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From the start of FX's What We Do in the Shadows series, Laura Montgomery has been part of the costume department creating the finery that helps define the brood of Staten Island vampires. She was promoted to the role of costume designer for Season 3, where she's helped zhuzh up all of their looks and created all of the other costuming needs for werewolves, New Jersey casino buddies, and even small claims court hijinks in the latest episode, "The Chamber of Judgment."
SYFY WIRE got on the line with Montgomery, who is now working on Season 4, which is shooting Toronto, and asked her to walk us through some of the costuming highlights so far.
Guillermo's Glam Up
"With Guillermo (Harvey Guillén), we knew he was going to be taking on more responsibilities as the bodyguard. And he was really discovering his Van Helsing roots. We were able to use his Van Helsing trench from Season 2 and really build on that. We introduced his waistcoat this season to be a bit tougher. One is done in the leather, and it's got this removable harness at the back that has his stakes in it."
Nandor: International Man of Mystery
"With Nandor (Kayvan Novak) in particular, I wanted to bring a little bit more of a cultural influence to his character and really research the silhouette and the different textiles of 1400s Persia, Iran area where his fictional country, Al Quolanudar, is. I tried to switch up some of his silhouettes while keeping him true to character, just move him a little bit more into the Persian realm."
Colin Robinson's World of Neutrals
"It's so funny because Mark (Proksch) is a very good-looking man. The beige, it's not a great color on him, but it works to the character. This season, I really tried to refine the tailoring. It was helpful to know his age because the conceit is that the vampires all get stuck in the era in which they were human. With Colin, you never really knew, but knowing that he was turning 100 [meant] I could really hone in on the '40s and early '50s as his good era. When he's a young man, that's when he would have been paying attention to fashion and clothing. I went to a specialty tailor in the city and made him some beautiful suits and sport coats with some really beautiful tailoring. It had a little bit of a period feel even though it looks contemporary when you mix it in with contemporary pieces. That was a way to bring a little bit more refinement.
Nadja and Lazlo: A Fashion Power Couple
"[Their synergy] was a Jemaine (Clement) thing from early on that he always wanted them to be matching. We've been able to get a little bit looser with that. We would bend over backward to do it, and then sometimes people wouldn't even notice. It's always a challenge because usually I'll find an amazing Nadja (Natasia Demetriou) fabric, and then it will be a struggle, like with Nadja's peacock outfit for Episode 3. How do we make peacock masculine for Laszlo (Matt Berry)? We use the same wool that we used for her coat, but we dyed the color a little bit deeper. And then this season, it's the same thing, especially with the talking heads. I'll always try to make them look matching as much as I can because I want to honor Jemaine's initial request and vision. But you know, I have to say it is fun when they have scenes when they're not together and we can go a bit crazier on each of them."
"The Cloak of Duplication"
"[For the Cloak], I think we used no fewer than six, maybe seven layers of fabric. We wanted the lace overlay to make it look very old but it's supposed to be magical so I wanted it to have a feeling that it was like glowing from within without actually being lit inside. It was just finding the right combination of like iridescent organza and chiffon and things that would make it feel light. But there's a layer of super shiny silk underneath and then we would layer something else over top that didn't kill the shine. And then our jeweler, who makes a lot of beautiful custom jewelry for the show and has since the first season, made the brooch. The director Yana (Gorskaya) was workshopping this idea of 'how do we help the audience know when it's not Nandor?' I don't know how noticeable it was when you watch it but there's a clasp at the neck of the cloak, so when he has the cloak on and he is someone else, the cloak disappears but the brooch stays. It's that heart-shaped thing on his cravat. When he's himself, you don't see it. But when he's Laszlo as Nandor, or basically when he's wearing the cloak, the brooch is there."
"We built the red velvet coat that Nandor wears in Episode 3. We found a beautiful velvet. And then I researched embroidery motif and we got the art department to help us create a repeatable pattern that we could embroider on the jacket. And for the rest of the episode, knowing that they were going to be playing kickball outside, there were a lot of practical considerations. We didn't know it was going to be snowing so heavily, but I knew it would be cold. That was another part of the reason why I wanted to put Nandor in a jacket instead of a cape. Capes are great, but it's hard to keep someone warm in a cape that's totally open at the front. We knew it was going to be an all night shoot, so there's a lot of extra layers underneath and we built a lot of warm layers in the coats. Even Lazlo's coat, I was just building in extra layers and extra linings.
And then for Nadia, we care about everything, but so much of TV is from the waist up. If there's any detail that we put into the bottom of a garment, it just gets lost. But for the kickball, it was scripted that Nadia was gonna be lifting up her skirt and hoofing the ball. So I thought it was a great opportunity to really go crazy with her skirt. She's got a skirt with pleating and she has a big bustle on the back. We did a petticoat that we dyed to match so that when she lifted her skirt, you would just see layers of this peacock confection. There was a line that actually got cut, but I thought it was so funny that was a callback from when the werewolves appeared in the first season, where one of the werewolves insults them by saying like, "It's these Pride and Prejudice motherf*****s," so we wanted to really make them look over the top to contrast with the modern werewolves and because they get made fun of for their clothes."
We were able to shoot in the [closed Niagra Falls] casinos. For the cast, I had a lot of fun using gold on Matt and Natasha. We found that jacket that's like a jean jacket style but is covered in rhinestones. It weighed about five or 10 pounds. It's so heavy. It's so blingy and so much fun. It's great to be able to flex a completely different muscle with the contemporary friends we've seen. We've seen them before, in casual clothes at Sean's house. We know that Charmaine always wears leopard. But then it was really fun to think of what would her renewing her vows dress be like? Well, obviously it's leopard, but it's white zebra actually and sequined. And then to get an idea of the friends, what they look like when they're all dolled up in their Atlantic City finest, I did a lot of consignment shopping for that. I found some really good consignment for one of the friends who is squeezed into a white Cavalli dress, but it's a Cavalli dress from 15 years ago so it's dated. We did a lot of high-end consignment like that because the look of this show walks the fine line of tacky. All of the humans and the vampires are tacky, but they're not cheap. And there is a fine line."
"The Chamber of Judgement"
"The small claims court was as dull as we could make it. And then for the Council chambers, the really fun build for that was it's the first time that we see their version of the white council robe. I didn't want to reuse the ones that we had seen before. And because they're getting them custom-tailored by our wraiths now in the script, what would Nadja's dream version of a council robe be? What would Nandor's be? That was really fun to pull references for that. For Nadja's, we used a beautiful beaded lace and tassels. I was looking at printed images of Chinese cloud collars to try to make it very opulent and beautiful. My textile artist, Madeline Bryan, makes hand embroidered reticules, so she's very skilled at embroidery and beading. We hand embroidered all of the crystals and the pearls on Nandor's shoulder piece. There was a lot of work put into that."
New episodes of What We Do in the Shadows airs on Thursdays nights on FX and are available the Next Day on FX on Hulu.