We chat up Audrey Fisher, the costume designer behind the new Netflix series, on Sophia’s closet, bunker panties and how vintage clothing can propel a narrative.
The only thing that comes close to rejoicing in a flawed female character on TV (seriously: yay) is the fact that it’s based on a real one. In Netflix’s Girlboss, a “real loose” retelling of how founder Sophia Amoruso started Nasty Gal, deals with the ups and downs of winning at life with nothing but savvy, a blueberry iBook laptop and a shit ton of awesome vintage. And obviously, the clothes play a big part in the origin story. Unsurprisingly, so does the the costume design: it’s flawless in its depiction of early aughts San Francisco 20-somethings searching for life-meanings, burritos, and bomb ass vintage. We caught up with Audrey Fisher, the woman behind it all, to discuss how clothing can propel narrative, how pilfering Sophia’s closet helped guide her, and how to correctly dress a girl who makes vintage her business.
The main character is based on a person–and a young one–who still exists. Was this new for you?
Yes! This was my first experience with helping to tell an extraordinary, as well as famous, woman’s coming of age story when she is currently alive, well and thriving. An honor and challenge to be inspired by Sophia’s experience, and mirror her world within our fictionalized TV narrative.
What was your process of building the wardrobe like? I remember you had a lot of Sophia’s old photos from her early 20s to work with.
Sophia gave the production dozens of candid snapshots from that time in her life, and the attitude, energy and of course clothing captured in those images gave me crystal clear direction. Her clothes, and how she wore them, first told me the true story of Sophia’s fierce, gutsy chic, her clique’s idiosyncratic cool, and the reality of a feisty group of 20-somethings forging their own identities without traditional structure. In every one of those photos, there’s both personality and pluck, distinct style being forged from bold but simple choices. I let that energy be my beacon.
I heard you used a few of Sophia’s own pieces in the show. How did that happen?
After diving into Sophia’s closet, with her as an enthusiastic guide, and getting to know some of her favorite and most worn pieces, I was able to re-create some of them for the show, which felt like a special wink to Sophia. My favorite example: a couple of Sophia’s necklaces, which she wore consistently during those early days: two silver crosses, one from her Greek grandmother, and another stolen by a friend from a thrift store… if I remember correctly! I loved the way those accessories were a bridge from our fictional Sophia to real Sophia in San Francisco in the mid 2000s.
There’s an amazing East West jacket on the show that plays a huge part narratively. I remember Kay saying how important it was to find a genuine East West jacket in mint condition for this. Tell me a bit about how you found it, and why it was so crucial?
In our story, that East West jacket is Sophia’s lucky charm, plain and simple. She scores this diamond in the rough, and it is becomes the symbol of both her keen eye and business savvy. And it’s her first big eBay sale that starts the engine, yes. And when her luck seems to fade, Sophia believes she must have the jacket back in order to regain her moxie; she finds it and buys it back with a fat wad of cash. With her powers regained, she tries to pay that magic forward to her mother, who needs it more than she does… a mature and kind gesture that the character has grown into. I searched high and low for an impeccable East West in Britt’s size, and finally, found that pink and blue metallic parrot jacket in dealer Brian Cohen’s exquisite vintage clothing studio. It was truly like Cinderella’s glass slipper when Britt slipped it on and it was perfect.
One of my favorite looks in the show was Sophia’s makeshift bathing suit in the LA episode. How did that look come about?
That storyline highlighted how Sophia is basically a fashion alchemist, spinning straw into gold: earthquake granny panties and a skimpy triangle bra transform into an impossibly chic bikini with a wave of her wand. Kay Cannon scripted that concept very clearly, and it was my job to give her the costume which could handle that transformation. I had the navy undies made at Trashy Lingerie, granny panties with a sexy 1950s twist, but the burgundy lace triangle bra was Sophia’s every-day go-to, because I didn’t want it to seem like she had some special new bikini-like bra in those scenes, when in fact didn’t even have clean panties to pack for her trip. And that felt like the essence of fictional—and real?—Sophia: bending reality to the force of her will, strutting like a supermodel in granny panties.
How important was it to use actual vintage for the show?
Vintage was crucial because it’s the backbone of Sophia’s origin story! Especially given Sophia’s penchant for 70s rocker chic, my goal was to find pieces for Britt that really celebrated that love of vintage, one-of-a-kind items that just vibrate with cool. Also because vintage carries its own history of wear, adding a certain ineffable patina to any story, and especially to the story of a girl who makes vintage her business. Finally, because Sophia’s commitment to a 70s silhouette felt elemental to her identity: sexy, powerful and unique amongst her peers. I knew I had succeeded with Britt’s costumes when she stepped on stage and little buzz went up from colleagues, from crew to producers: “I love that… she looks amazing… where’d you get it… I would love to wear that… where can I buy it?”
How was this show different to work on compared to other shows you’ve done?
Different because I was tasked with recreating story points through costumes, while also telling a fictionalized story through the same costumes. Much like that lovely story of the red string which young, spirited Sophia played with in the park, imagining her own high-flying kite when there was none, I was always tethered to the idea of real Sophia, but my job as costume designer was, as always, to imagine and create a high-flying costume story for our fictionalized Sophia.
Best vintage score for the show was:
East West Parrot Jacket…of course!