Jada Pinkett Smith as Fish Mooney on “Gotham.” Credit: Copyright Fox Broadcasting Co., Photo by Jessica Miglio/FOX.


October 24, 2014

There’s something about evil that brings out the fashion icon in villains–which makes them just a little harder to hate.

With a dramatic flair fitting for tall tales, the new FOX television series, “Gotham,” is the stylish prequel to the DC Comics story of Batman. Starring Ben McKenzie as Det. James Gordon, Donal Logue as Det. Harvey Bullock and Jada Pinkett Smith as crime boss Fish Mooney, the hour-long “Gotham” lifts the cape on the origins of some of pop culture’s most superlative super-villains: Catwoman, The Penguin, The Riddler, Two-Face and The Joker.

Costume Designer Lisa Padovani has given one character a wardrobe to die for: Mooney, the wicked crime boss and femme fatale, emphasis on the fatale.

“In the pilot, when I first read about the character, I was thinking more of a ‘60s Vegas look. Then they cast Jada, and I thought, we can do anything we want. She’s very tiny, five-foot, maybe four-eleven, but you would never know from her big performance that she’s that small.

“I just have to be careful that the costume isn’t wearing her,” Padovani said.

As the character’s look evolved, the designer skipped long gowns that could overpower Pinkett Smith’s petite frame. Padovani also took advantage of the shoot’s New York location and sent shoppers to explore the city’s garment suppliers. Anything slithery, feathery, scary or sexy was fair game.

“Her skin is so great that she looks wonderful in leather and metallics. So we went with that,” Padovani said. Mooney, a combination of super model and super villain, was made for fashion with a dangerous edge, the better to match her talon manicures and spiky, blood-red bangs.

In “The Balloonman” episode, Mooney confronts the cops in a metallic brocade strapless dress that’s suspended from a wide, scaly strap that encircles her neck.

“It’s four baby alligators–isn’t’ that sad? They’re from the sewers of New York–just kidding, but Mooney would have got them there,” Padovani said. Instead, the show’s shopper found the skins, already painted a shimmery silver, in one of the city’s leather supply stores.

“We backed and wired them to spiral around her neck. It took four different skins to get the shape I wanted,” the designer said. Padovani credited the skills of Anna Light, a draper and seamstress who also works with the American Ballet Theatre, with helping realize the dramatic costumes.

“Working for ABT is a very useful skill. She’s used to doing very theatrical pieces with unusual fabrics,” Padovani said. “She’s not afraid to handle odd stuff that I give her.”

The skins-as-necklace concept required expert craftsmanship to mount correctly on the brocade dress and fit the actress.

“It became,” said Padovani, “like a piece of wearable art.”

“Gotham” airs Mondays at 8:00 p.m., ET/PT on Fox.

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