Emmy-winning costume designer Suttirat Anne Larlarb went to the kitchen to outfit the cast of the new film-turned-Broadway musical “Waitress.” The recently opened show stars Tony winner Jessie Mueller, and it features music by star Sara Bareilles. FN Spy talked to Larlarb about the costumes in the production.
How did you approach designing for Jenna, the main character?
“We actually considered a plainclothes waitress, and it just didn’t feel Broadway, so we made a [uniform] that felt appropriate for each of the characters. By the end, we go to a plainclothes version where Jenna gets her own diner and is a much brighter person. I riffed off the blue uniform and made a pretty floral blue dress to sort of bookend her life.”
When the cast spends most of the show in uniform, how did you design for the different characters?
“We wanted to make sure that each person has a little sliver of their personality coming through in the uniform. Becky is a very sassy, no-holds-barred big personality. Her uniform is open quite low — you might see her bra occasionally — and she wears these big gold-hoop earrings and comes to work in a studded jean jacket. Dawn, who is much more of a wallflower and a bit nerdy, is very buttoned-up and in perfect regulation and has clean shoes and tidy shoelaces.”
With uniforms, did you get any leeway with the shoes?
“Yes and no. All the ladies are on their feet all day long, so you want to be true to that working-class environment. There is choreography, too. Jenna, whose life hasn’t turned out to be what she expected, doesn’t spend her money on things that don’t lead to a better effect for her, so her shoes are unremarkable. Becky has these loud turquoise suede heels with a leopard-skin top. For her wedding, Dawn, whose world has been the diner or home, has a neat pair of Keds that she bedazzled just a bit to indicate her blossoming, but not too much.”
The film has a big fan base. How did you account for that?
“I unfortunately or maybe fortunately was a big fan of the movie, and already had it in my head. But I just tried to make it a point to not revisit it. There is a huge fan base for it so I went back to make sure that if there was something we needed to pay homage to it, we would do it.”
Where did you get the inspiration for the show’s costumes?
“There’s a photographer who did a series of books and has a website called ‘Plates and Dishes.’ It’s a roadside photography project of everyday waitresses at everyday diners. It was real people as opposed to a stylized notion of what a waitress is.”