Set against the backdrop of the vibrant 1970s music scene, Daisy Jones and the Six transports viewers on a captivating journey through the complexities of fame, love, and musical creativity. A major reason for the show’s transportive quality is the costume design by Denise Wingate which breathes life into these characters, infusing over 1500 outfits with the spirit of the era and the unique personalities of the band members.
From Daisy’s bohemian chic ensembles that exude a carefree yet rebellious spirit, to the rock ‘n’ roll edge of the band’s signature leather jackets, Wingate’s meticulous attention to detail is evident in every choice. In our conversation, she sheds light on her approach to seaming together textures, colors, and silhouettes that enhance the visual aesthetics of the show and deepen our understanding of the characters and their inner worlds, specifically through Daisy whose identity evolves over the course of the show through her costuming. Wingate also expresses her perspective on the resonance of the 70s style in today’s fashion trends.
Read our full conversation with Daisy Jones and the Six costume designer Denis Wingate below.
Hi, this is Danny Jarabek here with Awards Radar, and I am very happy to be speaking with Denise Wingate. She is the costume designer for Daisy Jones & the Six. And I’ve got to say, I am jealous of her job because the costumes in this show are just spectacular. Denise, thank you so much for joining me today.
Denise: Thank you for having me, Danny. I’m glad you like the costumes!
Yes, absolutely. I mean, who can’t love a 70s era costume design?
Denise: Yeah. It was kind of the perfect job for me. I was super excited about it. I don’t think I’ve ever been as excited to do a show as I was for this one, for sure.
Yeah. That’s kind of where I wanted to start. This era, this type of range and register you were operating in for this show, 70s LA, was that something you had done before? Was it something new for you? Was that something you were looking to do?
Denise: I had done a 70s movie before, but nothing like this, I mean, because of the musical aspect of it. I was born and raised in LA, right outside of LA, and I was going to clubs very young, so I was very heavy into the music scene. It’s kind of my era. So, when I read the book, I could visualize it because I knew the clubs, I knew everything that they were talking about in the book. It just really spoke to me in a way that other scripts hadn’t, or in this particular case, the book. So, then I just knew. I was like, “I’ve got to get this.” And there’s not a lot of 70s shows that go on anyway. They’re kind of hard to come by, so I really went all out to make sure I could get in the door and meet on this one.
Yeah. So, what was that process like for you in the early stages, building a vision for this show, and how did you come to be a part of it?
Denise: Well, I had read the book. Our producer, Mike Nelson, I had worked with before and I was shooting another movie in New Orleans. He had said, “Hey, you should read this book. Let me know what you think.” And I read it in one sitting. I literally did not get up. I read the whole book. I just didn’t get up. And I just said, “I really, really want to do this. I know there’s going to be a lot of people that want to meet on it, but just get me in the room and get me an interview,” with Hello Sunshine, Lauren Neustadter and Amazon. So, I had some time because I had read the book early on. I was so invested at this point that I just did a whole visual representation of the book. I had a couple months of really, really creating this look book that was basically the book in visual pictures. And I think that really helped. I think they saw that I wanted it to be realistic and look like a documentary, which is how the book read. I don’t know if you read the book or not, but it’s very similar to the way we shot it. So, I really fought hard.
Yeah. So, of course, the book was your first source of inspiration that drew you into this world. What was your process of picking apart what you wanted to bring from the book? Were there specific things that were mentioned in the book that you wanted to make sure made it into the show? What was your process of building from the literature to what you were doing visually?
Denise: I mean, for sure, Taylor Jenkins Reid, she was so descriptive about so many particular outfits. I felt like the ones that she really described we should definitely include because the fans would be expecting it. I was such a huge fan, I know that had I not designed it myself, I would be expecting certain things that were described in the book. Then, other things were just a jumping off point. Also, the actors came in and they brought in their own sensibility and their own character style to the characters. You want them to be able to discover their character and hopefully I can help them do that with their costumes. Because I had done so much research, I had different boards for different characters. So, they came in, and by the time they met with me, I had all of these visuals, so they could use that as a jumping off point and say, “Oh, I really like this. I really love the way Patti Smith looked. I really love the way Linda Ronstadt looked.” And really, they could see where I was going with it and then I think that helped them and then they changed a bit as well. Because of our shutdown because of COVID, we had more time to have conversations. We had more time to have fittings. The more time you have, the more layers you can peel from the proverbial onion.
Yeah. You talk about what the actors brought to this, their sensibilities. What is that collaboration and that back and forth with you and them and having that time to build these characters out? What conversations were you having with Riley [Keogh] and the whole crew about what was going to be the sensibility of these characters and how were you going to bring that to life?
