‘Dickinson’ Costume Designer on Loving Emily’s Opera Dress & Season 2’s Floral Inspirations
Apple TV+’s Dickinson gets a lot of credit for its modern sensibility, and for the clothes that serve to keep things grounded in the world of a period drama. In Season 2, Emily Dickinson (Hailee Steinfeld) and crew step up their fashion game with the help of costume designer Jennifer Moeller, and we spoke with her about the choices she made.
“Last season there was one party, this season there are many parties in many places,” said Moeller, “which has been a real treat to design.” This includes a night at the opera in the recent episode, “Split the Lark,” when the whole family gets to drapes themselves in silks, velvets and lace. The “beautiful midnight velvet dress for the opera [is] probably one of my favorite pieces this season,” Moeller said of Emily’s gown.
She compared its impact to the ravishing red silk dress Emily wears in Season 1 during her encounters with Death (Wiz Khalifa).
The gowns do more than convey glamor, they can help illustrate a character’s transformation, such as that of Emily’s love, Sue (Ella Hunt), trading in her black Season 1 mourning gowns (a result of being orphaned) for the bright and gaudy getups worn as Austin Dickinson’s (Adrian Blake Enscoe) wife.
“They’ve all changed in some way, but Sue’s [transformation] is definitely the biggest,” Moeller said.
Designing the day wear has been equally interesting, said Moeller — and more of a challenge, as there are no real records of how Emily dressed day to day.
“There’s not a lot that exists in terms of the clothing from the [Dickinson] family,” Moeller explained. So, for inspiration, she visited the Dickinson Homestead, now a museum, in Amherst, Massachusetts, more than once. On her first visit, during Season 1, she said, “I had a long chat with the director. I was hoping that there’d be some, like, magic trunk. There wasn’t, but it was helpful to be there.”
Perhaps most helpful for Season 2, she said, were Dickinson’s books of pressed flowers. “There was something really moving about flipping through pages and seeing these flowers,” she said. The dresses she designed “embraced those florals.”
Case in point: The yellow floral from Season 2, in the episode “The Daisy follows the Sun,” when Emily’s bird-watching and maze-walking,
Moeller said she was actually struck overall by Dickinson’s love of botany and nature.
“That’s what spoke to me the most when I was [visited the Homestead]. I’ve been there in the winter and summer [when] you can see where all her gardens are and see that connection she had to nature.”
Dickinson, Season 2, New Episodes, Fridays, Apple TV+