When Marvel's The Defenders arrived on Netflix this month, it was a culmination of two years worth of build up, starting back in 2015, with the premiere of Daredevil Season 1. It was also the culmination of six shows' worth of work for costume designer Stephanie Maslansky, who has built her way up into being the franchise's costume guru, overseeing everything in the first seasons of Jessica Jones, Luke Cage, Iron Fist, and both seasons of Daredevil. She graciously sat down with me and talked about the experience and those The Defenders costume details you might have missed.
Speaking about the experience, Maslansky said:
I'm thrilled that I've been able to do each one of them, culminating in The Defenders. When we got towards the end of Iron Fist, I knew that I wanted to do The Defenders… and they asked me if I wanted to do The Defenders or The Punisher, and I knew right away I needed to, and wanted to, do The Defenders.
Maslansky's background was more in the realistic present day type shows like HBO's OZ or USA's White Collar, and when it comes to talking about "superhero costumes," she's more comfortable as thinking of them as "uniforms." (She kept calling Daredevil's Potter-made costume a "uniform.") But even though she keeps a New York City sensibility about what they wear, the costume palette for each are based on original illustrations from the comics.
Daredevil, his costume at one point was red and yellow, and it morphed or evolved into this red costume that was more red and black or red and grey with black touches... There was this color cast over the comics. It depends on who the illustrator was and what their design techniques were... Iron Fist was a lot of olive green tones, and Luke Cage had a lot of gold. Jessica Jones is in the navy and the purples, and Daredevil is in tones of red. So it made a lot of sense for us to carry those over into the live action stories that we were telling.
Maslansky didn't develop these individual palettes thinking that when they came together, it would distinguish them so prominently. In fact, when she started on Daredevil Season 1, she wasn't even sure if she would be asked back for the next season, let alone all five series. "When you start a relationship with a new group or company, you never know how it's going to pan out." But once they had these color tones to work with, the team decided it was the right way to go.
The director S.J. Clarkson who did the first two episodes of The Defenders and Jessica Jones, it was her idea not to try and blend them all together, but to do this contrast of each character and each palette... we wanted to do this distinction between each character and each of their worlds.
She also noted that when characters, especially the "sidekicks," crossed over from one superhero's world to the next, they would drop in little touches of the new world's color into their wardrobe. For instance, Misty (pictured above) was wearing a blue shirt under her trademark brown leather jacket when she interviewed Jessica Jones in episode 2. "That was our way of reflecting that these characters were stepping into other superheroes not in their sphere into their worlds and into their environments."
While the four main characters stuck with their wardrobes of their own series -- they're New Yorkers, they don't have large closets -- Elektra and Alexandra got looks that were based on armor, especially their coats.
[Electra's] initial costume, referencing her power and her invincibility and her immortality... in the outside world, she wouldn't necessarily be wearing it, or it would be more covered up, which is why we designed the coat to look as though it had an ethereal or otherworldy quality which would of course appeal to Alexandra's aesthetic. We were influenced by The French Lieutenant's Woman and well as The Matrix.
As for Alexandra:
Some of the clothes she wore, I wanted it to remind the audience also of an armored protection. Like the dress she wore in the board room, I wanted people to look at the metallic and think of an armored protection... She didn't wear vintage clothing, she wore modern clothing, but she wore clothing that could seem very modern... That beautiful white coat, I loved the swing-ness of it, in a way it reminded me of something from the 1950s, but at the same time it was such a modern cut and it was a beautiful color.
Maslansky revealed that with so many projects in the Netflix pipeline, she's starting to have to pick and choose. "I wish I could do them all, but I think my head might explode if I did." But she is working on Luke Cage 2, which just released the new image of Misty's bionic arm.
"I can't tell you much," she said, "but one of the things we're focusing on is the evolution of these characters, building on what's happened to them." Clearly so. We can't wait to see more.