We present an exclusive interview with costume designer Elisabeth Vastola about his work on Marvel’s Jessica Jones season 2. Born and raised in New York, she has two degrees in English Literature and Art History from Columbia University and has also studied at the Fashion Institute of Technology, Parsons The New School for Design, the Art Students League of New York, Oxford Media School in Oxford, England, Central St. Martin’s School for Art and Design in London, and at the Kyoto Costume Institute in Kyoto, Japan. In her career, she worked on movies like The Purge: Election Year and on various tv series: Hap and Leonard, Eye Candy.
How did you get involved with Jessica Jones?
I’m very fortunate to share my agent with one of the producers on the show. I heard they were looking for a new costume designer and after I interviewed, the rest is history!
The characters, clearly because of narrative and location reasons, do not wear many classical comics’ costumes. Besides the obvious choices for characters less important (for example, detectives with suit and tie), how did you think about Jessica, Trish Walker and Alisa Jones’ characters to make them look the way they do?
I work very closely with the actresses and the writers and producers to make sure each character feels authentic to how they are written and performed. I study the scripts in the same way a student would study a textbook and I observe the cast on and off camera. I also think it’s very useful to imagine each woman as a real citizen of the city. I try to think about seeing an Alisa or a Trish on the streets of New York. Actually just this morning I saw a woman in a beat up leather motorcycle jacket with distressed jeans, and I smiled. That’s Jessica!
Besides the protagonist, Jeri Hogarth, who is very talented and capable of portraying such a character in the best way. Did you work a lot on her costumes’ design?
Jeri Hogarth’s look was most established in season one as all-black and very high end. So I worked within those parameters. But I do feel like I was able to breath new life into the look. I think we found some excellent ensembles for her this season and I especially love all of her pant looks.
Malcolm Ducasse goes through a very complex evolution throughout the season. This evolution is extremely important, at a certain point, and it influences his look’s change. Did you put a lot of work into this?
Yes we were so excited to take Malcolm to the next level with his look. I didn’t want him to feel staid or boring in a suit, I wanted it to feel cutting edge, sexy, and interesting. We used suits from Gucci and Dolce and Gabbana that I think worked perfectly. He still felt like Malcolm, just more professionally dressed. I never wanted to lose a sense of character or specificity.
Did the actors contribute to picking and choosing the costumes?
The actors input was immensely important. They need to feel natural and comfortable in what they have on, so I always encourage their opinion and ideas whenever possible. It has to be a true collaboration.
In a tv show, just a like a movie, colors and cinematography are really important aspects. Did you collaborate with the cinematographer, Manuel Billeter, in order to choose costumes that could fulfill narrative purposes? Or was it a separated process, something you worked on alone?
Yes our collaboration was a key aspect of the process. Without the lighting and atmosphere, my costumes choices could fall completely flat. It’s also very important to always remember that the costumes are just a part of a greater whole. Of course, I think they are a very important part. But they have to work in sync with all the other aspects of filmmaking.
What are your next projects?
I am currently costume designing Daredevil Season 3!