Oscars hangover anyone? Meh, me either…I’m old. But, oh those dresses! I definitely have fun each season gasping over them on the red carpet. I love everything about a great red carpet gown, from the celebrities wearing them to the designers who create them, not to mention, the stylists for their vision. Which leads me to today’s Q&A with Glee costume assistant Andrea Medina. She’s got a keen eye for costume detail and has been with the show since its inception. What a cool job, eh? If you’ve ever wondered what it’s like to design for TV, here’s an inside peek!
I Heart Heels: How did you discover costume design, and what made you choose it as your profession?
Andrea Medina: I discovered costume design as a profession I was interested in when I was in high school. I used to attend television tapings in L.A., and was intrigued by what went on behind the scenes. I then did research on the profession and was determined to make it my career. In college, I set out to do internships [and] started interning my second year. I completed seven costume internships before I graduated with a double major Bachelor of Arts in Fashion Design/Textiles and Fashion Merchandising. Costuming is truly my passion.
IHH: How long have you worked with the cast of Glee, and what exactly do you do as a costume design assistant?
AM: I’ve worked for Glee since Season 1. I started as the costume department intern for three seasons while in college. I graduated after Season 3 and became the full-time costume assistant for Season 4 and currently Season 5.
As the costume assistant, I mainly assist our Costume Supervisor, Carol Kunz, and costume designer, Robert Blackman. My duties at our office at Paramount Pictures include [everything from] filing and closing out paperwork with retail stores and organizing fitting rooms [to] picking up actors for their fittings. When we go on location, my main duty is checking in background actors and writing what items they borrow from us for the day.
One of my favorite things is helping our costume designer conduct research. I often go back into our archives to see what costumes have been worn for various past performances to make sure they’re not repetitive. I then put together research boards displaying the images I found, and also boards with fitting pictures, showing the actors in the outfits they tried on. These boards are then sent to our producers/directors, who pick the costumes they want for big musical numbers.
I assist in fittings with our cast to make sure the outfits we fit on our actors are kept in order for upcoming episodes, and I take note of alterations that need to be made and accessories that need to be added to the outfits.
IHH: What’s one of your favorite episodes for Glee that you’ve dressed to date?
AM: There are two episodes that come to mind. No way can I choose between them! The first is “Guilty Pleasures” from Season 4. We created costumes for numbers inspired by WHAM!, the Spice Girls, and ABBA. I’ve always wanted us to do a Spice Girls number, so it really was a dream come true to be a part of the recreation of some iconic looks.
The second episode is “A Katy or a Gaga” from Season 5. The looks for “Applause,” Adam Lambert’s “Marry the Night,” and “Roar” were so much fun to see come to life. Our costume designer, Robert Blackman, came up with brilliant designs to recreate various Katy Perry and Lady Gaga looks. Robert also collaborated with Adam Lambert to come up with the “Starchild” performance look. As a team, we were passionate about finding the elements to make the costumes come to life and make a statement. We’re very proud of the results!
IHH: What’s the costume design process like from beginning to end? How long does it take to design an episode and how closely are you working with the cast members?
AM: At the very start of the season, during pre-production, we have “closet” fittings with each cast member for their “school” or “everyday” changes. This usually occurs one week before shooting the season. Then, throughout the season we have additional fittings for more everyday changes and specific musical performance looks.
Like we all have at home, the characters have their own closet space in our costume department. Our costume designer pulls from pieces in their closet that our team has shopped for when putting all the outfits together for an episode. Once their closet starts to become empty, we shop for additional pieces and have an hour-long fitting with each actor. These fittings usually occur before they start shooting or once they’re done with their scene for the day. The actors definitely have a say when it comes to how things are fit to them and make them feel, but typically they let us put on them whatever we envision for the character/scene/musical number. We’re always open to their input and perspective.
Sometimes, we may not receive a script until a couple of days before an episode starts shooting. Once we get a script, the costume designer and team reads through it and makes notes. We then put together concept/inspiration boards to present to the director and producers. The costume supervisor and designer next attend a crew production meeting with the heads of each department to get specific notes on what the musical numbers and episode as a whole will entail. From there, we usually have 2-4 days to get major costume looks prepared. If a musical number calls for extravagant costumes/hair/makeup/sets, etc, those numbers are shot later in the week to give the different departments more time to prepare. It takes about eight days to shoot one episode.
IHH: How do shoes fit into the costume equation?
AM: On television, unfortunately, shoes are rarely seen! The camera shots are typically either a wide shot, where you can barely see the shoe detail, or a close, upper body shot. Although this is the case, we being the costume department, care very much about every single detail, no matter how much camera time the look gets. We want to make sure to give the actors a complete look, to allow them to feel like a properly dressed character. We have a bin of shoes for each character, and rotate them out with various outfits, just like anyone in real life would do. When it comes to shoes especially, we make sure the actors get to wear styles they’re comfortable in, because they have to walk, run and even dance in them on our show! Shoes play a significant role in the characters’ head-to-toe look.
IHH: At the end of the day, what gives you the most satisfaction about your job?
AM: I’m given the most satisfaction when I see the teamwork and passion that our Glee Costumes team has. We love our job, and we love working with the cast and crew of Glee. We all have a common goal to make our show look amazing, and to allow the actors to truly feel like their character. It’s the absolute best thing when we all get together on a weekly basis during lunch, to watch each episode the week it airs on the big screen. Seeing our hard work come to life gives me so much satisfaction!
[Photo Courtesy Andrea Medina]