From Daredevil to Jessica Jones, Luke Cage, and The Defenders, costume designer Stephanie Maslansky is responsible for the sleek styles of our favorite Marvel shows on Netflix.
The veteran costume design began with an indie short film in 1988 called the Wizards of Loneliness. A few years later she worked on the cockroach-infested movie Joe’s Apartment. The work never stopped coming for Stephanie and with good reason. She’s a bit of a sewing savant whose work is now part of a massive entity known as the Marvel Universe. Monkeys Fighting Robots spoke with Stephanie, who was in Budapest, about her career and what it means to do what she does.
“I had an ‘a-ha’ moment …”
At an early age, Stephanie was crafty and received a sewing machine as a gift which she loved “I didn’t know that I wanted to be a costume designer but I certainly was drawn to the skills required to be one.”
Stephanie had the skills and the passion “I love clothing, fashion, the history of styles.” However, a bit of a nature versus nurture battle took place “I came from a very academic family and felt I should study something very academic. Write history books or something.”
At the age of 23 and fresh out of college, Stephanie says “I had an ‘a-ha’ moment … I walked by a woman’s clothing store where there were some beautiful period costumes.” And then the spark arrived, and Stephanie said to herself “I could do that.”
“I love what I do.”
There was a bit of doubt for Stephanie who’d spent four years at college getting a degree in history. But looking back at a 30-year career Stephanie exclaims with fervor “I love it. I love what I do.”
For aspiring costume designers out there, the process to get a story from page to picture is a fascinating mix of meetings and creativity. “I do presentations for each character using pictures, drawings, etc. You sort of visualize it for the people in charge who know what they want but can’t quite see it. I see it for them. Ideally.” We laugh.
“I miss my dog.”
The subtle effect of costumes is one of many jobs in filmmaking that often only gets noticed when something is wrong. “I want my costumes to be noticed and then forgotten about so that there is no distraction to the story or dialogue.”
The power of a good or bad costume is often subconscious for most viewers. “In a flash, in a microsecond, people notice what they’re seeing and then it’s gone as the story continues.”
It’s about here where my dog barked, and we talked about dogs for about 10 minutes. “I miss my dog.” Stephanie’s pooch did not make the trip to Budapest.
“Most costumes designers are really good at
one or two of those, not all three.”
With so much content in the world, what current designers does Stephanie admire “There are a few. I think Ellen Mirojnick is really phenomenal; Milena Canonero is also phenomenal; and Colleen Atwood. Those are probably my top three costume designers.”
Why does the work of those three women stand out? “Primarily because they can do period, fantasy, and modern dress. Most costumes designers are really good at one or two of those, not all three.”
“The clothing company loves us.”
Luke Cage season two starts June 22nd on Netflix. How many identical versions of costumes do they have on a show where people get shot, burn, crushed, or worse? “A lot. The clothing company loves us.”
What’s it like shooting a thirteen-episode series like Luke Cage? “We shoot about one episode every twelve days, and it’s one after the other.” If the early reviews are correct, Stephanie will be working on a third season soon.
There’s a break for Stephanie with the Marvel shows, so what’s she working on now? “A series called Berlin Station, it’s on Epix, it’s about the CIA, and secrets, and lies. It’s a great show. We’re working on the third season.”