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HomeCraftsCostume DesignPoker Face Costume Designer Trayce Gigi Field Mixes Contemporary and Vintage

Poker Face Costume Designer Trayce Gigi Field Mixes Contemporary and Vintage

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Poker Face costume
Natasha Lyonne in Poker Face/Peacock

On the run after a casino killing, Charlie Cale adopts a series of disguises to escape her pursuers. As she crosses the country, she hides in barbeque stands, assisted living facilities, dinner theaters, truck stops — places where she has to fit in to survive.

Created by Rian Johnson and starring Natasha Lyonne as Charlie Cale, Poker Face evokes the heyday of mystery shows like Columbo. Streaming on Peacock, the series has been renewed for a second season.

Featuring an all-star cast and shot primarily in New York’s Hudson Valley, Poker Face presented intense logistical problems for its crew. Among them was finding costumes for characters as varied as cooks, entrepreneurs, Goth clerks, stock car drivers, heavy metal fans, and corporate board members.

Poker Face is the most recent credit for costume designer Trayce Gigi Field, following her work on series like Dead to Me, The Afterparty, and A League of Their Own. She is also active in the Costume Designers Guild, chairing its diversity committee. She spoke with Below the Line via Zoom.

Below the Line: When did you join Poker Face?

Poker Face costume
Photo credit: Trayce Gigi Field

Trayce Gigi Field: I had worked with Natasha before, on a Netflix special with [Everything’s Fine’ creator] Sarah Cooper. They called me about a murder mystery show, so I put together mood boards and met with Rian Johnson, who’s a very down-to-earth guy. We sat on the floor of his office and talked about the characters.

I remember watching Columbo and all those shows with my grandmother when I was a kid. The people on them had a certain vibe or look, especially the diabolical characters. Some of my references for Rian were right on point with what he was thinking. Like, I thought Adrian Brody‘s character, Sterling Jr., should refer back to Casino, the Scorsese movie.

BTL: What do you think they were looking from you?

Field: Something visual. I’m part of the visual storytelling. It’s important that these characters come across as authentic, but also with a little bit of flair. 

BTL: Poker Face doesn’t look period exactly, but it’s not strictly contemporary either. It looks like it exists in TV time.

Field: We think of it as contemporary, but with a throwback feel. But I’ll tell you, when you travel to places that aren’t New York City or Los Angeles, you will actually see “real” people like those on the show. Many of them look quite eccentric.

BTL: What were the logistics like?

Field: No big deal, super easy… I could have done this in my sleep — absolutely not. It was fast and furious, we had eight to ten days to shoot each episode. Rian and Natasha really wanted certain performers, and a lot of times they came very late in the schedule.

I would make a mood board based on whom they thought the character might be played by. I would check with my friends about sizes and try to pre-shop for them, because we were shooting in upstate New York, in Newburgh, and I could only get to New York City two or three times.

The closest thing was the Woodbury Common outlet mall, so it was a bit of a challenge. I shopped in White Plains, at the Goodwill in Poughkeepsie, and at all these antique marts. I would go through every single piece with every vendor. That’s where we found a lot of background pieces. 

We sourced some costumes from overseas. Online I found a company called Classic Rock Couture which had amazing pieces that fit Charlie’s character, sort of 1970s-meets-Western-meets-desert. I used Stoned Immaculate as well. They had perfect 1970s jeans.

Poker Face costume
Dascha Polanco in Poker Face (Peacock)

BTL: What happens when a performer doesn’t like your suggestions?

Field: Can I be completely honest with you? That has never really happened with me. I am over-prepared all the time. I have had people say, “Nothing in here fits me,” or, “I don’t agree with this.” I’m just like, “Here’s the script. This is what it says in the script. How do you perceive that?” Then I might say, “Look on this rack and decide what you want to try on.” There’s no way I’m going to be in that room and not be prepared. That’s not how I operate. I have backup upon backup upon backup.

Some people don’t realize that costume design is like Psych 101. We’re dealing with the most important assets on the set, which are the performers. It’s a skill you have to hone.

BTL: How detailed do you get with your work?

Field: I’m down for every level of detail. Down to the accessories, the rings, earrings, things that people don’t even see sometimes. Like undergarments, which can help an actor feel like a character. 

In terms of colors, patterns, materials, I work with the production designer and cinematographer as well as the performers and directors. We need to set the tone, the palette, what the world feels like, how they’re going to shoot it. I couldn’t be more invested.

BTL: Let’s take episode two, “The Night Shift.” You’ve got a fast-food worker and a convenience store clerk.

Field: The Subway uniform, I don’t have any control over that. The Goth clerk — let me tell you, I have lived so many lives. I know those people in real life. In my teenage years, I worked at Hot Topic, when Goth was much more prevalent. She dresses in a pinafore, a crop top, whatever. We all have a different aesthetic about what we’re willing to wear. Clothes are like armor. They’re a sense of who you are inside, a way of expressing yourself.

BTL: What about the truck stop waitress?

Field: Go into diners across America and people still dress like that. They’re still wearing a uniform and a bow. What that actress wore is actually part of my personal collection that I’ve had since my early twenties. 

Paramount used to have a costume house. When they shut it down I was actually working on a Paramount show, and they asked me if I wanted anything. I have had a stack of those uniforms for over twenty years. They’re iconic. The material’s a polyester blend, so it’s not the most comfortable.

BTL: Which contributes to her performance, because her character’s not a very happy person.

Field: Part of finding the character is putting on the clothes. I can’t tell you how many times an actor has said to me, “Now I know who my character is.”

Hong Chau in Poker Face (Peacock)

BTL: Hong Chau is a trucker in that episode. It’s not like anything she’s played before. How’d her look come about? 

Field: Rian sent me a New York Times article about modern-day truckers and how eclectic they are. We could have played her character any number of ways. Hong’s T-shirt is from Kohls, her overshirt is, I think, made by Van. We may have gotten that at Kohls as well. She has those great cowboy boots and jewelry from a Western store and that hat. She put them on and walked around and she said, “Yeah, this feels right.” Then we just built on that.

BTL: What’s your relationship with Natasha like?

Field: I would describe it as love at first sight. She’s intelligent, she’s a cinephile, and she is very chic. She knows what looks good on her. We have a similar aesthetic in terms of mixing vintage with contemporary.

We would go through every page of every script, talk about her character and what she was doing, and what she should be wearing. You have to come with your “A” game because she’s going to ask a lot of questions.

BTL: Switching to your guild, how are they dealing with diversity?

Field: People of color make up around thirty percent of the guild, but that’s not reflected in actual employment numbers. We’re trying to create affinity groups, so that if you want a more diverse crew you can access a variety of people. We’re working on a panel for gender sensitivity, because it’s a learning curve for all of us.

BTL: When you examine diversity by budget, you see that people of color don’t participate as much at the blockbuster level.

Field: It’s systemic. Our most successful person of color in terms of budget is Ruth E. Carter. We want more people of all types to be able to have those opportunities as well. But we all live in a bubble. I wouldn’t be where I am had somebody not helped me. So, I’m all about trying to help other people.

Poker Face Season One is now available to stream on Peacock.

Daniel Eagan
Daniel Eaganhttp://www.btlnews.com
Daniel Eagan is a producer and writer living in New York City.
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