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Banana Suits and Never-Nude Denim: The Outfits of Arrested Development

Show costume designer Katie Sparks reveals the art of dressing the dysfunctional Funke Bluthe families for Netflix's revival, premiering Sunday.
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Arrested Development creator Mitchell Hurwitz wanted original show costume designer Katie Sparks back on board for the cult sitcom's season four revival.

Sparks, who won a CDG award for her work on the show, left before the third season to raise her newborn daughter. Then the Fox show was canceled. But come Sunday (May 26), AD aficionados will get to revisit the Bluth and Funke families in all their dysfunctional glory on Netflix, which is streaming 15 new episodes of the revived series.

And Sparks is indeed back on board.

She talked to THR about the show’s crazy schedule, the joy of finding a banana suit in the Fox costume warehouse and the new brand of jeans used to give Tobias Funke (David Cross) his never-nude soul. 

The Hollywood Reporter: Just how last minute frenzied was this production?

Katie Sparks: No one ever knew what was happening next. I would tell the new actors that  is just the way Mitch works. But even I would think, if only I had known what was going to happen next, I could have prepped better. I would say that 99% of the time, I never saw the actors until an hour before we were going to shoot. And a lot of people would not get locked the night before so I couldn’t call them.  So  a lot of it was guess work. Like, 'Well, she looks like she would be a 4.' Thank God for my seamstresses. But that’s the genius of the show and it’s just the way Mitch does things. Someone once told me that Mitch was the kid who did his homework on the bus on the way to school every morning.

STORY: 'Arrested Development''s Banana Stand Is On The Road

THR: Wow kinda hard to make costumes that way!

KS: I  know, right? The story line is wackado so it’s all over the place. And we were also on set way out in the desert in the middle of nowhere and I ‘d have to do these really weird costumes late at night. There were no department stores. So we would end up in these really bizarre places, just searching the aisles, putting all these wacky things in the cart —  like a bathroom rug and a blow-up inner tube for a 3-year-old. And we used almost everything I grabbed. My assistant told me ‘If you are ever on Project Runway, I want to be on your team.’

THR: How has your job changed since the original show?

KS: The biggest change is the Internet and the ability to shop online and get it fast. I would buy things on really strange websites and get them shipped to me overnight. That really helped a lot.

THR: You had to do a continuation of the final scene from the last episode of season three. What costumes did you have left from the original show?

KS: The way it works is that Fox holds all the costumes for 9 months and then they put everything in their costume department. But everything is all over the place. So I had to go up these ladders, searching racks and racks of costumes. So almost everything was gone. Portia [Di Rossi] had a bright blue sheath dress with bugle beads sewn on the top. Of course it couldn’t be a simple back dress we could easily knock off. We also had to find fabric that matched Jessica’s [Walters]  suit and make them both from scratch. The guys were much easier because they were all in tuxes. The banana suit in the first season is the one thing I really wished I could find. And we did! It was in a box way up in the warehouse.”

THR: Tell me about Tobias' original never-nude cutoffs versus the new ones.

KS: In the beginning, I was shopping in Neiman Marcus in the women’s department. It never mattered to me, men’s or women’s clothes, because I don’t care about which side the buttons are on. And I saw these really short cutoffs, I don’t remember the designer but it was a big name and they were expensive, like $150. Because they were women’s, they fit him in a funnier way. It was like his underwear worn over his underwear. Well, those are long gone. We used Levi’s this time because we have a lot of different cut-offs in different lengths now. 

What do you think?

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