All About the Costumes in Only Murders in the Building

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The “collaboration between cast and costume designer is where the magic happens,” costume designer Dana Covarrubias told POPSUGAR of her work, outfitting Steve Martin, Martin Short, and Selena Gomez in Hulu’s new murder-mystery comedy, Only Murders in the Building. “There’s always a moment in the fitting where you get to see how your costumes are helping to transform the actor into the character they’re becoming.” That’s the part we see play out onscreen as we watch Selena as Mabel Mora, Steve Martin as Charles Haden-Savage, Martin Short as Oliver Putnam, swathed in the looks carefully crafted by Dana — and rooted in the script. How she set about dressing Selena as Mabel was guided by the cues there, she told us, “My first influence is always the script. Mabel, Selena’s character, is scripted as a tough, no-nonsense single-woman living in NYC, but that’s kind of all you know about her.” Still that leaves plenty of room to play with the characters’ looks and to build each of their respective identities with visual cues. “I thought about how I might be able to reflect that mystery element in each of the main character’s looks. What are these characters hiding or trying to project and how are they using their clothing to do this? Charles (Steve Martin) uses clothing as a comfort, Oliver (Martin Short) uses clothing as a performance, and Mabel, Selena’s character, uses her clothing as armor.”

With that in mind, Dana then moved to the real world to flesh out the look: “After gleaning what info I can from the scripts, I take it to the streets. I go to where Mabel, Selena’s character, would hang out (in my mind this was Brooklyn and Downtown Manhattan) and I people watch. I try to look for unique combinations that I haven’t seen before. I try to find real people who are ‘Mabels’ and recreate these looks with my shopping and thrifting.” In that way, Dana used both the written, carefully crafted identities of each of the characters to guide her while allowing those identities to grow and to take shape, both from what inspired her on the streets, and what inspiration each actor brought to their fittings. In Martin Short’s case, the inspiration was quite specific: “[Martin Short’s] character needed to be flamboyant — a performer at heart — but also grounded and not too over the top. We decided that Oliver was obsessed with Timothée Chalamet — that’s something that no one would ever notice or think about when watching the show, but just something that Marty and I came up with that we thought was hilarious and appropriate for his character. We would hold each piece up at fitting and say ‘Hmmm . . . do you think Timothée would wear this?'” Now, I can’t help watching the series and asking myself the same question. In fact, as Dana shared the insights behind the costumes and her craft, the show and its wardrobe take on new meaning — like the cultural connection between Mabel and her colorful coat collection.

Inside, there’s more from Dana on the significance of crafting each of these onscreen identities and the details of how she did it. Read on for our full interview.





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