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The costumes are among the stars of "The Marvelous Mrs. Maisel," the hit Amazon TV series about a young comedienne in the late 1950s, early '60s. Everybody wears these colorful period-perfect outfits. They're so amazing, even I notice. Designer Donna Zakowska has won two Emmy awards for her work on the show. And tonight, she is up for an award from the Costume Designers Guild. Reporter Jeff Lunden visited her studio in Brooklyn.
JEFF LUNDEN, BYLINE: If you're a fan of "The Marvelous Mrs. Maisel," the last thing you'd expect when you meet Donna Zakowska is that she's dressed entirely in black - black shirt, black pants, black boots. But don't worry. Her studio is drenched in color...
DONNA ZAKOWSKA: I'll pull this out for a second. It's pretty wild.
LUNDEN: ...Like when she shows me fabric swatches, thousands of them...
ZAKOWSKA: You know, we'll look at, like, practically 200 pieces of pink wool and then say, well, yeah, I think that's the color. And then sometimes we have to say, but I think we need to dye a little bit of lavender in it and then we'll hit it.
LUNDEN: ...Or racks of Midge Maisel's coats.
ZAKOWSKA: As you can see behind you, there's, like, a rainbow world of the coats.
LUNDEN: The world of "The Marvelous Mrs. Maisel" is a romanticized fantasy of color. And color comes naturally to Donna Zakowska, who initially trained as a painter and a dancer.
ZAKOWSKA: I think all of this sort of evolved into costume design, you know, the idea of color moving in space.
RACHEL BROSNAHAN: She understands how color and shape and texture can tell a story just as efficiently as the way the camera moves or the dialogue.
LUNDEN: Rachel Brosnahan plays Midge Maisel. She says Donna Zakowska's costumes - and there are a lot of them - helped define the way she plays her character.
BROSNAHAN: These costumes change the way I move and breathe and walk and talk, the way I hold my head. I don't feel complete until I look in the mirror and I have the full costume on and hair and makeup exactly right. Then I feel like I can just step in and do the acting part.
(SOUNDBITE OF TV SHOW, "THE MARVELOUS MRS. MAISEL")
BROSNAHAN: (As Midge Maisel) What happened to my clothes?
TONY SHALHOUB: (As Abe Weissman) Have you worn all these dresses?
BROSNAHAN: (As Midge Maisel) Have I...
SHALHOUB: (As Abe Weissman) Because I don't think you've been on Earth long enough.
LUNDEN: The costume studio is filled with research material, magazines from the period and boards with pictures of locations from the past season. While the show's in production, the studio is also filled with assistants and drapers and dressers. Costumes for the extras are rented - sometimes as many as a thousand an episode. But Zakowska designs everything the lead actors wear, often at the last minute.
ZAKOWSKA: You have to be ready to go. Sometimes the actual script I do not get in my hands until three days before the episode shoots. And so I will occasionally, like, just build some clothes for her thinking this probably will work.
LUNDEN: And Zakowska's period costumes will not work without period undergarments, says Rachel Brosnahan. Her bras and corsets are created by a lingerie maker in Paris.
BROSNAHAN: I'm certainly not wearing corsets that are as tight or uncomfortable as I'm sure someone like Midge would have been wearing. But there are many layers of foundation garments. I have pantyhose on and sometimes two petticoats layered together.
LUNDEN: Donna Zakowska's costumes have become so iconic that two of them have made it into the Smithsonian - the baby blue nightgown and pink coat Midge wears when she first improvises her stand-up and the little black dress with ribbons on the straps she wears when she becomes a professional, just like a real pioneering female comic.
ZAKOWSKA: There was the allusion to Joan Rivers in the black dress with the pearls. The whole first season, I never used black on anyone unless it was a beatnik and built to that final black dress.
LUNDEN: After all, black is just an absorption of all the colors in the spectrum. For NPR News, I'm Jeff Lunden in New York.
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