Interview with the costume designer of “Fire Island”

Photo: Jeong Park/Spotlight

Home to underwear parties and the Meat Rack, the gay paradise known as Fire Island is largely clothes-optional. So it also goes for fire island, the new romantic comedy (streaming on Hulu now) written by and starring Joel Kim Booster. Fire Island follows a group of queer besties on their annual beach, boys, and tea party trip. It’s a modern interpretation of Jane Austen Pride and Prejudice but with poppers and OnlyFans references, directed by Andrew Ahn and starring Bowen Yang and Margaret Cho.

Moments after their ferry sets sail for the Pines, groups of gays take off their shirts in preparation for the promised land. When dressing for a film about a place where many don’t wear much in the summer, costume designer David Tabbert treated each character’s wardrobe as an emphasis “on scene and emotion”, a- he told Vulture.

Tabbert himself has been going to Fire Island since he was 20 years old. With the script for the film in hand, he thought about how he prepares for his own escapades: bathing suits that turn into shorts, diapers that can be put on easily. It was particularly important to define his approach to the film’s class portrayals and delineate our protagonist’s group of friends (budget queens who met while working at a Williamsburg brunch) and rich guys (a doctor, a lawyer and a brand manager, the three wealthy gay jobs) they meet on their way out, who are staying in a luxurious Ocean Walk home.

Tabbert also wanted to tout queer creators. The Fire Island the crew was often dressed as R. Swiader, Double Scorpio, Telfar, Patrick Church, etc.

Illustration: Cassandra Hsieh

Confident and sure of himself, Noah never backs down from an opportunity to defend his friends or deliver a blistering retort. He’s built tough skin over time and can be comfortable showing off his body, but he’s still cautious when it comes to matters of the heart. Muscular shirts, cut-off shorts, and solid-colored briefs and speedos make up most of his getaway attire; vintage Adidas and Y, IWO (Yeah, I Work Out) tank tops show plenty of skin, and all of her swimsuits are by R. Swiader. And of course, her underwear look is a pair of pristine white Calvin Klein panties.

Fire Island star and writer Joel Kim Booster (far right) in an R. Swiader swimmer.
Photo: Hulu

“We really wanted to consider the fact that Noah and his group of friends live in a way so familiar to so many young people in cities like New York and San Francisco,” Tabbert said. “They live paycheck to paycheck and are by no means wealthy. Their rent is high, they live in small apartments, but they each have their own style. Also, and this is important, “ Joel is hot. We wanted to make sure he looked sexy.

Tabbert knew he’d hit the nail on the head when he saw “essentially the spitting image” of Noah also wearing a Y, IWO tank top, athletic shorts and crew socks entering the R. Swiader store shortly after completing the film. Now we finally know what Elizabeth Bennet would wear to the beach.

Photo: Jeong Park/Spotlight

Noah’s friendship with Howie was forged through drunken brunches in their twenties and mutual solidarity as Asian men in the gay community. A hopeless romantic in the body of a freelance graphic designer living in San Francisco, Howie yearns for love with big gestures and kisses in the rain. The opposite of Noah’s confidence, Howie’s insecurity is accentuated by an abundance of practical overshirts. Bonobos and Saturdays NYC’s short-sleeved button-up shirts almost work as a “security blanket” for him, often paired with Parke and Ronen shorts. Tabbert also used different necklines to show Howie’s changing levels of comfort: crew-neck shirts when he’s feeling on guard and tank tops when he’s more confident.

When the group prepares for the underwear party, Howie covers himself in red and white underwear with a cutout in the back. At the party, however, he shows up in much less revealing shorts. “We wanted to show that there was some hesitation there,” Tabbert explained. “It was very, very intentional. At the end of the day, we wanted to show that he was playing more carefully.

Photo: Jeong Park/Spotlight

Mama bear, resident lesbian, and group mentor Erin hosts her litter of gay boys in a stylish house on the Tuna Walk that she bought with the settlement money from being served drinks at a franchised restaurant. (Secure the bag however you can!) Much of her wardrobe came from vintage shops, and the costume team self-dyed her dresses and halter tops. The one constant in Erin’s wardrobe is a pair of amazing vintage Levi cuts that “go with everything,” Tabbert said, while her earrings and shoes change in almost every scene. Her clothes are a material reflection of her many colorful years on the island, Tabbert explained. “We really wanted them to have a historical story.”

