The morning after each Broad City episode airs is a busy time for the Internet, gathering around a metaphorical water cooler to rehash everything that happened in the episode — and every outfit featured on screen. Ilana and Abbi are unique style heroines, two women who represent not the expensively boring fashion of Manhattan but instead the realistic, effortlessly cool fashion of the outer boroughs. Costume Designer Staci Greenbaum talked with Flavorwire about the characters’ distinct style, walked us through some of Season 2’s best outfits — and, of course, shared where to get Ilana’s bras.
Flavorwire: How did you end up designing costumes for Broad City?
Staci Greenbaum: It was a blind interview. I knew there was this new show gearing up and it sounded like something I could really relate to: I’m young and live in New York, and I really, totally felt like I got the characters, so I went in.
What did you work on before this?
I come from a feature film background, so before this I was the associate costume designer on The Amazing Spider-Man 2. I had done bigger-budget feature films. As far as designing, Broad City was my first go at it alone. Spider-Man was such an enduring project, and it requires so much in terms of energy and stamina. Afterwards I wanted a change, and I have to say — not that I knew it at the time — it was the most perfect, welcome transition. Now I’ve been working basically on half-hour comedy series, which I find to be so refreshing and so much fun. It’s the best. I find that laughing is really good for you.
What’s your process like? Do you get scripts and plan out the outfits for each episode yourself, or do you sit down with the actors?
It’s a little bit of both. Broad City is really unusual. The girls have their scripts upfront before we shoot, so I approach it more like a five-hour movie. Honestly, it’s the biggest blessing in the world that they’re able to crank out scripts like that and give them to us upfront. It helps us to do the projection of the character — what they’re doing and where they’re going — and so you can talk about the evolution. Then we have a nice long meeting with Abbi and Ilana. That’s our jumping off point.
And then we go shopping! Lots and lots of shopping! It’s something I really relate to and it’s so much fun. It can be really grueling out there, pounding the streets of New York, but that’s all part of it. That’s exactly what the show is for, which is why it’s so funny. Life imitating art, I guess.
Where do you usually shop?
We definitely have made a point to stick to stores that are accessible from a New York standpoint. We tend to do a lot of H&M, Topshop, Forever 21. We do thrift stores. We do Beacon’s Closet sometimes, as you saw. The clothes come from everywhere. Sometimes they’re from my closet. I always talk about this because it’s so unusual: We had a trash bag of clothes on our floor in our office during the first season. We had no idea what it was. Later we found out that Ilana had cleaned out her closet and thought maybe some of this would be of use. It’s very unusual that I walk into my office and find like a trash bag of treasures.
We work with costume designer Ann Roth and she has been collecting and accruing a stock of clothing for decades now. We go there and we pull a lot of stuff. Often the thrift stuff or the vintage stuff will ground a look, but it also provides the unusual — it just gives it a little more depth, something unique.
I like that they have low-key outfits. It’s realistic because they’re 20-somethings: They can’t afford flashy clothing and often repeat outfits.
We tried to keep it diversified. We talk a lot about their lifestyles. Deep down, truly, I feel if Ilana found it on her floor, draped over a chair, or in her laundry basket, it’s fair game. Abbi is a bit more careful. She’s an adult — sort of. I don’t think she’d pick up anything off her floor to wear unless she was really in a desperate moment.
The repetition thing was really big that we established early on because I just felt like it would so unrealistic and so atypical for somebody to wear something new every time we saw them. It just didn’t fit right with the nature of the authenticity of the show.
Abbi’s blue dress is something that people often talk about. When I buy something expensive and forget to return it on time, I’m going to wear it every chance I get.
Right, and you’re gonna clock it, too. It’s like, the more you wear it, the less it costs in your brain, right? If you bought a $300 dress, you’re like, “Oh my God, it paid for itself [because] I’ve worn it ten times. $30: That’s a better deal than I would get at Forever 21.”
Ilana’s bra game is always on point. It’s rare to find a show where bras are so important to describing the characters. And it’s so hard to find a good bra! Everyone is jealous of the strappy one she wears all the time.
That lattice bra! That bra comes from a store in NY, and I believe in LA, called LF. I never thought something would take off so big, but between her socks and her bras, I’ve never delved into a character quite the same way. She has endless options and we make a point for that to show. For young, urban women, [bras are] a really fun to way to accessorize an outfit that’s not jewelry. Ilana wears very little jewelry — unless it’s to make a point, like her “Latina” earrings. Beyond that, she accessorizes very little. She doesn’t take the time to pick out a pair of studs or wear a ring. She can’t be bothered. Unless it’s a statement piece, we found bras were such a great way to go. And they vary in their support. The ones that are a little more structured are Elle Macpherson and Wacoal. The LF bras are more of a touchstone as a fashion feature.
Then there are Abbi’s bras in the pegging episode.
The second — multicolored, the floral print? — that’s Free People. We had her wear this fantastically cut hanky-panky retro thong. She’s just such a bombshell, which you have been able to see a few times this season. It’s just a super flattering cut for someone who is curvy and it highlights how long her legs are. The first bra she wore in that episode is an Elle Macpherson, the sort of lilac bra.
It’s even realistic how their underwear rarely matches.
