December 18, 2015
Imagine that two sisters in their 40s return to their Orlando childhood home to discover that their parents have sold the house and furnishings–except for the contents of their childhood bedrooms, which have been kept carefully intact.
Then imagine that the sisters throw a wild party, and that this idea becomes a funny movie starring the great comedic duo, Tina Fey and Amy Poehler. That’s the idea behind “Sisters.”
Now imagine that “Sisters” opens the same weekend as a little thing called “Star Wars: The Force Awakens.” So what do you do? You create a spoof video called “Sisters: The Farce Awakens.” And you create the hashtag #youcanseethemboth.
Then imagine you are Costume Designer Susan Lyall, who still cracks a giggle about outfitting Fey and Poehler, though the movie wrapped 14 months ago. Her challenge (besides keeping a straight face) was to create clothes that satisfied director Jason Moore’s vision and the script’s rowdy action.
“Unlike many of the films I’ve done, which are generally naturalistic and character-driven, this was a departure in that it is a very broad comedy and the director wanted it very colorful. He kept saying, ‘No black. No black.’ That’s very hard for me, or any costume designer. It’s hard to avoid it, especially when you are costuming women in their 40s who have incredible physical demands made of them from the script,” Lyall said from New York.
By using metallic, sparkly finishes on black stretch fabrics, Lyall made Fey, as hairdresser Kate Ellis, and Poehler, as Nurse Maura Ellis, stand out from the locals dressed in light Floridian colors.
For the movie’s extended party scene, Fey wears a fitted, metallic tank top and leather shorts.
“The top is custom made. It’s a feat of structural engineering,” said Lyall. “It is boned, and the side panels have stretch so nothing would be pushed out.” Muffin tops were the least of their worries, however. “She had to be able to move her arms any which way. And we made it so it didn’t ride up. We had a bra that fit just a certain way so it could peek out. A lot of effort went into that.”
She sourced fabrics from Spandex House, Inc. in New York’s garment district. “It’s one of the Seven Wonders of the World,” she said. She chose a metallic, abstract animal print on black.
Instead of creating many multiples of the complex design for the stunt double, the film’s tailor devised an expert solution: Insert a large, exterior zipper in the back and make it a design element.
“It’s brass and it looks like it belongs to the top,” Lyall said. The tailor also made stretch panels edged in zippers that could connect to the sewn-in zipper on either side.
“We could expand the top by inserting a panel into it, rather than remaking the top. So it could access a sound pack and stunt harness and any other thing we might need. She ends up in the pool, and if we needed to, we could put a teeny wet suit under it,” Lyall said.
The film’s theme and action explore how two 40-something sisters have to grow up, once and for all, which is a set up for one of the best lines in the film: “We need a little less Forever 21 and a little more Suddenly 42.”
“Sisters” is now in theaters.