Matt Rogers in Luke’s signature ascot (left), Zane Phillips in Dex (centre) and Tomás Matos in Keegan (right).
Photo: Photos of the projectors

Luke’s style is to “do the most, say the least”. He and Keegan (Tomás Matos) are the spiky, jazzy hands of the band, two besties who met in drama school. So it makes sense that he goes the extra mile, especially when it comes to his clothes: crochet shorts by Lord Von Schmitt, a jersey by Patrick Church, and a custom rhinestone whistle hanging from a Lockwood 51 lanyard. Pretty Snake bath from an after-party scene even has flippers on the side. Luke’s looks are pinned down by a custom Kapital bandana which he wears around his neck as an ascot in nearly every scene.

Costume designer David Tabbert (left) and Tomás Matos (right) on the set of Fire Island.
Photo: David Tabbert

Keegan and Luke are the campy, weird version of the Wonder Twins. Their combined energy is best exemplified during a series of “Heads Up!” when they perfectly reenact Marisa Tomei’s biological clock monologue from My cousin Vinny. Never without their Edgar Posa beads and “sissy” nameplate necklace, Keegan manifests his sense of freedom unabashedly in his appearance. Keegan also does stunts when it comes to headgear, sporting pieces such as a Telfar durag and a Jimaye crown. The character also has the honor of wearing one of Tabbert’s favorite costumes: Keegan’s set for Underwear Night. “Tomás is from Staten Island, and as a little shoutout, we turned a Staten Island bike race shirt into a crop top and put them in a harness jersey with a little bag the size of an Airpod case “, said Tabbert.

Also very important: their high-heeled platform boots are Jessica Simpson.

Torian Miller (far right) in a Hawaiian print polo shirt and one of Max’s signature bucket hats.
Photo: Photos of the projectors

The voice of reason the boys of Tuna Walk so badly need, Max has his head on his shoulders and is averse to disorder. Her softer, more down-to-earth sensibilities are reflected in her practical choices: plenty of bucket hats and printed buttonholes. “We wanted dad vibes for him,” Tabbert said. It meant “polos, aloha shirts and New Balance 993”.

Left to right: James Scully as Charlie, Nick Adams as Cooper and Conrad Ricamora as Will.
Photo: Jeong Park/Spotlight

If you close your eyes and think of someone whose family vacation (yes, “vacation” as a verb) on Martha’s Vineyard, Charlie is right on the money. New England money. A gentle but oblivious doctor and Will’s best friend, he is more open to the Fire Island experience and immediately creates a connection with Howie. He’s kind of like a rich brown golden retriever.

Charlie dresses in brands such as Polo Ralph Lauren, Giorgio Armani, Vineyard Vines, Sperry Topsiders and Rowing Blazers. “With the boys from Ocean Walk, we wanted to show constant changes of clothes where you never really saw the same outfit worn more than once,” Tabbert explained.

Visiting the island from the west coast, a tense Will doesn’t offer the warmest welcome when he first meets the guys at Tuna Walk. Turns out his sting comes from feeling he has to stay on his toes and protect his friends. He finally starts to soften a bit when he finds Noah reading Alice Munro, because who else TF reads a book while he’s in the Pines? Outfitted in more expensive brands such as Ron Dorff, Giorgio Armani and Burberry, Will clearly has the money but maybe not a whole lot of style. He’s the type of guy who spends a lot on his clothes because he thinks he’s supposed to.

“It was important that he wasn’t too flashy or intentionally stylish, but rather the kind of guy who’s so rich he’ll spend $400 on a Brunello Cucinelli t-shirt, but it’s just a gray t-shirt. united,” Tabbert said. “I don’t know if we actually put Brunello in the film, because it would be a blow to the budget. On camera, it doesn’t have the same appreciation.

Rounding out Ocean Walk’s group of guys, Cooper is more aggressively elite and obnoxious in both the way he interacts with other characters and the way he dresses. He is a “brand manager”, whatever that means. “Cooper was Caroline Bingley, ostentatious and over the top,” Tabbert said. He wears a Christian Dior chain necklace throughout the film. At tea, he’s Gucci from head to toe. The day after tea, Versace from head to toe. Last scene? Balenciaga from head to toe. Uh.

Zane Phillips as Dex in a cut tee at The Pantry.
Photo: Jeong Park/Spotlight

Trouble takes the form of a tall, muscular, mustachioed water glass known as Dex, whom Tabbert has dressed up to “show off all the tricks,” he explained. When Noah first meets Dex in the pantry, he’s wearing shorts with a handkerchief in the back pocket as a nod to the handkerchief codes, which may not be very important now, but play a role. in queer history as community identifiers.

“He was the only person in the movie who never changed clothes,” Tabbert said. “It’s a bit grungy, trashy. We don’t know how often he showers, and we don’t care.

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