Costume Designer Beth Morgan
Costume Designer Beth Morgan: 'The costumes are like my children. I have a real love for the elements of each person's character and look.'
'GLOW' is a fictional wrestling series based on the 1980s syndicated wrestling show better known as G.L.O.W. (Gorgeous Ladies of Wrestling) created by Liz Flahive ('Nurse Jackie') and Carly Mensch ('Weeds'). The series stars Alison Brie as Ruth Wilder, and Betty Gilpin as Debbie Eagan as two best friends at odds whose paths both coincidentally lead to performing in a low budget wrestling program for washed up, exploitation movie director, Sam Sylvia (Marc Maron). The program features countless characters with varying personas as the series embodies over 15 main female talents as the performers and actors. Costume designer Beth Morgan ('The Carmichael Show'), has the challenging job of designing specific wardrobes for each persona.
Everything starts with research in trying to emulate the original, 1980s wrestling program. That research included old family photos, items online, period yearbooks, and Sears and JC Penney catalogs from the that era. Movies from the 80s, such as The Karate Kid and Girls Just Want to Have Fun were also referenced in the costume's sketches and designs.
(Left to Right) Marianna Palka as Reggie Walsh, Jackie Tohn as Melanie Rosen, Ellen Wong as Jenny Chey, Kate Nash as Rhonda Richardson, Sunita Mani as Arthie Premkumar. Photo credit Erica Parise/Netflix.
The way the characters dress informs who they are as people. "There's so many characters. It really starts with what they have on, because that's the first thing people see. It was a challenge to have to think about where these women come from, what their income level is, what resources they have to get their fashions, and what's important to them. All those things came into play as we're thinking about each character, how to define them, what makes each of them tick, and what they would choose to perform in," the designer elaborated.
Alison Brie as Ruth Wilder. Photo credit Erica Parise. Courtesy of Netflix.
Each wrestler was easily labeled with a certain persona through their look for a specific wrestling gimmick. Morgan explained, "It's fun because we introduced the crazy costumes as early as episode 3 or 4 when the girls went to Bash's closet (their wannabe producer, played by Chris Lowell) and found distinct pieces. Bash's closet plants a seed for what the women will become later on in the season. To water it down, wrestling is really about stereotypes. All those things that are politically incorrect and terrible were a much more acceptable in the 80s and is exactly what wrestling was built on. If we're Asian, your character was named 'Fortune Cookie.' The challenge of the wrestling costumes is not only about the time period and the functionality, but also story wise."
Wrestling accessories are a major part of the gimmicky characters that add a layer of dimensionality to each performer's persona. "It's all about how we use these accessories to help push forward their stereotypes. We rubberize designed a lot of metal objects to make sure they were stunt safe. The character Ruth 'Zoya the Destroya' was inspired by the military, so we used an armor because she's a warrior woman with a rubberized belt, gloves to feel very militant, a KGB hat, and a wool overcoat to look super sexy. Other examples include Cherry Bang 'Junkchain' (Sydelle Noel) with the 1970s style belt, Jenny Chey 'Fortune Cookie' (Ellen Wong) with her rice farmer hat, and Reggie Walsh 'Vicky the Viking' (Marianna Palka) with her Viking hat. Tammé Dawson 'The Welfare Queen' (Kia Stevens), had beautiful, cubic zirconia fake diamonds everywhere. All these elements were added for the performers' big entry into the ring, so you feel that grit of who they are immediately. Ultimately, the accessories have to be left on the side of the ring, as they can't bring everything in the ring with them. In the end, the performers are really only left with a leotard made out of spandex. These outfits had a function as they were able to handle the violent movements of the actors. The costumes always had an added element of functionality," added the costumer.
The fantastical costumes in 'GLOW' present a double dose of design for each performer as first they are individually tailored, dressed, and styled to portray the character's unique personality. Secondly, more than 15 gimmick wrestling costumes created by Beth Morgan were specially designed and hand crafted to showcase highly stylized personas for the audience to easily distinguish each wrestler, all while staying true and paying homage to the 1980s series 'G.L.O.W.'
Betty Gilpin as Debbie Eagan. Photo credit Erica Parise. Courtesy of Netflix.
Morgan concluded, "The costumes are like my children. I have a real love for the elements of each person's character and look. I love that we didn't use undergarments, so we needed to fit everything perfectly, and were not afraid to show cellulite. It feels so organic to show and the beauty of what people may label as imperfections. The fact that audiences have responded to that authenticity is an amazing thing for me as a costume designer. To be able to dress all these body types, be true to them, find their strengths, and showcase how they come together to help each other - its been a real treat."