Interview: Lovecraft Country Costume Designer Dayna Pink On Creating Period-Specific Outfits
By: Ariba Bhuvad
Getting the opportunity to speak with costume designers is always a privilege that we don’t take for granted. As viewers, we see the final product but the effort, hours, and perseverance it takes to bring every nuance of a film or show to life is something we truly can’t begin to understand.
On that note, The Series Regulars recently had an opportunity to speak with costume designer Dayna Pink who worked on HBO’s fantastical period drama Lovecraft Country. If you’ve seen the series then you are well aware of how fantastic and amazing the costume design was on it, transcending eras and even dabbling in different genres spanning from sci-fi to fantasy.
The Lovecraft Country costumes are a visual feast (if you haven’t seen it yet, you’re missing out!) and we have Dayna Pink to thank for bringing all of them to life. And given how amazing her work turned out to be, it comes as no surprise that she has been nominated for a Costume Designers Guild Award for excellence in period television for the episode titled, “I Am”, which follows one character’s wild multi-dimensional journey (more on that below!). We wish her the best of luck and have no doubt that she will be recognized for the incredible work she did on Lovecraft Country!
What pulled you into the world of costume design?
I was styling for a long time first, about 10-15 years, I did bands and music videos, and a lot of commercials first before getting into films.
We must talk about Lovecraft Country! What a wild, intriguing show, and I understand you’ve been nominated for a Costume Designers Guild Award for it. Talk to me about how you ended up working on the series!
Well, I knew the person that was directing the pilot so he had brought me in to have a meeting about it. I read the script and it was really interesting to me and I went and had a meeting–and that was that!
You obviously had to tackle multiple decades, be cognizant of social issues of each decade, and then also take into account the story at hand. What was your creative process on this project in particular?
We did want to root it in the period obviously because it’s a period piece that is based in the 50s. But what was cool about this particular show is that there was also a fantasy element to it so we didn’t have to stay in the 50s. We could take inspiration from other places, use silhouettes and fabrics that were a little bit more modern, or do whatever we needed to do to make the story sing. And we didn’t have to really stick to the letter of the period.
What inspirations did you use to create the looks for each decade?
We did study the period and we did a lot of fashion magazines from the time and real photographs of real people and historic pictures of different communities of the time. I’m inspired by fashion in general so we got to also put our own little twist on it so it was really rooted in the period and inspired by fashion.
The Lovecraft Country episode you are nominated for, “I Am”, focuses on Hippolyta’s multi-dimensional journey which puts her in a range of costumes–Amazonian, futuristic, etc. How did you create those looks and bring them to life in such a magnificent way?
That was a particularly challenging episode just because we were all over the place–we were in Paris on stage with dancers, there were warriors and astronauts. There were so many elements to it so we just did it all at the same time. We made all the costumes in our own shop, and we kind of just did it at the same time and it was really challenging but satisfying to see it all come together.
I love that you were able to transcend so many different genres in this one show. What was your favorite episode of such a unique project?
The thing about this show was that it was like making ten movies–I really loved every single one! I really liked the Korean episode because that was like a capsule episode–it all took place in Korea and it was really beautiful and pretty. I loved the pilot, I really loved all of them, they were all different and wonderful.
This series was quite different from what you’ve worked on in the past. Do you enjoy the challenges of taking on something new, and is this type of funky mixed-genre something you can see yourself doing more of?
I really did enjoy all the different periods, challenges, the different things we got to create and research and learn about. The great thing about my job is that every single one is different so you get to go to different places and learns about different things. We look for projects like this as designers. We get super excited if we get to jump periods or learn about a different place or trend. So absolutely I’d love to do something that jumps periods again!
Is there a particular genre you haven’t worked on but would like to?
I feel like it’s partly the time period and partly the script and the characters. There are so many elements to choosing a project, so it’s not just the genre, I think there are all these different things. The great thing about Lovecraft Country was the message and the creative opportunity–it was so interesting and important, and I got to mix two things together that was great.
How did you go about making the main characters stand out given their varying levels of socioeconomic means? Someone like Leti was always so fierce and confident, and that came through with the clothes she wore.
The cool thing about Leti was that we weren’t bound by any economic restrictions for her because that was a girl that it didn’t matter how much money she had, she dressed great. We don’t know where she got the clothes and it didn’t really matter where she got her clothes, she was the girl who got what she wanted and always looks great. So we sort of leaned into that and didn’t let that stop us from making her an amazing wardrobe.
How much of the costumes did you make yourself? And how did you decide on the color palettes for some of the designs?
We made a lot of the main characters’ costumes. First of all, because we wanted them to be whatever we wanted them to be, and second of all because there were was a lot we needed a lot of multiples. There was a lot of blood, there was a lot of action, there were a lot of stunts, so we needed more than one, which you can’t find something from the 50s in pairs or triples, so we made a lot of it partly because of that and partly because we wanted it to be exactly what we wanted it to be. It didn’t have to be exact to the period and we had a little bit of room to play with that.
I always wonder how costumes are designed to accommodate the difficult situations characters are in. A lot of the characters in Lovecraft Country are in compromising situations throughout the series, so how do you account for that in their clothes? Make them functional yet presentable.
I think you read the script and see what the character is going to do and you design around that knowing what the character is going to do. Can they be wearing high heels? Can they be wearing a tight skirt? Would she be wearing shorts? You ask yourself all these questions when you see what their action is going to be and what they are going to need to do, and what kind of stunts and if there is blood, and will it show on a particular color or not. You really have to think about their activity before you decide what they are going to wear.
Do you have any advice for aspiring costume designers?
I think you should just say yes to every opportunity! Whether you are an intern or you’re just doing a student film or whatever else it may be, if you want to get into the business, then just being around it is important.