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In Prime Video’s A League of Their Own, the little-known history of a league of female baseball players who took to the field during World War II gets its time under the lights.
But the show, which debuted its first season on Aug. 12, does much more than chronicle the history of the All-American Girls Professional Baseball League. The eight-episode streaming series zeroes in on the erased histories of the queer women who played on the league’s various teams. It also tells the lost and under-chronicled stories of Black female baseball players who were unable to play in the segregated women’s pro league.
There to help capture the breadth and depth of these women’s journeys on and off the field was costume designer Tracye Field. While the show’s characters lived in a time when their clothing could be a means of gender constraint, Field says she saw grit and passion in the women who took to the dirt and defied gender stereotypes.
“Obviously, they’re playing in skirts,” she tells The Hollywood Reporter. “But you do this research and you see that these women’s knees are completely scratched from sliding their whole legs [on the field]. It was a testament to how dedicated they were to playing ball.”
And with the show’s decision to follow Black female pitcher Max (Chanté Adams) on her own journey to the Negro Leagues, A League of Their Own also opens the door to stories of Black and queer working-class people. It was a creative choice that resonated with the costume designer.
“I have a whole perspective and passion about that because of how I grew up,” Field says. “I’m very impacted by the fact that I am Black and white and I grew up with the Black side of my family from New Orleans. Max is very easy for me to tap into because of that.”
With so many costuming demands for the show, its various settings and large ensemble, Field says she focused her work on trying to capture not only each character’s personality but their unique journey from episode one to eight.
“I think it’s very strong visual storytelling to be able to look at somebody and there be some sort of read into who they are or who they might be becoming,” she tells THR.
Below, the costume designer discusses how she tapped into her own history as a Black creative from New Orleans to help shape the story of history-making war-era baseball, the Black working class and LGBTQ+ people in the 1940s.
Suiting Up Historic Leagues
Field was charged with designing the looks of not one but two World War II baseball leagues: the All-American Girls Professional Baseball League and teams from the Negro Leagues.
And when it came to the women’s league, the costume designer noted that her work reflected both her research and her own appreciation for their significance. Field thought about how, like the sexist culture of the time, the uniforms weren’t necessarily designed for the protection of the players.
“You have to think how strong these women are in general — not only to get out there and play serious ball and be harassed but to also wear these short dresses with shorts underneath,” Field says. “I wanted to take that into consideration.”
To get the colors right for each of the All-Women’s League teams featured in season one, the costume designer says she used several different dye houses and dye vats. When it came to the fabric, she looked for something that was both of the period and “movable,” meaning less stiff and more stretch due to the amount of movement required of players on a field.
It’s the kind of fabric — specifically material with a four-way stretch versus a two-way stretch — that’s made much anymore, making sourcing it more challenging. Field says she went through up to 30 vendors across L.A., New York and Europe, only landing on it serendipitously thanks to her assistant Rochelle Carino. Unable to reach a downtown L.A. vendor for a scheduled visit in what appeared to be their closed shop, Carino called Fields to discuss the dilemma. It was a conversation that was ultimately overheard by a store owner two fronts down, and they happened to have what the show needed.
The wool fabric used for the Negro Leagues players ended up being easier to obtain, as it does still commonly exist, Fields says. The costumer says she had a Creole team in mind during the design process, but ultimately the look was loosely inspired by one founded in Washington during 1912: The Homestead Grays.
“I helped come up with the design, meaning the logo and tying in the red, white and blue as that was very eye-catching,” she says. “When you do see everyone in those uniforms, it’s just an awesome visual. Without getting too emotional, it’s so exciting to me that we’re able to even highlight what happened in [Max’s] storyline because many people don’t know about it.”
Capturing Queer Women (and Style) Off the Field
Field not only had the task of fitting the show’s various players on the dirt but off of it. And off is where many of their personalities shined through the loudest. “Each girl had their own color palette and each was represented, whether it was feminine or masculine, based off of the type of energy that character put out,” Field says of the various Peaches players.
In order to give each of them their looks, the A League of Their Own costume designer tells THR she considered each women’s attitude — in terms of self-expression and individuality — when crafting their look. That ultimately ended up being a reflection of their identities, including their sexuality.
For the team’s more masc characters like Jess (Kelly McCormack), Jo (Melanie Field) or Lupe (Roberta Colindrez), Field says she leaned heavily into men’s pieces — slacks and men’s button-ups — as there weren’t a lot of women’s-labeled pieces that expressed masculinity. “It was all very ‘this is the girl’ and ‘this is the boy,'” she adds of the time period’s approach to clothing.
For a character like Jess, whose backstory reveals she’s from a farm, the costume designer went with more earthy tones like browns and greens, while Lupe’s energy is a little bolder — an attitude Field attempted to capture at times through prints. Meanwhile, Field leaned into “baby blues, light blues and stronger male colors” for Jo.
