Recently, Schitt’s Creek’s costume designer Debra Hanson revealed how she created Moira’s look as part of Melbourne Fashion Festival’s virtual Australian Fashion Summit. Here are five key takeaways from Hanson’s interview.
On bringing haute couture into everyday life
When seeking inspiration for Moira’s bold sense of style, Hanson, O’Hara and Schitt’s Creek co-creator Dan Levy all landed on the same person: English socialite and fashion designer Daphne Guinness.
A muse of McQueen, Guinness has often blurred the boundaries between costume and couture.
“It was done with the warmest respect for her incredible style, and also for her strength and her bravery and staying true to herself as a female icon,” Hanson said.
“She supports artists, and I think that is just wonderful. She is such a maximalist and [brings] haute couture to everyday pieces [and] everyday life.”
On sticking to a monochrome colour palette
A consistent feature across every season of Schitt’s Creek is Moira’s adherence to a stark black-and-white colour palette, but according to Hanson, a monochrome look doesn’t have to be a ‘safe’ choice.
“This is her choice. It’s not like, ‘I just have one thing in my closet and because it’s black it will always look good’,” she said.
A black-and-white colour palette also makes the occasional shot of colour that much more impactful.
“We did insert a colour maybe once a season, or maybe not even that much,” Hanson said.
“It would be a [black] McQueen skirt that had flames on it, [or] a piece of jewellery that had a hint of bright orange. I pushed for it – not a whole outfit and not very often, but it refreshes your palate.”
On shopping on a budget
In the beginning, Hanson didn’t have access to a big Hollywood budget, so she was forced to shop around to find high-end brands at affordable prices. Luckily, the premise of the show meant that Moira’s clothes could all be from previous seasons.
“I just trolled the internet like an insane person. I mean, eBay was my friend,” Hanson said.
“Once we became successful, there were a few people who were willing to lend us some things.”
On the power of trying it on
You can never really tell what an outfit will look like ‘on’ based on how it looks on the hanger, but even Hanson had to be reminded of this occasionally.
“Sometimes you’re just exhausted at the end of a fitting and you go, ‘oh, I don’t like that, we won’t try it.’ And [my buyer] would say, ‘just try it, I took a while to find that’, and it’s like, ‘oh my God, it’s perfect!’”
On creating a killer outfit
Hanson’s favourite outfit appears in the series finale, when [spoiler alert] Moira wears a creamy, bishop-like robe to officiate the wedding of David and Patrick. It’s one of the few times she doesn’t wear black in the series, and it almost didn’t happen.
“When it was written, and when Dan talked to me about it, it was going to be a robe and it was going to be black,” she said.
But that didn’t feel right to Hanson.
“I wanted something clean and pure because that’s what their relationship had become in a way – they had suddenly and really become a beautiful family,” she said.
“She was so happy for her son, and she loved his choice of partner, and it was just love, and I didn’t want that to be in black.”
Hanson found a cream-coloured McQueen dress that everyone loved.
“We put it on, and Catherine went, ‘oh my God’, and Dan said, ‘wow’,” Hanson recalled. “I said, ‘it’s just like a bishop’s robe’.”
In a final, over-the-top touch, she added a hair roll.
“I thought, ‘this is too much, we’ve gone too far’,” Hanson said. “But Catherine said, ‘don’t worry, it’ll work’.”