Pret-a-Reporter

How the Outfits in 'Sisters' Helped Create a Bigger Laugh

Courtesy of Universal Pictures
Tina Fey and Amy Poehler in 'Sisters'

"Those two can provide the funny. I'll just make them look fantastic," says costume designer Susan Lyall of dressing the film's leading ladies, Tina Fey and Amy Poehler.

There's a scene in Sisters — the new comedy starring Tina Fey and Amy Poehler as siblings — where wild Kate and responsible Maura Ellis (Fey and Poehler, respectively) run into into an old classmate named Brinda (Maya Rudolph), who's seen wearing a tacky gold-plated wide belt. Mocking Brinda, Kate says, "Oh yeah, congrats on your wrestling championship."

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That joke was introduced thanks in part to costume designer Susan Lyall. "Whenever I would costume someone like Maya Rudolph, in particular, her costumes did nothing but give Tina Fey and Amy Poehler fodder to make fun of her," Lyall tells Pret-a-Reporter of how the ensembles contributed to the film's one-liners.

She quips, "I saw Tina at the premiere and I said, 'You're welcome that I gave you all these costumes to make fun of.'"

Lyall, who typically works on dramas (including RED, Side Effects and This Is Where I Leave You with Fey), says working on a "comedy is tricky in making it look funny and fantastic, because fantastic may not always be funny." But with Fey and Poehler at the helm, the costume designer thought, "Those two can provide the funny. I'll just make them look fantastic."

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To make them stand out, Lyall presented director Jason Moore with the idea that the leading ladies "would be the only ones in kind of dark metallic colors" at the last house party they throw at their childhood home in Orlando, Fla., before their parents sell it. Ahead of the epic bash, Kate and Maura go searching for that one perfect outfit. It's then that we see them having a bit of fun and, uh, trouble as they try on a variety of cut-out dresses and fringe frocks. "The costumes there were really reworked," Lyall laughs.

Many of the film's costume pieces were "custom made to accommodate the physical requirements and demands of the script," with moments in the movie including Kate scaling the fireplace to doing a keg stand to falling into a sinkhole.

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"The costumes could sort of feed some of the jokes — the trying on the dresses at the store," says Lyall. "I would just get a lot of crazy clothes, put them on a rack, have a fitting and you just let them go at it. […] Everything was fit and adjusted and made to create a bigger laugh."

She adds, "They both will go the distance to find the humor. They're not afraid to be embarrassed. They have a little Will Ferrell in them."

Sisters hit theaters Friday.

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