When “Hacks” costume designer Kathleen Felix-Hager first dressed Jean Smart in layered leopard print and red pants and jewelry, the legendary actor wasn’t quite sure it would work.
“Sometimes she’d give me a side-eye look and say, ‘I don’t know about this one,’ but then she would walk on set and people would think she looked amazing,” Felix-Hager said in an installment of Variety Artisans presented by HBO. “So little by little she started to trust me more.”
In creating the looks for veteran Vegas comedian Deborah Vance (Smart), Felix-Hager created mood boards on Pinterest, influenced by unique color palettes. While Felix-Hager cites comics Joan Rivers and Phyllis Diller as “minor inspirations,” she said it was important that Smart’s character was not derivative.
“I really wanted to give Deborah Vance her own identity,” she said. “[Jean] was really game to mix up the patterns. It’s not her particular aesthetic, so it helped her become Deborah and understand who Deborah was.”
Felix-Hager said she wanted Ava, played by Hannah Einbinder, to look “so different” from Deborah, her high-waisted pants and vintage t-shirt in the pilot contrasting Smart’s elegant, done-up look.
“Ava was the trickier character. It was really important to get her look authentically L.A.,” Felix-Hager said. “Hannah Einbinder walked into the first fitting with those Doc Marten boots, and I just knew they had to be a part of Ava’s wardrobe.”
Felix-Hager said her favorite outfit in the show is the black dress Deborah wears at her daughter’s birthday party.
“We really wanted to make her as sexy as we could, and yet she was completely covered,” she said. “It was a very inexpensive dress that we recut and remade. I love that you can take something affordable for most people and make it look so beautiful.”
Watch the full video above.