Stephanie Maslansky is living it up right now. The costume designer, who’s worked on shows like Third Watch and White Collar, has become the costume designer for Netflix’s Marvel shows.
That means she recreated Daredevil’s signature look for TV, is responsible for Jessica Jones’ slick leather jacket, has completed Luke Cage’s first season and is just starting on Iron Fist, highlighting the cohesion of Marvel’s cinematic universe. At this past month’s WonderCon, we talked about translating comic book costumes to the screen, time travel and getting her dream job.
How much of these costumes come from the comic book?
A ton of it. We’re all very invested in being as faithful as possible to the origin stories. At the same time, we’re bringing this into the 21st century and we’re grounding our stories in a very authentic, gritty New York world. New York is not that gritty anymore but we shoot a lot in Brooklyn and Queens.
This is 1970’s New York.
Yeah, but at the same time we’re creating a world that is modern day. His character is so full of anger at what’s happening in his city and a wish to right the wrongs. He struggles constantly with sin and whether or not he’s doing the right thing. That is real life. People struggle all the time with opposing emotions, things they do and think they need to do. It’s as simple as trying to do well in my career, but I’ve got two 14 year old’s at home. It’s about…
These characters are balancing a lot of emotions.
Jessica Jones has been traumatized and she doesn’t even want to be a hero anymore. She’s pulled back into it because this guy, who is the cause of her trauma, is going around destroying people’s lives and she’s the only person who can stop that.
At the same time, the beauty of these shows is they’re grounded in this reality. Things need to be justified.
The costumes for Jessica and Daredevil are obviously much different. How did they evolve?
Matt Murdock’s looks were grounded in the origins of the comics. Matt’s look in the comics was very much the way I designed the look for the show. Fortunately, the thin, narrow tie, button down collared suit, is very modern. It traveled well through the decades. That look has become a very wonderful modern look that nods to the Brat Pack. I feel like I’m having an interview for White Collar right now, because I talked about the same thing. That narrow silhouette, that slim tie, that button down shirt, the narrow lapels, we were able to keep to that.
Whereas Jessica Jones, her character didn’t wear a leather jacket when she was developed in the comics. The leather jacket was more of a sport jacket. We tried that when we were trying to figure out the costumes. But it didn’t feel right. It didn’t feel right to Krysten. It didn’t feel right to the producers. It didn’t feel tough or edgy enough. That’s how we landed on the leather motorcycle jacket stripped of all its bells and whistles and aged to death. That felt right when she put it on.
It felt so right, that it’s what she wore all the time, whether we were shooting in the summer or winter. It became psychological protection for her, along with the jeans, the boots and the tank top. It became a shield; it was armor for her. It wasn’t bulletproof the way Daredevil’s costume was, but it helped her feel invulnerable psychologically and her character needed that.
Did you guys ever think about doing the yellow costume from the comic books for Daredevil?
I don’t believe so. I think the reason being it would’ve been too much of a comic. It would’ve been too over the top. He’s working at night, and yellow isn’t something you can really hide. It wound up being a steel gray and deep maroon, which are very complementary colors that work well at night. In the end he’s wearing, not a spandex suit, the fabrics and look are far more developed than that, and the look is far more developed from the 50’s or the 60’s, but at the same time it was definitely more of a superhero costume than Jessica Jones wore.
You’re working on Luke Cage. I’m assuming there’s no big yellow costume in that one either?
Well, let’s just say there was an iconic look from the 70’s, and as we did on Jessica Jones and Daredevil, we like to pay homage for the sake of the fans because it’s fun. We made Easter Eggs. You’ll see it when you see the show.
Are you going to be working on Iron Fist?
I already am working on Iron Fist.
Awesome. More yellow! Your challenge again is how to ground these costumes in reality.
It’s going to be interesting. I’m not sure what kind of superhero costume he’ll have. I know already there may be other costume challenges for me in the show. It’s always fun to get involved with something that’s a little bit otherworldly and try to ground it.
The challenge is doing something that’s authentic and maintaining what the fans are going to respond to. Because the fans are really important on these shows. They go back in some cases decades. There’s always going to be a critic, but you want people to respond and be blown away with the work that’s been done within the premise of these shows. That’s the challenge, making sure that it feels authentic and gritty but somehow resonates with the fans.
If you could time travel to any time, when would it be?
I really like the twenties because that was the beginning of women really coming into their own. There was a strong feminist movement. They had the vote and clothes certainly changed. I think it was a really interesting time. The twenties, even into the thirties, although by then there was the crash. Let’s stick to the twenties.
Do you have any dream shows or costumes that you’d love to work on?
I’m kind of living the dream right now, to be honest with you. I wouldn’t have imagined in my wildest dreams that I’d be working on superhero shows, and become somewhat of an expert on them. But I’m loving it, and loving delving into the history of the comics and reading about them. The stories are incredible and they go on forever. I think Netflix and Marvel have really hit on something here and this could go on for years. I’m excited to be a part of it. It’s marrying what I love to do. I love incorporating fashion and high style. I also love doing fantasy. In these shows we do a lot of flashbacks, where I get my period fixes. We’re hitting on all the exciting parts. The fantasy, the period, the modern dress, it’s all there. I’m excited and grateful to be a part of it.
You can be a part of it by streaming Marvel’s Daredevil and Jessica Jones on Netflix.