From ’80s aerobics gear, Iranian sportswear, clothing of authority and heritage: costume designer Laura Montgomery breaks down the impact of each character’s changes on her wardrobe.
For beings stuck forever between life and death (a liminal state some call “Staten Island”), there’s a lot going on with the vampires in “What We Do in the Shadows.” Season 3 begins with Nadja (Natasia Demetriou) and Nandor the Relentless (Kayvan Novak) dividing up duties as co-leaders of their local vampiric council, overseen by The Guide (Kristen Schaal) and guarded by a newly promoted Guillermo. (Harvey Guillén). That in turn leaves much of the daily or nightly shenanigans on the shoulders of Laszlo (Matt Berry) and Colin Robinson (Mark Proksch).
The changes to the group dynamic aren’t massive, and they certainly don’t alter the hilarious humor of the mockumentary, but even small changes happen in a big way, leaving the group to fall apart at the end of the series. season. Costume designer Laura Montgomery spoke to IndieWire about getting as much character as possible out of the looks of the show’s protagonists before they get stuck on boats, trains and in basements.
The series draws much of its costume logic from the film Taika Waititi that inspired it, in that each character’s fashion is guided by the era in which they became a vampire. “That’s why Nandor is kind of stuck in the 1400s,” Montgormery said, or why Nadia and Laszlo are “somewhat Victorian.”
But even with this baseline, Montgomery has found opportunities to dig deeper and create varied, lighter looks that eschew the nondescript layers of black often reserved for creatures of the night. “[The show] wanted vampires to always dress in dark colors so they could somehow be in the cloak of the night. But I really wanted to push it more into a world of midtones and introduce more color just so you could see the details on the clothes,” Montgomery said.
“With Nandor too, I really wanted to dig into its geographical history. What would costumes and clothing from that period look like in that place? So [we started] looking into Persian textiles and art of the time, the period references to the genre change its silhouette a bit and change some of its fabrics.
Some of this is cleverly incorporated into Nandor’s Ascension Day feast, giving it the appropriate, if slightly faded, look of a Persian lord, while the rest of the house is adorned with fez and deeply ahistorical red fringes. The most playful and colorful addition to Nandor’s wardrobe, however, are the shorts he wears in a 24-hour gym while wooing an assistant named Meg (Laura Collins).
“In Iran, there is a sport called Pahlevani, or Zourkhaneh, and these pants are traditional pants worn for this sport. We found someone in Iran who could make the shorts for us. So we made them tailor-made for [Kayvan’s] measures,” Montgomery said. With the help of a member of his team who is from Iran, the custom design flew with a family member from Tehran to Toronto, where the show is filming. “I wasn’t even sure it would happen just because it seems so far away. And until I got them in my hands, I was like, “Is this going to happen?” But he did. It is a cotton fabric, but there is also the leather appliqué. There is embroidery. They are beautiful.”
They are also a fantastic representation of Nandor, back in a position of true authority for the first time in 700 years, but still out of his element, slightly alienated. “There is a balance, because I never want to take anything away from the performance. I think if you dress someone in a really clownish way, it doesn’t leave the actor’s room to be clownish. But with comedy, you can definitely use brighter colors. Even though they’re vampires, it’s not dark, you can use more decoration,” Montgomery said. “We can do, you know, just silly details, like a lot of lace on Laszlo, big collars.”
Nadja and Laszlo
Along with Nadja and Laszlo, whose looks are far more explosive, Montgomery said one way to show off their progress as co-leader of the Vampiric Council and Colin Robinson’s reluctant brother, respectively, is to jump into the cabinets they have collected over the years. the decades. “I love working on period shows and films and the great thing about ‘What We Do In The Shadows’ is that it’s all eras and it’s also contemporary. So you don’t have to have only Victorian stuff, they’ve been collecting things for many, many years, so Nadja can have an 80s Versace belt mixed in with the rest of her costumes. [It works] as long as it’s in character. Would they make that choice? As Nadja gains confidence and collects more hearts ripped from the chests of vampires who are behind on their dues, Montomgery places the character in different slightly lighter patterns and textures that are still very ostentatious and slightly Victorian, but brighter and more assertive.
For Nadja and Nandor’s Vampiric Council wardrobe, Montgomery found ways to inject character into the confines of “white robes.” “[The robes were] a kind of opportunity, okay, what would their version of that be? Because they are the ones who design it. So for Nadia, you know, we added lace. I was looking at Chinese cloud necklaces. This is how she achieves the pearl color with the pom-pom fringe. And with Nandor, I thought, you know, how can I add more of a Persian element to his? So there is a lot of hand embroidery on her shoulders.
Even in the complete absence of silly details, Montgomery has found ways to work the texture that helps characterize the show’s tracks. Because Season 3 focuses a bit more on the story of the eternally bland energy vampire Colin Robinson, Montgomery could play with a style that ties, in a deeply bland and beige way, to his origins. “We were like, okay, if [Colin’s] 100 years old, when he was young would have been from the 1930s to the 1950s. So I was able to use elements from those periods, from the customization of that period, to really emphasize his character. So it’s not in the depths of Reddit that Colin finds the Tam O’Shanter bow ties and hats that help him step out of the background a bit, but rather his own past.
The character with perhaps the most style wiggle room in Season 3 is Guillermo, now fully revealed as a descendant of legendary vampire hunter Van Helsing. “I think he has the most arc in his storyline this season,” Montgomery said. So tweaks have been made to make it visually more badass – at least as badass as possible while wearing very comfortable sweaters.
“Even the little thing, like, we introduced a pair of leather gloves, which just feel smoother, more killer, little things. He was able to roll up his sleeves, which was very exciting for Harvey. And, you know, added an element of toughness to him,” Montgomery said. “We changed a few things to change the silhouette of his pants – he got a more tapered cargo pant. He has more of a combat boot. So we really tried to get him to say, ‘Okay, he’s the bodyguard. He assumes this role.
The Post-Chiropter Wellness Center
Montgomery’s favorite escalation in Season 3’s wardrobe, however, was the vampiric wellness/cult center that Nandor falls into at a particularly vulnerable time. Montgomery steered as far away from dark trench coats as possible by designing custom dancewear for cult members. “We watched a lot of dance footage from ‘Perfect,’ the Jamie Lee Curtis movie,” Montgomery said of the inspiration for this episode.
“I think everyone has an idea of 80s aerobics and what the 80s was like. And so we really tried to make it authentic. Like these vampires lived in the 80s and they’re stuck in the 80s. And so they’re not doing our retrospective version of it. Montgomery’s choices in the episode help to accentuate the contrast between the cult and Nandor first, and pay off handsomely once he has joined their ranks.The very image of seeing Mr. The Relentless in spandex is as horribly funny as the poor vampire ripping out his own fangs.