Emmys: How Rachel Brosnahan’s Custom Pajamas Look Came Together (Exclusive)

Emmy nominee Rachel Brosnahan - Publicity - H 2020
Jason Ralph

Emmy nominee Rachel Brosnahan in Christy Rilling pajamas.

Stylists Jill Lincoln and Jordan Johnson reached out to Christy Rilling, Michelle Obama’s tailor, to create a playful look for the 'Marvelous Mrs. Maisel' nominee, her husband, actor Jason Ralph – even their two dogs.

Among all the red-carpet and event looks Jill Lincoln and Jordan Johnson have put together over the years, none has gone as smoothly as the custom design Rachel Brosnahan is wearing for tonight’s 72nd Emmy Awards.

“I’m going to regret saying that, but there really haven’t been any hiccups,” Jordan says. “It’s also brought more of a sense of joy than anything we’ve ever worked on before.”

“This has been my favorite special-event look ever,” agrees Lincoln.

Jordan and Lincoln have been working for three years with Brosnahan, nominated for the third time for Amazon Studios’ The Marvelous Mrs. Maisel (she won in 2018). Putting together an Emmys look typically can involve discussing myriad concepts and reaching out to multiple designers to craft custom gowns, but not this year: “We have a pretty open dialogue with Rachel, so we threw around some ideas via text, and she was into it right away,” Jordan says.

 

The virtual approach to this year’s Emmy ceremony played an integral role in the decision. Playing off the producers’ request to “Come as You Are, But Make an Effort,” a pair of custom pajamas became the first and only look discussed. Rather than pulling glam loungewear from various designers, however, Lincoln and Jordan wanted to add elements that highlighted handcraft and philanthropy.

“Jill brought up the idea of these beautiful custom-made robes Christy Rilling was doing, really couture-level pieces,” Jordan remembers.

A New York-based tailor who previously worked in-house at Vogue on cover shoots, Rilling not only offers her services to Jordan, Lincoln and other stylists on fitting red-carpet pieces, her studio also produces bespoke designs for private clients that include Michelle Obama and Bruce Springsteen and his family. With a studio in Manhattan’s Garment District, Rilling and her team launched evening wear and capsule collections in 2019, but once the pandemic hit and stay-at-home looks became central to style conversations, she debuted a collection of custom robes, crafted of silks and other fabrics leftover from previous designs (including a gown she created for Obama to wear to a state dinner). Thirty percent of the proceeds from the sales of the robes are donated to the Food Bank of New York City.

“Christy has been part of countless moments with us and our clients over the years, but tailors often aren’t given the credit that’s due them for their work,” Lincoln says. “We thought this would be a great way to also highlight a New York-based business.”

The look won’t be seen on Brosnahan alone. With the stay-at-home Emmys turning many nominee moments into family affairs, Rilling also has created pajamas for Brosnahan’s husband, actor Jason Ralph, as well as designs for their two dogs: a bow for their female pit mix, Nikki, and a bowtie for their male Shiba Inu, Winston. “Rachel really loves her dogs; they are all over her Instagram, so of course they also have to dress the part,” Jordan says.

Once Brosnahan explored Rilling’s site and selected a favorite robe, Jordan and Lincoln discussed with the tailor how a pair of custom pajamas could be created. “Rachel fell in love with one particular robe, an upcycled print that originally was used for a Thakoon design,” Rilling says. The only problem? That fabric was no longer available, so Rilling reached out to her friend, New York-based artist Laurie Simmons, and asked her to create a custom print.

“I asked Laurie if she would be open to collaborating with us on a new print based on her artwork,” Rilling explains. “She created a dancing poppy, based on a flower she already had photographed from her garden, combined with a pair of classic legs from her artwork. The print was produced on Long Island, so a lot of talented New York artisans have come together to make this happen.”

Fitting Brosnahan’s pajamas likewise took on couture-level details. “Rachel likes more of a high waist, so we knew we weren’t going to do an ordinary elastic waist,” Lincoln says.

“We also modified the shirt length,” Jordan adds. “It’s a bit more cropped and fitted, because she’ll likely be sitting while she’s on camera, and we didn’t want the pajama top sort of slumping around her.”

Rilling did three fittings on Brosnahan, starting with measurements using a color-coded measuring tape she designed: “I needed something I could see during fittings on Zoom,” Rilling explains. “Rachel is very savvy about fashion, and she and Jason are both actors, so they’ve been through a million fittings and totally get what we needed to do.”

For the second round, Rilling created toiles, garments that are crafted in a less expensive fabric as a test run, a practice used in haute couture and other made-to-measure clothes. “Everyone got a toile – even the dogs,” Rilling says with a laugh. “We really went for it with this project. The toile fitting was as good as any you’d see for a movie or a European fashion show.”

The third and final fitting was done using the finished looks. “Any changes were really minimal at that point, like adding a few crystals to Rachel’s collar,” Rilling says.

Lincoln and Jordan have finished the look with a custom charm necklace by Kirsty Stone’s Los-Angeles based Retrouvai – “It’s a more playful look jewelry-wise; we texted [Kirsty] some colors, and she got it right off the bat,” Jordan says – and shoes by Roger Vivier.

Brosnahan’s head-to-toe look will be donated to the RAD (Red Carpet Advocacy) Auction, an online event organized by celebrity stylist Elizabeth Stewart and her Chic Relief non-profit organization, to benefit Obama’s When We All Vote. The project also has inspired Rilling to create an additional capsule collection of pajamas, masks and knitted children’s cardigans, all produced in her studio, to also benefit When We All Vote. Plans are also in the works to sell custom masks from Simmons’s dancing-poppy print on chic-relief.org.

While the virtual Emmys represent yet another shift required when living amid a pandemic, the absence of a red carpet removed a wealth of worries typical of high-profile moments, says Lincoln. “As stylists, we always have a list of worries on the day of an awards show: Is it going to be see-through, what if it’s really hot and shows sweat stains, or what if it rains?” she says. “There are so many what-if factors that torment us on that night, and they’re completely irrelevant this year. This has been nothing but harmonious and fun.”

“We don’t always have an opportunity to create something that also involves participating in a charity,” Jordan adds. “This year especially, that feels really good, that we can use these resources to help make the world a better place.”