While the story and acting are absolutely at the heart of bringing movies to life, the aesthetic details matter, too. And in an interview with Allisa Swanson, the costume designer for Netflix’s Firefly Lane, we had the opportunity to really learn about the process of creating costumes and what went into putting together three decades of looks for this movie.
For those unfamiliar with Firefly Lane, it is a series that premiered at the start of February starring Katherine Heigl and Sarah Chalke. The series follows two women whose friendship spans 30 years, covering the highs and lows that come with that length of time in anyone’s life.
And with a series that covers multiple decades, fashion is important. In fact, it helps to set the stage for so many things. Which is where Allisa Swanson comes in. As the costume designer for Firefly Lane, Swanson is the person who helps sell us on the idea that we are traveling through the decades with these characters.
Knowing how important the looks were to helping bring this series to life, we had plenty of questions for Allisa Swanson, including what it was like working on this project and where she got her inspiration.
Culturess chats with costume designer Allisa Swanson
Culturess: What was it like to work on Firefly Lane?
Allisa Swanson: It was so much fun. It was like getting to do a period type of piece, times three, because each period had their own looks and their own styles, and we were constantly bouncing back and forth between each of them. And each period, of course, had its own challenges as to what we needed to do, but it was so much fun. I have to say contemporary, I do it, but I much prefer to do period, so it was like having three shows all wrapped into one. Very cool.
Culturess: What made you want to work on this project?
Swanson: I think it was the challenge that was posed by having the three different periods and following these two women through their lifetime. And, you know, I’m about the same age of them, the actresses, both Katie and Sarah. So this took place a little bit, you know, before our time per se, since it ends in 2003, but those are periods that I grew up in. So, it was nostalgia for me. And being able to sort of pull out all the best parts of the ’70s, and the best parts of the ’80s that I remembered from even being a kid, and then bringing it to life. On top of all the extra research that we did.
Culturess: So, did you have a favorite decade to work with?
Swanson: You know, it’s so hard, because there’s so many good things and so many bad things about them, but I think, the ’80s probably was the favorite, only because within the ’80s it changes so much — how you dress them for a 1980 scene is different than how you would dress them for 1984, and then different again for 1989. So, that decade in itself has such a range in fashion and changes so much from one end to the other, that it was like its own little mini time capsule.
Culturess: I mean, it’s difficult because, like you said, there are so many different looks. But did you maybe have a favorite look overall or even from each decade?
Swanson: I really love the ’70s Cloud. Tully’s mom, she was one of my favorites in the 70s. Tully was actually quite a lot of fun in the ’70s as well. But Cloud was so cool because she’s a little bit more of a hippie. She didn’t care how she looked, but she wore very quintessential 1970s clothing, and I got to be very outlandish with some of the stuff that I put her in. So, I really loved doing that character and working with her.
When it comes to getting a better feel for a series or even a movie, knowing what went into bringing it to life can really enrich our viewing experience. And with Firefly Lane, getting even a small sneak peek into what helped to bring the story to life is enough to have us wanting to go back and do a rewatch from the very beginning — maybe while paying even closer attention to the looks each of these characters wore.