Denise: Well, it’s interesting. Costume design is a very intimate process. You’re standing there with somebody who’s basically naked. So, there has to be a level of trust. I’ve been doing this a very long time and sometimes you get actors the night before they work. They come in and you’re hoping that what you have is what they’re seeing or how they feel or does stuff fit. You’re really hoping that happens. The first time I met Riley, she’s a very private person, she’s a very reserved person. I think she was processing a lot. Processing the character. I think she was still figuring out the character. They hadn’t really started band camp yet, so they didn’t know the songs. They didn’t know how they were going to perform and how the clothes were going to move. And it’s interesting because I look back now at our very first fitting back in January of 2020 and we didn’t use any of that. It was interesting because had we just gone ahead and started shooting, it would have been good, but we really had time to mine the character and really had time to try on different things. And she could figure out what she felt comfortable in and once she started performing, she could figure out what looked good performing. The very first time I saw her perform, I saw her twirling and I knew we had to incorporate that, some sort of flowy outfit, because she looked like a butterfly, and she was very free spirited. But you don’t see that when somebody is standing against a wall, standing there straight. You can’t envision how it’s going to look when they’re performing. So, it was interesting. It was interesting. We were really lucky. We were blessed with some extra time.
So, with Riley, with this titular character, how did you kind of shape her over time too because we see her in earlier eras in the 60s before she has become a major part of the band. How did her costume evolve as her character evolves?
Denise: Yeah. It was hard because you really have to show the span of time. We had two actresses playing her really young and then as a 13-year-old, but she has to go from a 16/17-year-old all the way up to an adult in the 90s. Luckily, I worked very closely with hair and makeup. There were a lot of conversations. I worked really, really closely with the whole Hello Sunshine team and Lauren Neustadter in particular. There was open dialogue all the time about what they should be wearing and how we were going to achieve this look of having somebody look young. And I think by having Riley in the beginning wearing short denim shorts and cowboy boots and braids, she looked youthful. And I really did love young Linda Ronstadt. That’s kind of who I envisioned because she really was that age, and she really was out there in clubs in LA and performing. Then, when Daisy becomes more successful, then we went into more of the Stevie Nicks, a little more glamorous, a little more outrageous and that was fun as well. I think we did a really nice arc, a really nice character arc, of being able to see how she grows.
Yeah, absolutely. I think you can see just in the way that she dresses over time how her character is changing, so I think that really comes through. Something I’m always curious with with costume designers is what are you thinking about in terms of … because there’s a performance element to this too. What are you thinking about in terms of the flowy caftan versus a different type of look where she has maybe less movement. How are you functioning in terms of how these characters are going to operate in these clothes, too, performance-wise?
Denise: Well, that’s what I was saying is when I was first doing fittings, they weren’t performing. They were just learning the songs. Everybody in the band I gave a 70s costume too so they could feel like what it was like, especially for the guys. They were wearing really tight hip huggers, completely not what they’re used to. So, I gave everybody something so they could get the feel of what a 70s costume would be like. The band, they performed all their own songs, saying all their own songs, played all their own instruments, and we did one showcase for a very limited group of people, some of the Amazon executives, all of our producers, and it was the first time I’d see them perform. I was completely wowed, but then everything changed. I was like, “Okay, we’ve got to do this. We need to focus on this.” I think in the beginning I had Riley in little vests and tighter things with no movement, and we just really switched that up.
Yeah. So, how did you go about sourcing these things, too? I’m sure you were pulling from all over the place. Were you pulling a lot of vintage? Were you making a lot of looks? What was your process in terms of where this was coming from?
Denise: Yeah. I mean, we had over 1500 costumes just for the—
Denise: …not even counting the background. So, luckily, in Los Angeles we have amazing costume houses, so I pulled a lot from the costume houses. Unfortunately, there were like three other 70s movies going on at the same time, so everybody was fighting for stuff. It was limited resources. But I went to all of the vintage stores in LA, all the way up from San Francisco down to Palm Springs. Wherever I would go, I would go to vintage stores everywhere. I went to the flea markets. We have great flea markets. Usually, they kind of rotate once a month, like Rose Bowl, Pasadena, Long Beach. So, every weekend I would go. And people knew me. They didn’t know what I was doing, but all the vendors knew that I was looking for 70 stuff. Then, luckily, when we were shut down because of COVID and things were closed, we had online resources. So, I would be on Etsy, eBay, everywhere. All the vintage sites. I had different people making different things. I had a leather maker. I have a long-time seamstress named Rosalina Medina who’s been with me for 20 years. She was making really beautiful, elaborate, hand-beaded things for me. I found a woman who had designed jumpsuits for Elvis back in the 70s and she made two beautiful coats for me. Then, I also used some new stuff if I felt like it was part of the vibe. I used a lot of Free People and then they ended up doing a capsule line based on Daisy Jones, and they were really wonderful to collaborate with. I didn’t have anything to do with the design, but they were really nice in sort of including me and they gave me some free stuff that was so beautiful in the show. And it was perfect. So come again, those collaborations I’m so happy to do if it works with what we’re doing. Levi’s Was great. I worked with them. I would just buy stuff if it looked like it was part of the period, and if I couldn’t tell the difference, then it was fine with me. It was all about the big picture.
