“Black-ish”

August 6th, 2018

Anna Wyckoff

For Costume Designer Michelle Cole, working on ABC’s black-ish has in many ways come full circle. After cutting her teeth in theater productions, she got her start on television in shows like In Living Color, which became a pop culture phenomenon, and that experience directly informs her current work. She explains, When we do flashbacks we use stronger colors because when Bow (Tracee Ellis Ross) and Dre (Anthony Anderson) were in college was during my In Living Color days, so I kind of have flashbacks of my own.”

Costume Designing a show about an upper-middle class African American family means they have to dress the part, and Cole’s emphasis is on creating a stylish, relatable wardrobe for her cast. “I always say they’re they best dressed family in the kitchen,” she chuckles. “They’re amazing and we do have beautiful clothes, but I think we go for taste, structure, and style. That is really more important for us than the price point.” This approach results in characters wearing believable clothing that is fashionable, but also is something that audiences see as attainable. Cole fields constant inquiries as to what the characters are wearing in specific episodes. “It’s one of the shows I get the most phone calls about.”

But it is dressing the younger actors that Cole finds the most rewarding. The show has been on for long enough that the children on the show have grown up dramatically and so have their costumes. “They’re teens now, so we’re able to put a few of those funky pieces on Diane (Marsai Martin). Even little Miles (Miles Brown plays Jack Johnson) said to me when he came in for his measurements a couple weeks ago, ‘Michelle, am I going to have a little more of an urban style now?'” It’s a process that Cole finds relates to her own origins in Costume Design. “It’s a nice journey,” she says, “You can look back and see the threads and see how they connect.”

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