And when it came to the team’s more feminine players, she leaned into “fun, sexier colors.” With D’Arcy Carden’s Greta, that meant putting the actress in reds, purples and deep oranges.
But Field notes two of the show’s characters go on the most noticeable costuming journey: Max and Carson. Both begin in a more traditionally gendered place for women of the time before slowly working their way out of skirts and dresses and into clothing that allows them to feel more comfortable in their skin.
“Max is tapping into herself. She’s on this journey about finding out who she is and it’s like she knows she is not feeling comfortable in her own skin,” Field says of Adams’ character’s costume arc. “So wearing pants is one of her comfort zones. She’s really feeling more herself in those pants.”
As for Abbi Jacobson’s Carson, “she starts off as a small town housewife and so you see how it goes a little more into the casual — feeling like she’s more comfortable in her clothes and not necessarily as feminine.”
Breaking the Binary With Uncle Bertie
One character, in particular, represented A League of Their Own’s dedication to telling queer stories of the 1940s: Lea Robinson’s Uncle Bertie.
With a look inspired by the queer culture of 1920s Paris, Field pulled from Bertie’s profession as a tailor to help create their “fly” look. Color was also important, with the costume designer acknowledging that when they’re with Gracie, Bertie matches their partner’s tone and colors.
“Bertie’s clothes are gonna fit and it’s going to be a whole to do from top to bottom, from hat to shoes, and all the accessories in between,” Field recalls. “I have a wallet chain, tie bars, tie pins — all the little things that make the outfit come together.”
But another element of Bertie’s costuming was their binding, something Robinson spoke about on the Tribecca Film Festival carpet ahead of the show’s screening. For Robinson, the discussions about what Bertie would need and wear with Field were similar to the ones they have now.
“What am I gonna wear? How am I gonna bind? We had those types of real conversations about the different resources we might have,” they previously told THR. “What did that look like in the 40s? What did it mean to do that, in that time period? We had a lot of those side conversations with costuming.”
Field says she did research on what was available during the era to find historically accurate bindings.
“With American catalogs, you’ll see that if one was interested in binding, there were things that were available. They didn’t call it binding by any means. One was even called a nursing bra,” she shares.
Though not always visible, it was a key component of building both Bertie’s look and their character.
“Having done AJ and the Queen with RuPaul, other drag queens and the whole LGBTQ community on that one, I knew it all starts from the foundation. That was the most important part, not only to create the look but also to give feeling to the person who’s playing them,” Field says. “So when we got into the fittings with Bertie, that was the first thing that I wanted to talk about — that and comfort level.”
Suiting Up for Work (and Home) During Wartime
Another off-the-field element that Field says she got to explore is the world of working women during the war.
“Historically, when you think of Rosie the Riveter, you think of a white woman,” she tells THR. “But we got into the research and we saw these beautiful Black women that were there and had their hair tied up and these gorgeous scarves.”
Field says the costume team discovered that what women wore in these factories was far from one size fits all. While denim was the predominant material, they could choose between clothing like coveralls, overalls and shirts. “It was wartime,” she added, “so it really depended on what you could acquire and what the factory could dish out to you.”
With the clothing workers like Max and her best friend Clance (Gbemisola Ikumelo) found themselves in, the costume designer said slight modifications to the look were possible. But her styling choices were driven by how the war had given women new working opportunities — and a new cash flow.
“What was most important to me was that these Black women were earning more money than they probably had in the past, so they had a little more money to spend on whatever it is they wanted,” she tells THR. “Sometimes that would be clothes. Sometimes that’d be a pair of shoes, a scarf, or a dress that they would wear outside of work.”
Field tapped into her own family’s style and that of Black culture at large to help her shape the off-the-clock looks of characters like Clance, who the costume designer says was a favorite to dress for “because she is kind of kitschy.”
“She is a girl that likes mixed patterns and mixed prints. She has all these interesting accessories, like little bird earrings. She’s into comic books,” Field says. “So I had to have this really open mind about her clothing and fashion and how dressed she could be. Hence the bright color shirts that she wore or her belts and this dress that I kind of took as a comic book strip, which I think is a cool representation of her.”
“She also has a great shape,” Field added, “and I wanted to be able to highlight that shape.”
On the show’s Tribecca carpet, that was something Ikumelo told THR she really appreciated.
“You can be quite insecure sometimes as a fuller person, but Tracy just she just made it work for my figure. She made my character kind of ahead of her time in terms of the style,” the actress said. “I also just love the fact that we get to see this sort of woman, who’s a little geeky, writing a set of comic books — a bit of a nerd, creative and Black. It’s something we don’t always see even today.”
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