Wardrobe Room

Tour: The Adorkable, Quirky Closet of 'New Girl's' Head Nerd

Sheep sweaters? Check. Show costume designer Debra McGuire takes us behind the scenes of Zooey Deschanel's cutesy looks on the Fox comedy hit.
Amy Dickerson

When it comes to Zooey Deschanel's signature preppy, nerdy look as Jess on Fox's hit comedy New Girl, no one knows the quirky character's sweet sartorial selections better than costume designer Debra McGuire. "Zooey has such a definite look. I like every outfit," said McGuire, a seasoned design veteran who worked on Friends for 10 years, as well as other TV shows including Heroes and Freaks and Geeks, and films Phil Spector and Knocked Up. "I love designing for her."

Having been on board since the show's pilot in September 2011, McGuire says she's "totally on the same wavelength" as Deschanel when it comes to picking out pieces for her to wear. The actress-producer echoed the same sentiment, comparing their relationship to that of Audrey Hepburn and celebrated costume designer Edith Head. "They had a very nerdy friendship," Deschanel tells Pret-a-Reporter during our chat about her new nautical-inspired Tommy Hilfiger line. "I feel the same way with Debra."

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Similar to the actress' own personal style, Jess is often seen on the show wearing preppy polka dots, colorful stripes and fun vintage wares, with designs usually from Kate Spade, Dear Creatures, Alice + Olivia, Orla Kiely and Stop Staring, among other finds from local vintage shops.

When the actress isn't wearing pieces found in stores or online, she's usually wearing a McGuire-designed outfit, including the custom-made pear-stamped dress she wore to a farmers market in the "Exes" episode that aired in early February and adorable PJs aplenty.

"About 50 percent of what we did this season, I did for Zooey," says the Emmy-nominated designer, who usually finds fabric at Michael Levine in downtown L.A. or wherever she can locate quirky prints ("We're always on the prowl").

Among one of the most memorable moments from season three was undoubtedly having Prince as a guest star. While McGuire didn't design any of his on-screen clothes ("He had a favorite designer in Toronto that he wanted us to explore … so they made things for us."), she shares that he also "brought a bunch of his own clothes and everything fit perfectly [on Zooey]. Even the shoes. It was unbelievable." Like Deschanel, Prince also wears a size 8 1/2, evidently. On the show, the actress typically slips into a classy pair of flats from J. Crew or Kate Spade.

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Considering that McGuire worked with the actress on her first-ever TV appearance on Veronica's Closet when she was 16, she knows what's up when it comes to Deschanel's style. And speaking to their compatible taste, the She & Him vocalist liked one of McGuire's picks, a Kate Spade coat, so much she went out to buy it for herself, since castmembers aren't allowed to take any costume pieces home.

See Deschanel's favorite coat, among other gems including the "Coach Coach" varsity jacket and a sketch of Schmidt's (Max Greenfield) dinosaur costume, from our tour with McGuire. Click here for a tour of New Girl's frock-friendly trailer closet on the Fox lot.

Tune in to New Girl on Fox on Tuesdays at 9 p.m. ET/PT. And don't forget to catch the show's season-three finale on May 6.