Costume designer Kameron Lennox shows how the 1% and the rest of us walk and talk through the world in Dumb Money. The acclaimed film, which depicts the characters and events surrounding the 2021 GameStop stock phenomenon, features a large ensemble as well as different generations, seasons, and states. It’s a contained yet sprawling story that required Lennox to do a deep-dive into different worlds for varying classes.
Lennox is an Emmy and CDGA-nominated artist respected for her work on Pam & Tommy, Smilf, and Platonic. In 2016, she got her first feature film credit as a costume designer for the excellent Frank & Lola. Seven years later, she’s now promoting her work on Dumb Money and kindly made the time to discuss her experience with Below the Line.
[Note: This interview has been edited for clarity and length]
Below The Line: Even though the people depicted in Dumb Money aren’t as famous as Pam & Tommy, do you still approach portraying them with the same authenticity?
Kameron Lennox: No, no. It doesn’t matter how well known a character is if we are portraying the real person. I tried to do as much research as I can and try to nail it as close as I can, especially if I feel like that person might see it and they want their representation to be correct.
BTL: Did you have a chance to talk to anyone depicted in the film?
Lennox: If they’re involved, I’ll reach out to them. But if they’re not, then I don’t go on my own to try to get in touch with them because I don’t feel like that’s the right thing to do. But yeah, I mean, it would be great on any of these projects if you had somebody to ease the amount of research you need to do.
BTL: Where did your research start for this? Which characters do you look at first?
Lennox: The first character I kind of dug into was Keith Gill (Paul Dano), who played Roaring Kitty, because he is such a specific character. Research into him, he doesn’t really have a presence on social media, but he has a lot of videos, and some of those YouTube videos are eight hour long edits of them. So, it took a lot of patience to scan through them.
There are people on the project like Craig, our director, and especially Paul Dano, who really, really went through them. They studied these videos because they wanted to have accuracy, especially Paul because he wanted to get his mannerisms. Paul wanted to make it as true as possible as well.
When I would speak with him, he’d go, “Oh, at this moment, what was he wearing?” And there’s different [looks], this is over a course of a year, and there’s different seasons. We wanted to make sure that whatever he was wearing, the seasons were correct as well.
BTL: Those cat shirts, what did they tell you about this person?
Lennox: [laughs] I’ve always loved those, so I was really excited to dig into that. A lot of them are from the same company that makes them. The thing that I had to dig into is, where is he getting his stuff for his videos?
BTL: Did you personally enjoy his videos?
Lennox: I did find them amusing, but also, I don’t follow stocks and all that, so with the jargon, I didn’t watch it all the way through. I kind of skipped through to see what he was wearing. But I had to think about just the psychology and the mental space of where he was. If he’s making these videos, it’s during the global pandemic. Nobody’s going out. He is in Brockton, Massachusetts, and they’re not selling these on the corner.
A lot of people used Amazon or had things delivered. Amazon was a big resource for us, because we thought about if we needed to match something he was wearing in a video, where would he get those? A lot of it we found on Amazon, actually.
The headband, I had to make sure matched the one he was wearing as well. And so, we did buy an array of them and then study the point on the end of the tail, just the little subtle things. I wanted to make sure that when Paul came in for his fitting, that it all felt like this character. I wanted to make sure that I had done my due diligence in my research to make sure that it was all there for him.
BTL: How’d the pandemic affect how you dressed the extras?
Lennox: I mean, coming off of Pam & Tommy and then going into this, it’s a completely different type of design. With Pam & Tommy, Craig and I heightened everything. It was a lot of glitz and glamor. Here, we needed to really bring it down and really make it feel like it did.
During the pandemic, for Shailene Woodley‘s character, which was a lot of fun to do, she’s in the most worn sweatpants. She’s always just lounging around when no one really put on hard pants. Everyone wore what they needed to be comfortable and just get through the day. And so, that was the main focus for her character. I mean, I think it took us all time when things started to open up again to realize like, “Oh, I’m going out in the world. I got to brush my hair and pull myself together.”
BTL: Very different approach to the 1% in the movie who always look fantastic.
Lennox: Exactly, exactly. Always tucked and belted, pressed and exact.
BTL: You wouldn’t think a pandemic is happening when you’re watching them.
Lennox: Well, I think that was the point. For them, the world didn’t stop; they were still carrying on. They’ll just bring the world into where they are, and I really wanted that thought right there. I wanted to represent the difference of our day-to-day lives as people, civilians out in the world, and how we had to deal with that time and how frustrating it was at times. And then how the 1%, they just carried on with their business. They still had people making them food and cleaning up after them and all of that.
