The Romanoffs

June, 24th, 2019

By Anna Wyckoff

As projects grow larger in scope and ambition, its Costume Design also becomes more extensive. But Amazon Studios’ globe and era-spanning anthology series, The Romanoffs, was so vast it necessitated two separate costume departments. Designers Janie Bryant and Wendy Chuck split the show, with Bryant designing the odd numbered episodes and Chuck taking on the even numbered episodes. While Bryant was shooting the first show, Chuck prepped for the second. When the second episode began shooting, Bryant would prep for the third, and so on.

Bryant explains, “the producers felt that was the only way this show could be made, and I agreed. There were two assistant design teams and different crews in every single country.” Bryant traveled with her ACD Tiger Curran, and Chuck with her ACD Margaret Robbs. Each episode of the series is a distinct story with its own look, characters, and plot. This meant the project had to be designed fresh for every episode, making it more like designing multiple films back to back.

For Byrant, one highlight of the project was developing Shelly Romanoff (Kerry Bishé), a character who goes from struggling to save her marriage in Ohio to pretending to be a Romanoff while on a cruise away from her husband. In order to make the change as dramatic as possible, Bryant had to begin by dressing Bishé down, which turned out to be quite a challenge. “Her costumes start out just hideous because she had to have this reawakening and we wanted to see this amazing transformation when she goes on the cruise and looks like a princess. It really is a Cinderella story,” Bryant explains. “We had the best time in the fittings because we’d always tell Carrie, ‘No, I’m sorry, you can’t wear this. You look too pretty. We’ve got to go dumpier.'” It took excursions to vintage shops and sporting goods stores to turn a butterfly into a caterpillar.”

With storylines that spanned decades, the project took on a special significance for Wendy Chuck. Expressing the story arc of Simon Burrows (Hugh Skinner) was particularly rewarding. Played by several actors, the character starts out as a traumatized schoolboy (Oliver Zetterström), becoming an 80s broker in Hong Kong, then finally a transgender woman (Adèle Anderson) whose retribution for childhood wrongs is the denouement of the episode. “That’s probably the biggest arc of all of the characters because it transitions through periods and it’s almost a whole life. Also, he turns from man to woman,” she adds.

The locations themselves naturally influenced the look of the characters in any given episode. “A lot of the inspiration came from the place that we were shooting,” Bryant says, “and Paris was amazing.” When fitting Anushka (Marthe Keller) the character grew even older and more bourgeoise under the influence of the city, and fitting the actor into the character meant fitting the character in the city. “That creative process is best part of the job, you know?” says Bryant. ”Coming to that place where they feel safe enough that they can be vulnerable to be a different character.”

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