unique physicality. This casts Summers as both a collaborator and the first member of the audience, a role she delights in.

With characters within characters, an intricate, long-running story arc, and clues that are woven right into the costumes, the series is incredibly detail oriented. Summers and her team create seven multiples for every costume, which means the work is fast paced and painstaking. “There are so many clues in the close ups,” she explains. “Everything has to be done perfectly all the time.” Summers feels that meticulousness originates with show’s developer, Barry Sonnenfeld. “He’s hands-on with absolutely everything that goes during production. It’s a really cohesive group of people and one of those happy situations where we’re all on the same page.”

The timeless nature of the source material—which is set in an indeterminate period somewhere between the 19th century and the 1930s—with the occasional contemporary reference in the adaptation from the book, necessitates the series straddle the line between being a period piece and something contemporary. Summers blends her flair for modern fashion with period knowledge and theatrical experience to create a world that draws in the audience. “My experience with musical theater and fashion-driven contemporary productions has married really nicely. I think it works well within our template since we don’t really have a time and place. I mix it all up and it just gels.”

A Series of Unfortunate Events is streaming on Netflix.

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