April 25, 2014
When Costume Designer Christine Wada was called on to design the wardrobe for the pilot of ABC’s comedy “Mixology,” the assignment required her to create wardrobes that could last an unusually long time–a full season. Unlike most sitcoms, the action in “Mixology” takes place in one bar over one night, in every episode. She dressed the 10-person cast of young and attractive singles for a night out at Mix, a high-end watering hole in Manhattan’s Meatpacking District, where the characters drink, flirt and fret over relationships.
Except for a few flashback scenes, the cast wears the same ensemble for every episode. From a design perspective, Wada had to walk a fine line.
“When you think of costumes living over an entire season, you don’t want to hit them over the head that much so that the audience doesn’t get sick of it or distracted by it,” she said. While avoiding making the costumes predictable or boring, she focused on keeping each character distinct from one another.
“The minute you make anything too ‘character’ or too distracting, that is when you are going to get sick of the clothes,” she said. She skipped T-shirts with graphics or words because, “by episode eight, you would be sick of reading ‘Fender’ on a T-shirt.”
With the support of pilot director Larry Charles, she chose a color darker palette that reflected real life New York. The exception is the vivid red cocktail dress that Alexis Carra wears to play New Jersey single mom Jessica. Wada built the body-conscious, plunging V-neck dress, which functions as the accent to her cast mates’ more subdued color palette.
“It was as if the show needed one commitment to a costume and the red dress is that,” she said. The character has a red purse and shoes, but no layers to change up.
The concept of “Mixology” inspired Wada to approach the wardrobe more like a custom build, instead of a shopped show.
“I kept in mind to have stuff that could be reproduced in case I had a guy vomit or have his clothes catch on fire in the sixth episode,” said Wada, who handed off the series design duties to Costume Designer Jennifer Eve, who creates looks for flashback scenes. Wada also used fairly standard fabrics and purchased additional yardage in case future multiples had to be constructed, and bought key items, such as blazers, in sets of six.
While she focused on matching clothes with character—giving the proper Englishman a three-piece suit and the scruffy bachelor an unstructured Army jacket—she also realized she didn’t have to tell the entire story with costumes.
“When someone is going to be on however many episodes, you don’t need costumes to tell you that much about character,” she said, “because over 13 episodes, you’ll find out.”
“Mixology” is on Wednesdays at 9:30 p.m., ET / 8:30 p.m. CT on ABC.