Meet Alana Morshead, the costume designer behind Do Revenge’s most iconic looks
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If you’ve tuned into Netflix’s latest hit film Do Revenge, you’ve probably left thinking about three things: “Glennergy,” the number of iconic film references and the incredible fashion. The twisty revenge tale, written and directed by Jennifer Kaytin Robinson, highlights the bond between former queen bee Drea (Camila Mendes) and Eleanor (Maya Hawke), an awkward transfer student, as they try to get back at the ones who wronged them — the former, her ex who leaked a sex tape, and the latter, the girl from camp who outed her.
With a smattering of iconic film references ranging from Clueless and Jawbreaker to Mean Girls, the movie is brimming with iconic looks. And the mastermind behind the candy-coated style? Costume designer Alana Morshead. Working closely with Robinson, she crafted the movie’s most memorable fashion moments: from the pastel mint green and lavender school uniforms to Drea’s admissions party chain-link ‘90s runway number.
In our latest Gen AP interview, we speak to Morshead about the inspiration behind some of Do Revenge’s best costumes and what projects she has coming up next.
How did you first get into styling and costume design?
I grew up in England, and I didn't even know what a costume designer was. I just knew I always loved clothes. I got my undergrad and all of my electives were film. I still didn't know what I wanted to do, and I was like, "Well, I love film. I go to film school." I go to film school, and they teach you everything but costume design. When I graduated film school in 2008, I needed a job, so I started assisting a celebrity stylist, and that ranged from picking up things from boutiques to taking her dog to the vet to being on set doing dry cleaning. While I was doing that, another friend of mine was working on commercials as an assistant and said, "Oh, you're assisting the stylist. You want to work on this commercial?"
So, I started assisting on commercials, and then after a while, I really learned what art is, and there is a place for loving clothes, but also loving film. I didn't ever just want to be a fashion designer or have my own line — I just loved clothes. Growing up in England, I didn't know that this really was a job. My first job when I was 15 was at McDonald's because I could walk there from my house, and my entire paycheck just went to buying clothes. I had a lightbulb moment after I graduated film school, like "Oh, there is a way to marry the two of them."
How did you pull from different '90s movies to create the looks in Do Revenge?
I mean, it really began [with] making boards. When I read the script, I felt like it already showcased what the vibe was. When I chatted with the director Jenn, it was apparent that we were on the same page — my mood boards — so it clicked from the beginning. It was just the script that made it clear to me who these characters were — especially knowing that it was going to be Maya and Cami — that also helps create the character because you know what colors will look good on them or what silhouettes would look good on them. So, it was really watching a lot of those movies and then just scouring Pinterest for hours, looking at pictures, looking at magazines from back then, looking at ads. But one of my biggest references, when I'm researching a job, is Instagram because it's just so "now." You can wear anything you want, be yourself and express yourself through clothing.
In the opening party scene, Camila's outfit seemed to parallel Cher failing her driver's test in Clueless. Was that look meant to allude to that?
That particular [outfit] wasn't the inspo for that, but Cher [and] the movie did. Maybe subconsciously it did. That was definitely one of the movies that I watched, loved and grew up on. It was coming from that era and that vibe.
How did you land on the color palette for the school uniforms?
We wanted to have all these fun clothes, colors and prints outside of school, but how do we make that a uniform that's also believable and not completely over the top? I think that the pastels just felt so Miami. When we were figuring out what we wanted them to be, after playing around, [we] really landed on these two colors complementing each other. At one point, we thought about doing five different colors, but then it was like, "OK, now it's going to be too much." There was going to be pastel yellow and a baby blue, but it started to feel like it was too overcomplicated and a bit too chaotic.
The whole senior ring dinner scene gave me Romy And Michele's High School Reunion vibes. Was that the inspiration for the scene?
For the ring dinner, Jenn said the colors were baby blue, off-white and silver. We wanted to do something for Drea that still felt pretty powerful — not a dress like everyone else. We don't see Eleanor in dresses that much, so at the ring dinner when she's really trying to fit in and losing herself in this group, we see her in a dress. Drea is the one taking control and in power, so we put her in those baby blue, high-waisted slacks but still find a way to make it hers.
Tell me about how you conceived Drea and Eleanor's looks for the makeover scene.
That's probably one of my favorite pieces. We made that piece that Drea is wearing. Because makeover scenes are just so pivotal in all the movies we love, I wanted it to feel really Miami, over the top, and so Drea, of course, is in a hot pink houndstooth outfit. I really wanted to put her in something that felt like she is confident and the queen bee and she still knows who she is and can move around comfortably. She had lower heels on, so it wasn't something uncomfortable. This was like an assignment for her, so she's also dressed "practically." It's such an iconic scene, so I really wanted to have her in something that would be really memorable.
Why was fashion so pivotal to Do Revenge's storyline?
Because it is such a fun movie. In all the movies that we love, style really is a huge factor in Clueless, Jawbreaker and in Romy And Michele. Those are the things you remember as being part of a cult classic. When we see Halloween costumes or if someone says, "Oh, the Romy And Michele outfits," or talk about Cher's yellow plaid outfit, everybody knows what you're talking about. It's just trying to create those moments where you instantly know 10 or 20 years from now it would be amazing to add to these cult movies that we love.
So, what's your next project after Do Revenge?
I'm currently designing a TV show for Hulu called Tiny Beautiful Things, starring Kathryn Hahn, based on a book by Cheryl Strayed. It's very emotional and very intense, and it's going to be a beautiful show. That's what is great about my job: Every project is so different. I have a movie on Amazon coming out in December called Something From Tiffany's. It's the classic, New York Christmas rom-com with Zoey Deutch. I'm so excited for that to come out, too, because they're all such different stories. Finding a way to bring in style or develop characters more through the wardrobe is such a fun part of my job.
How did you go about styling Sarah Michelle Gellar as headmaster, considering all of the references to Cruel Intentions?
Since we only see her at school and she has some emotionally important scenes with Drea, it was a fine line of not putting her in something that was distracting or taking you out of the scene. My job is to add to scenes and enhance these characters. I never want to be distracting or take away from performances. Since we only see her at school, we didn't want to just do something where it felt boring or like, "Oh yeah, we'll just put her in a blouse and a pantsuit." Like still giving her an identity of who she is but fitting into this world that we created. Her color palette is still in the same feel as the school. Classic, clean lines were the way to go with her. She was professional, but she still had her own style. She fit in with the school and with the movie.
What are your favorite projects that you've worked on?
Maybe the movie I just mentioned, Something From Tiffany's. A New York rom-com is at the top of my list, and the people that you work with also can make the experience better. This TV show [Tiny Beautiful Things] and that movie, they're both Hello Sunshine productions. Really working with people you love and respect who value your opinion…I've really, really felt that with Hello Sunshine.