How ‘Shrill’s’ Costume Designer Crafted Annie’s ‘Intentional,’ ‘Unique’ Wardrobe

Valentina I. Valentini

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In one of the final episodes of the second season of Hulu’s “Shrill,” Annie, played by Aidy Bryant, says, “It’s such a hunt to find cool clothes for fat women.”

After two seasons, the messaging in “Shrill” is that there is a story to tell about women (and people) who have been seemingly invisible throughout fashion history. Costume designer Amanda Needham feels that message may be getting across, finally. More than a few designers reached out to her after seeing Season 1 of the show. Nooworks — a bold-look company that designs for all shapes and sizes — ended up on Bryant in Season 2, along with her own line, Pauline.

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“The fact that we have the resources to create Annie’s wardrobe makes the show really rich,” says executive producer and writer Lindy West, whose 2016 “Shrill: Notes From a Loud Woman” was a New York Times best-seller. “It’s not real life. It’s a television show, but it’s given this character an angle of humanity; she can dress and present her body to the world in a way that truly reflects exactly who she wants to project [instead of] hiding her body and covering herself up.”

When it came to designing Annie’s look, Needham, who helped Louie Anderson become Mrs. Baskets on FX’s “Baskets” and won a pair of Emmys for her costumes on “Portlandia,” had to start from scratch. “Aidy has such great style,” she says. “The challenge for me was that there wasn’t a lot of off-the-rack support. I leaned on my skills as a designer to create a look that represents that body type.”

Needham’s job often became more than just that of costume designer. “We built pieces that help with intimacy,” she says, referencing the scene in which Luka Jones’ Ryan is giving her oral sex in the woods. “We built a patch for a barrier between them. When you design and develop something like that, it’s intimate.” The show’s second season has continued in that direction — so much so that producers hired an official “intimacy coordinator.”

Clearly, intimacy and all its nuances aren’t limited to body type. But as a plus-size woman, West grew up not being able to express herself through fashion. “I had to take what I could get,” she says of her clothing options. “I never had this feeling that I could really experiment with fashion or say anything about myself through my clothes because there was one store where I could shop, and it was targeted toward 50-year-old women. To work with Amanda and Aidy to create this very intentional, beautiful, unique wardrobe for Annie was really fun to watch.” 

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