Photo courtesy of Cynthia Summers.

Photo courtesy of Michael Schmidt.

Photo courtesy of Michael Schmidt.

Photo courtesy of Cynthia Summers.

“Girlfriends’ Guide to Divorce”

January 29, 2016

Valli Herman

Bravo may be onto something big. For “Girlfriends’ Guide to Divorce,” the network reveals the kind of information that used to be nearly impossible to determine—the brand names behind the key characters’ wardrobes.

It’s part nerve-wracking and part flattering for Costume Designer Cynthia Summers, who provides the network with details for the online guide, The Look Book. The site posts “shopable videos” and highlights of key items such as the characters’ Tom Ford sunglasses, the AllSaints biker jackets, the Prabal Gurung dresses and, from the makeup department, shades and brands of cosmetics.

“Very early on, everyone determined that it’s a series about women for women, basically. So that’s got to involve fashion,” Summers said from Vancouver, where the series is shot.

Now in its second season, “Girlfriends’ Guide to Divorce” follows self-help author Abby McCarthy (Lisa Edelstein) and her other 30- and 40-something friends as they negotiate grownup and complicated relationships–while dressed fabulously.

Though Summers is delighted to share her insider information, she still has some tricks of the trade that aren’t as easily uncovered or obtained in Vancouver. She was especially challenged for an episode where Phoebe (Beau Garrett) hosts a Champagne-themed party. Summers needed clothes that could be as exuberant as the décor–Champagne towers, bubbles on the wall, bubbles everywhere. She envisioned bubble-clad cocktail waitresses for two background actors.

Summers dreamed of making a bubble-covered dress like the one Lady Gaga wore on the cover of Rolling Stone.

“Everything about it was perfect—in theory. But where can I get it made? And where can I afford it? And I need two,” said Summers, who knew the hurdles might compromise her vision. She learned the dress was by Los Angeles specialty costume designer Michael Schmidt.

“I pitched the idea to our producer, and she loved it. Then I pitched it to Lisa Edelstein when she was in for a fitting. I told her it was like the bubble dress on the Rolling Stone cover.”

As fate would have it, Edelstein knew Schmidt from her days as club kid Lisa E. in New York.

I asked her, ‘Do you think you could put a word in? Could you send him a text?’ That’s how we got put together. I was just hoping for a feel of a bubble dress, but he was like, ‘Yeah, I can do it. No problem.’”

Schmidt is a master of extravagant jewelry and costumes, the kind favored by rock stars such as Madonna, Cher, Janet Jackson, Katy Perry and Rihanna. Though the bubbles for the Gaga dress were taped on, Summers wanted sturdier construction to allow her Champagne waitresses to move freely.

“He came back two days later with the sketches. His concept was to sew plastic bubbles onto a super-heavy latex dress. The front is a hard plastic, almost like Lucite–he calls it a clear acrylic corset. The skirt is a heavy, clear vinyl, like a tablecloth material. It’s maybe ⅛ of an inch thick. He punched holes in the hard acrylic and sewed bubbles in place to cover them.”

Though the dresses are see-through, they’re magically modest. “With their flesh tone undies and the reflection on the vinyl bubbles on top, you couldn’t see anything,” Summers said.

The extra effort to dress background actors not only brought fizz to the party scene, but it also added some effervescence to Summers’ costuming duties.

“The fashion on the show is amazing, but when you have something that is more of a costume, or a themed party, it breaks up the pace a little and keeps it fresh,” she said. “It gets your creative juices flowing.” And those bubbly cocktail waitresses kept the Champagne flowing, too.


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