They’re trying to figure so many things out and at this point in their life, financially, and just from an organized standpoint, it doesn’t make sense. I don’t think I’ve ever matched mine. I feel like these girls, if they can find clean underwear: success! Especially [in] New York, where laundry [is] a whole thing. Laundry is like an adventure, and oftentimes people don’t have it in their building, and so you have to take it elsewhere. Many people send it out, but they are just not in that arena. They could never afford to. I think that’s real.
How would you describe Jaime and Lincoln’s style?
Jaime embodies your quintessential hipster. He loves accessorizing, and he wears really slim-fit, narrowly cut clothing. He loves a necklace and he loves the scarf. He likes to indulge in the fun like in “Citizen Ship.” Becoming a citizen is all he’s ever wanted. If that was gonna be his moment, we were going to go all out. We got him this red, white, and blue striped blazer. That was a splurge. It was Brooks Brothers and part of their Great Gatsby collection. It just was perfect; it embodies all of these Americana moments that Jaime has idealized.
Lincoln is our young professional. He’s got an urban, hip-hop edge about him, but it’s all really grounded in classic menswear. It’s pretty traditional, except for his tie collection. He loves to wear a chino or a button-down shirt, but there might be a little twist within those garments. In “In Heat,” he’s wearing a short sleeve chambray shirt, but it has a really subtle polka dot. It may not be noticeable to a lot of people, but he’s really subtle about the way he gets dressed. He’s a dentist, he wants to be taken seriously, but it’s still cool and young.
Ilana’s health goth look in “In Heat“
I also wanted to walk-through some of Season 2’s most notable outfits, like Ilana in the season premiere.
That was a fun one. That jersey we got from Topshop. Ilana we rarely see wearing pants, which is unusual, even in the fall, unless it’s a legging. We had come up with this fun little Rihanna moment, which we do often: throwback to Rihanna. She had a rainbow mitten clip cinching the back of that jersey to give it a little more shape. The black lipstick came to be on the day. She was in the hair-and-makeup trailer — we had given her a metallic baseball cap — and I want to say that that ring was part of our makeup department. The skull ring had the lip gloss in it. That was just a serendipitous moment. We had planned a lot of things about it, and that just sealed the deal.
It was just a fun costume. I’ve heard feedback, and I don’t know if everyone understood it, but for me and Ilana — that’s just Ilana being Ilana, you know? She does big when she does it. She rides the extremes of being so lowkey and so laid back — like, being in a hoodie and Lincoln’s boxers — to really going all out.
That was a Tommy Hilfiger suit. We loved that it had a cotton quality about it. It just fit her beautifully and we wanted it to feel like it really was off the rack, with very few or little alterations. The whole idea is that she bought it [and] didn’t even remove the tag. She was playing this part. She was wearing that suit with that red Wacoal lace plunge bra. Ilana likes to jazz it up, so the gold earrings [are] like a statement piece.
The elements, if you say them out loud, are OK, but her execution of it is typically highly inappropriate. She was like “A suit! Oh great! An earring! Great!” and then it ends up being this white suit she keeps referring to as the white power suit. And of course not a second later does she spill A1 sauce on herself. If you noticed, instead of cleaning it, she just stuck an American flag pin through it.
Ilana’s shiva outfit in “Knockoffs“
That [American Apparel] lace top was something she had in her closet, and wore on the first season. Traditionally speaking in the Jewish religion, if you want to be conservative you have to have your shoulders covered and a higher neckline, and if you’re going to wear a skirt and go to synagogue, you’d want a skirt that covers your knees. She hit all those marks, but her shirt was completely see-through, and the skirt — I think it was H&M — had sheer panels. The leopard net veil came up as a nod to her, running around Chinatown with her mother. I could see her stumbling upon that and going, “Oh, that’s so great. That’s such a fabulous way to honor my deceased grandmother.” It made sense, in writing, but in execution it was just another really fun and really inappropriate outfit for the occasion.
Abbi’s “Val” outfit in “Hashtag FOMO“
We were emulating this iconic moment: Judy Garland, in 1950, does the Summer Stock performance of “Come On, Get Happy,” so we did a lot of research, watched that video quite a bit, and translated it in a way that made sense for Abbi. We didn’t knock it off completely, but it was indeed a 1940s double-breasted men’s tuxedo jacket. We altered it to fit more like a dress that Judy Garland wore. She wore this white blouse with broach at the neck and these really great diamond earrings — and a fedora, which is her prop throughout that performance.
Abbi was wearing a dress that night, and was wearing control top pantyhose, so it was funny to see that control top peeking out from under that 1940s jacket, like something wasn’t quite right, We liked the idea that in this blackout state she just peels off whatever she’s wearing. It was really fabulous. When you have a good actor they make your costume work.
Ilana’s Froot Loops leggings in “Kirk Steele“
Digital printing onto clothing became really popular this last year, especially with kids. Those Froot Loop leggings are a brand called Zara Terez, and it is exclusively a children’s brand. Ilana happens to be very tiny, so we figured if she was babysitting this kid and getting into “babysitter mode,” but a cool babysitter, [then] she wants the kid to relate to her. So she went and bought these Froot Loop Zara Terez leggings, to babysit the kid who she has absolutely nothing in common with. And she has a fanny pack for easy access, for having her hands free to really babysit.