Mm-hmm. Were there any looks that were particularly challenging to put together or something that you’re really proud of in how it ended up culminating?
Denise: I think the most difficult part is we did a lot of montage scenes. The very, very first day of shooting, we had 56 costume changes. 56. And we had to change them on set. So, it was this constant rotation of clothing. Every outfit I wanted to be perfect, spectacular. And then when I watched the show, I realized how much got cut out. So, I think that was really, really hard for me to see how much work went into it, or these amazing boots I found in Berlin, and you never saw them. So, Stuff like that, I think that’s a little heartbreaking. We built this amazing, beautiful dress for the cover shoot of the Aurora album and we were shooting in the desert. I worked on this for months. It took me three times to get this dress beautiful. I had two different people make versions of it. And then when we got there, it was snowing, so I had to cover it up with a coat, with a fur coat, so you never even saw it. So, when you do stuff like that, it’s just so heartbreaking. It’s soul sucking when you figure out how much passion and time went into it and thought. I just thought it was such a great design. So, whomp whomp.
Yeah, absolutely. I’m sure that’s difficult. Yeah. I wanted to ask about the caftans that are just so stunning and so gorgeous. Can you elaborate a little bit on how that came to be, how you brought that to life?
Denise: Well, there’s a lot. I mean, if you research, caftans were huge in the 70s. And I love a good caftan. I’m all about the caftans. And I found some beautiful vintage ones. Like I said, Rosa, my seamstress, we made some. When we were in Greece, I had a seamstress who was from Poland, she made some beautiful caftans for me. And I kind of sourced them everywhere. I knew caftans were going to be a big part of this show. Then, the one at the end, the gold one, that was Riley’s idea. She was like, “I think we should dress like Gold Dust Woman,” and she had heard the song on the radio and called me and she’s like, “Gold Dust Woman. That’s what we need to do for the finale.” And we had been thinking of it and we couldn’t really decide. It was totally her idea. So, we found this Halston … it was basically like a giant tent, and we cut it down the middle to make a cape and then found this beautiful, vintage gold crocheted dress. So, it was kind of the perfect outfit, but again, because that didn’t shoot until Episode 10, we had time to think about it and time to try different things. I remember I made like four different versions of a Gold Dust Woman outfit that were beautiful, but we didn’t end up using because we were like, “We can do better. We can do better.” So, if you don’t have the time, then it’s good enough, but if you have the time, you can make it amazing.
I love that. Yeah. That’s really cool to hear. I know that you all really just kind of fed off that energy and the challenge is kind of turned into this opportunity to really dive in and add all these layers. So, that’s really cool to hear that it made its way through into the costumes as well. I have to ask, talking to a costume designer, is there a resurrection today of Daisy’s 70s era looks? I’ve got to know what is the next trend. I’ve got to keep up here.
Denise: I’ve got to say, Instagram has gone bananas with Daisy Jones. I wake up every day, and I don’t even want to check my Instagram because I have hundreds of private messages. I try to answer everybody and there’s a lot of young people that are into fashion and are going to college and they want to know how I got started. And I’m so happy that people are interested in it and are inspired by it. I like to think that there’s been a resurgence of 70s because I’ve kind of seen it out there online, but I don’t want to take responsibility, or I don’t want to take credit for it. Maybe it was just in the zeitgeist, and it was going to happen anyway. I guarantee you; I think that these long coats with fur collars are going to come back. Maybe not right now because it’s summer, but I guarantee caftans are going to be big. Maybe in the fall there will be those long coats with the fur collars because they’re sexy. They’re beautiful. It’s a great look. And if somebody can wear short shorts and knee-high boots with a trench coat, then have at it.
Absolutely. Well, thank you so much for your time. I really appreciated talking Daisy Jones. And congratulations on this show and all of your work in it. It really shows through all of the incredible looks that you put together. So, thank you so much, Denise. I really appreciate it.
Denise: Oh, Danny, thank you so much for having me. I appreciate it.