Legendary Threads

So what’s the Staci Greenbaum story? How did you get your start?

My mom taught me to sew when I was around 10 or 11 years old.  Aside from teaching me the skill of sewing itself, my mom really taught me about time management, being responsible for a project from start to finish, and how to actualize my vision into reality.  I realized early on I had a knack for designing and constructing clothing and I never stopped.  

I thought I would pursue fashion design. I interned for Georgette Feldman, a local costume designer in the DC-Metropolitan area during High School, and she taught me endless things about designing costumes for the stage. Georgette was incredibly innovative and creative.  She could practically single handedly whip up the most magical designs.  I still favored fashion until I went off to College (UW-Madison, then FIT) and an incredibly insightful mentor helped me recognize that my real passion was for costume design… but for movies and TV. Through a cousin who was working in costume design in New York, I networked my way onto the set of American Gangster in 2006 and hit the ground running.

Why costume design? What draws you to it as a discipline?

Costume design is one piece of a big puzzle. I aide in helping to define a character from the inside out, even before a single word is spoken, a visual is being created that helps the actor understand their character more–it cues the audience into who this person is, using clothing as the vehicle. I love the collaborative aspect of clothing design. We often delve more into a character during a fitting. I think clothing can be very powerful in storytelling and it changes from project to project. Sometimes clothing is meant to be noticed and oftentimes it’s not, and we are in charge of making sure the look is natural. I love the research, the history, and continually exploring the language of clothes.

What’s the story behind the Bingo plush toy?

Bingo became Broad City’s beloved stuffed animal and was a collaborative project between Abbi, Ilana, our production designer Angelique and the costume department. Once they figured out the concept, we had to bring both little Bingo and big Bingo to life! With the help of Izquierdo Studios, we were able to develop both versions, the larger standing around eight feet tall (and almost eight feed wide!) and had to be operated by a puppeteer for the show.

How would you define Abbi and Ilana’s styles on the show vs. in real life? Does the one inspire the other?

I would say the show is a bit more of a heightened reality, but without being fake or too far fetched (although some may feel Ilana is too far-fetched at times).  I think it’s more colorful and bit more extreme.

Abbi in real life is still very relatable, although she has a chic aesthetic, more of a minimalist, very good taste and does not misstep like character Abbi does so frequently.  I think overall character Abbi on the show is more accessible and a touch more youthful in the way she dresses.

Ilana in real life is a little bit more polished and alternative.  She still has a laid back sensibility, but is probably a little more classic than we let character Ilana be. Character Ilana thinks, “I found this on my floor, it smells… okay, and it looks cool with a chunky necklace and high-waisted shorts,” …and out the door she goes! Or she dresses for the occasion, which may just be Ilana wanting it to be an occasion.  We play up the outlandish and unapologetic confidence she has.

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What are your favorite fashion moments on the show?

Season 3, episode 1 had 30 costumes each to take us through the whole year in a minute and a half–it was a huge feat!

I love the clubbing episode, from season 3  “BNB NYC” when Abbi and Ilana’s clothes go from “hanging out” to club wear.  It was a really awesome creative challenge and I think it was so successful.  I also loved how Ilana’s costume in “Burning Bridges” was playful and a little bit of a nod to the 90s, as we were referencing Mrs. Doubtfire. That striped zip bodysuit could be adjusted throughout the episode to reflect Ilana’s vulnerability as she and Lincoln just broke up.  My other favorite moment was episode 2 “Co-Op,” where the girls swap costumes!  Lastly would be “Joyful Joyful” with Whoopi because how can you not love that?

You’ve worked in both film and TV. Is there a difference in the way you create costumes for each medium?

On the whole the objectives and goals are the same. Help to define characters from the inside out within the confines of the script, the writers, the actors–and aide in making the story come to life.  Days in both arenas are fluid, chaotic, and full of surprises to troubleshoot!

I do find that film and televisions timelines have different trajectories as well.  In film we had more of a prep period before we begin shooting than we do in television, whereas in TV we sometimes pause shooting in between in order to create prep days between episodes. That being said, we are always shooting three episodes at once.

Transitioning from film to television is without a doubt different.  I believe the biggest adjustment for me was between the scale of productions that I work on. On any given day of Spiderman, we had a costume department of over thirty people. When I began Broad City, my department consisted of just six of us!

What does a day in your life look like?

Some days I can wake up as early as 3 or 3:30 AM.  I get out the door by 4:30 to be at a fitting on set, when my 5:30 fitting walks onto my wardrobe trailer. Often an actor has flown in late last night from LA and they weren’t able to attend a fitting the day before… but are in the first scene we are shooting today.

After our fitting, we send them through hair and makeup and I get a last moment to make sure that everything happening that day is ready and on the rack for my wardrobe department. Sometimes it’s tiny things like making sure I chose earrings for one costume or I’m missing a jacket or purse for someone who is exiting a scene to “go outside.”  

Some days I have to check the background actors (can be anything between 5 and 100 people) to make sure they are all dressed appropriately for the scene. Around 7 AM I will go to set to watch rehearsal to see how they are planning to shoot the scene. Often something comes up that’s important information, like an actor shouldn’t be in their shoes, but just their socks. Or even though its an interior scene, their jacket should be draped over a chair. Then I check the actors before they walk to set to make sure everyone has their tie tied correctly, rolled their sleeves the way I envisioned, that their bra is showing just the right amount. I often head to set to establish a costume on camera and once that happens my trusty costumer takes the reigns. At that point I have to look at all there is to accomplish for the next shoot day and the days ahead and it’s only 8 AM! I spend the rest of my day shopping, fitting people, budgeting, and making sure the line-up is ready to go! My work day can range from 12 to 16 hours.

What advice do you have for an aspiring costume designer?

It is NOT GLAMOROUS, despite what people think. It takes a village. Even as the costume designer there is no way you get to the endgame doing it yourself. Be kind, be gracious, be humble. Be the first one in and the last one out. Take the time to LEARN each facet and aspect of the business before you start to ascend to be the department head… there are so many things to learn. Draw. You are ALWAYS learning. Ask questions.

Want to keep up with Staci through her adventures on Broad City and beyond? Follow her on Instagram and Twitter.

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