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If there’s one thing we can’t stop talking (or texting) about at Pret-a-Reporter, it’s Unbreakable Kimmy Schmidt. From the catchy theme song (“Females are strong as hell!”) to Titus’ rendition of “Peeno Noir,” there’s just so much to appreciate about the Netflix comedy that debuted on March 6. And of course, that includes the show’s bright, eye-catching costumes because let’s be honest, no one works a yellow cardigan quite like Kimmy (played by Ellie Kemper).
Given Kimmy’s sunny disposition — despite the dark premise that she was kidnapped and trapped in an Indiana bunker with three other women for 15 years — it was only appropriate that the color chosen reflect her confident, eccentric personality and ability to overcome any and all obstacles.
“Yellow is totally a bold color, and you kind of need balls to wear it, I feel. It’s definitely a choice. There were a few outfits when we did the pilot, and we ended up on that one because it was such a statement for her,” says the show’s costume designer, Tina Nigro, of using the bright hue throughout the series. “We were shooting in New York and yellow just sort of pops.”
Even eyewitness Mr. Walter Bankston (Mike Britt) wears the color in the opening credits (while channeling an auto-tuned Antoine Dodson), something Nigro intended in order to show a connection between Kimmy’s past (the bunker) and present (New York). “His yellow is totally depressed and worn, the grayest yellow there could be,” says the designer of Bankston’s short-sleeve tee.
Not only does Kimmy get to wear the brightest colors on the show, her style is also heavily influenced by the ’90s.
“That was probably the last time she went shopping, so her backpack, a necklace with letters that spell out “Kimmy,” light-color jeans with a flare, are ’90s influenced — yet we tried not to make her look like she’s dressed in a ’90s costume,” says Nigro, citing JCPenney, H&M, Forever 21 and ASOS as some of the affordable brands Kimmy wears in the show. “She’s not yet going to Macy’s, Lord & Taylor, Bloomingdales or Barneys — maybe if she hangs out with Jacqueline [Jane Krakowski] long enough (laughs). But she’s not — so she’s going to go into the younger stores.”
Jacqueline — Kimmy’s rich, Manhattan socialite boss — is all about luxury labels. “She wants people to know that she spends a lot of money on her clothes,” notes Nigro.
Jacqueline’s 15-year-old, angst-filled, too-cool-for-school stepdaughter, Xan (Dylan Gelula), also has a penchant for high-end designers, but with a street-style touch. “She dresses in a way where you know she doesn’t spend a lot of money on her clothes — but she does. It’s almost anti-fashion, like she’s fighting against it but yet she couldn’t live without the money,” says Nigro, adding that Cara Delevingne inspired Xan’s high-low look, which consists of a Givenchy dog T-shirt, H&M leggings and Dr. Martens.
But if there’s anyone whose wardrobes are worth discussing, it’s Titus’ (Tituss Burgess), especially when he’s recording his first-ever music video for “Peeno Noir.”
The look “was kind of based off of Tina Turner,” says Nigro of Titus’ sparkly frock hidden underneath his maintenance man costume, which was a Velco rip-away. “He’s so great because he’s into anything.”
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Between Titus’ robot and werewolf costumes and his denim overalls (worn to seduce a man, no less), Nigro adds: “Titus is fabulous, on a budget. He’s creative and makes some of his own clothes. He likes to look fabulous. Everything’s got a bit of flair to it but it’s not super fashion-y. There’s something a little off, in a good way, I think.” (Or as Titus likes to put it, “I’m pretty but tough, like a diamond.”)
So it only made sense that Kimmy’s first formal look — which, as the episode “Kimmy Goes to a Party!” plot goes, was made from basketball shorts and toilet tank chain — was designed by Titus. Thanks to a YouTube video the writers had shown Nigro, she worked with her team to create a look that only involved household items. “We were like, he’ll find everything around the house so we just sort of built the outfit from there,” says Nigro. “I was like, ‘Oh, what if she had a little shrug and we made it out of a bath mat, jewelry out of a can.’ It just got based off of that.”
As far as how Kimmy’s style will evolve in the next season, we’ll just have to wait and see if she starts conquering the Big Apple and looking like a million bucks. And yes, Jacqueline, we do mean that.
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