Costume designers John Dunn and Lisa Padovani received an Emmy nomination last year for their impressive work on the first season of Boardwalk Empire.
The lauded HBO series, starring Steve Buscemi, Gretchen Mol, Michael Pitt, Kelly Macdonald, Michael Shannon, Dabney Coleman, Vincent Piazza, Stephen Graham and Jack Huston, is set in the prohibition era and features an array of colorful characters: gangsters, showgirls, prostitutes, crooked cops and shady politicians (were there any other kind?).
Their historically accurate costumes --- a mix of vintage and made – initially surprised TV viewers with bright colors and bold patterns, especially on the men, who were literally the peacocks of that period of social upheaval.
For their second season, Dunn and Padovani have the Emmy submission selection process down pat.
“I go back through all the scripts instead of trying to watch a full year of episodes,” Padovani tells The Hollywood Reporter. “We look at the story highlights and make a list. Then we fast forward through the top episodes and pause on the parts we like. Then we decide which one has the most bang for the buck. That’s what its all about. You’re always trying to put your best face forward for the Emmy submission.”
The year, they felt the biggest costume bang is the season 2 premiere. See synopsis here.
Here's their reasoning: “We wanted an episode that showed the breadth of the work that we do, a nice balance of intimate scenes contrasted with some of the movie scale scenes that we do, say the boardwalk and beach scenes,” says Dunn.
“The premiere has an overview of all the work we did this season," Dunn adds. “It covers the tawdry brothel of Chicago, the Four Deuces. But then we’re at the supper club and then we’re on the boardwalk. That episode shows all sorts of different characters, from various economic levels, the Ku Klux Klan, the showgirls, the prostitutes, Margaret at home, Nucky getting arrested. It’s just a broad spectrum."
Both designers agree that it’s impossible to single out a particular outfit on the show as a so-called highlight.
“But that’s kind of what our show is about to a certain degree,” says Dunn. “Every costume is done in detail and we’ve tried to elevate the whole level of costuming on television so that everybody looks as they should.”
But there is one thing new this season that both Dunn and Padovani are pretty jazzed about.
One of their sewers recently found an antique sewing machine on eBay that does a period fagoted seam, which gives a special lightness and detail to a blouse, especially on lightweight fabrics like chiffon. They found the funds in the costume budget, bought the machine and the sewers have all learned to use it.
“It’s amazing, as necessary as a needle and thread to us now,” says Padovani. “We use it on almost everything the women wear on the show now. It just gives that added detail to blouses, hems and llngerie that doesn’t exist anymore and has been lost over time.”
Dunn explains their incomparable joy: “It was sort of like finding a still in Grandpa’s garage and getting it up and running again. It’s a finish that’s so of that period. It’s that sort of stuff that really gets us excited.”
Spoken like true obsessive costume designers.