BTL: As you said, you’re not too into the stock world, so how was it researching stock bros and how they present themselves to the world?
Lennox: [laughs] Yeah, well, that’s the other thing is that these stock bros, we were representing so many different states in the US. Steve Cohen (Vincent D’Onofrio), I think, was in Pennsylvania. He was always bundled up and he was always wearing his half zip sweaters, which he’s very famously known to wear. And then Gabe Plotkin (Seth Rogen) lives in Florida, so he wore more pastels, more yacht wear like soft loafers, and his light linen pants. We did a lot of pastels and florals and plaids for him.
And so, we just tried to show regionally where these people were. America Ferrera‘s character was in Pittsburgh, so she was always bundled up going outside in the cold. Anthony Ramos‘ character was in Detroit, so we did darker tones for him. Detroit can be very dark and very dreary during the winter.
And then we had the college students in Austin, Taxes, so they’re a little more hipper. And then the rest of them, especially for Austin, that is kind of the cooler cities for the more liberal, especially for LGBTQIA kids, in college.
BTL: Out of curiosity, do you think any of the 1% you researched had good taste, or that they’re shoppers or stylists had good taste?
Lennox: Well, we did go that way with some of Gabe Plotkin’s lawyers. We made them very stylish. Seth and I were having the fittings and we were talking about the loafers. Originally, we bought some Gucci loafers. They’re really nice, but they were too cool. I was like, “This guy’s not cool. We need to get him loafers that are not cool, that are so stuffy, that’s really just going to show that he has no taste.”
BTL: How’d you go about depicting the college students?
Lennox: It’s a lot of soft pants, sweatpants, pajama pants. If you think that these kids are all locked in a dorm, they were all in a pod together during the pandemic, just trying to get through school. I have a 25 year old and a 17 year old, so I also take a lot of cues from them of what they like to wear, especially Myha’la Herrold‘s character. Myha’la wears this giant t-shirt with these giant skulls on it, and it reminds me of so many of the kids that come through my house at all time.
TikTok was a huge influence too, especially with Talia Ryder‘s character, Harmony. Talia and I were always discussing what the TikTok videos were that people were watching in 2020 and 2021. There were so many TikTok videos on how to wear your makeup or how to do your hair or style. She would come in and she would say, “Oh, I remember this one video that everyone was passing around.”
And so, it was really influenced by what these kids were watching during that time. It was mainly TikTok and Instagram. They’re not really the Facebook generation, that’s more for the older family members to connect on.
BTL: Costume designing is a career often built on mentorship. Who was your mentor and are you mentoring anyone at the moment?
Lennox: Oh, that’s a good question, because whenever I do these interviews and talk about costume design, I really feel like you could go to school to learn some things, but you do need a mentor. You need a mentor, and you need to learn a lot of it through experience because it’s just a different animal, especially on film and tv.
Starting out, I worked for a long time with a costume designer named Casey Storm, who worked primarily with Spike Jonze on a lot of his films. We did a lot of music videos and commercials in the ’90s, so I worked with him for a long time before I branched out on my own.
As far as mentoring now, yes, I do have a few people that work with me. The thing that’s different now than when I was first in the business and I was being mentored is there were just a handful of costume designers working on the bigger projects. Now, there’s so many, and a lot of people just kind of work with one person for a while. There are just so many people to work with now. And so, maybe I’m mentoring somebody on one project, but then that person goes with someone else on another project. I just feel like the crews are a little more fluid now than they were.
BTL: Do you usually have go-to advice for aspiring costume designers?
Lennox: Get as many hours under your belt as possible. You’re going to learn more from hands-on experience working with people. Each designer has certain techniques that you can learn from. There are certain things that I’ve done in the past that I’ve had people say, “Oh, I’ve never seen it done that way.”
A lot of the research I do, I like to kind of build my own backstory. I’m not a writer by any means, but I will write out my own backstory to where these people got their influences, where they came from, all of that, just so I have a sounding board to build on.
I believe if you want to design and create a three-dimensional character, you need to know where they came from, what influenced them, what made them, where they are now, and where they are heading. I try to incorporate all of that into design when I’m designing for a character, and then I’ll create mood boards and all of that and then take it from there.
I think assisting and mentoring and learning from other people is the best way to go about it. Our business is very unique in that. I think it’s really hard to just learn it at school, which is great for learning technique and skills, but to actually learn the business, it’s just to get out there.
Dumb Money is now playing in limited release and expands in theaters on September 30th.