Since its debut last year, Shrill has pushed the conversations around body positivity forward through its heroine, Portland writer Annie Easton (Aidy Bryant), as she learns to embrace her voice and stand up for herself in a world that so often underestimates her. Shrill costume designer Amanda Needham breaks down the vibrant styles of Annie and the cast, describing her choices and influences that help shape each character’s journey through season 2.
After finding out that Vic is seeing other people, Fran (Lolly Adefope) is down in the dumps and it’s up to Annie (Aidy Bryant) to cheer her up with a girl’s night out. As they go to a friend’s event, Fran wears a blue jumpsuit adorned with a dancing striped tiger, a nod to her fierce, free self. And Annie, like any good best friend would do, promises to finally wear the Christmas present that Fran gave her – a bra top with heart embellishments. “For both Annie and Fran arriving at the party, it was important to have a contrast in a mood change – out of sweats and into outfits that were bold helped support them in this scene,” Needham said. “For Annie, we went with a bra top styled with a skirt because why the hell not?”
As The Thorn’s resident wildcard fashionista, Ruthie (Patti Harrison) is no stranger to a bold look. For her 1970s-themed roller rink birthday extravaganza, Needham chose a retro-inspired tailored neon orange jumpsuit with neon pink accents. “It was important to me that she arrived having a 70’s flare but that it wasn’t too period centered for her – it didn’t feel in line with her character,” Needham explained. “Ruthie makes the rules but doesn’t necessarily follow them, and once we put this jumpsuit on, I didn’t want to see anything else.” To complete the look, Needham added the tinted red lip sunglasses, a “dot I needed to connect the viewers with Ruthie’s charming way of pushing things slightly over the top.”
Annie and Ryan get into the 70s spirit with their outfits, Ryan (Luka Jones) opting for a tight blue t-shirt paired with red short-shorts, both accented with white piping. “Most of what Ryan wears feels seventies-inspired, so it wasn’t that much of a reach for him,” Needham said. Meanwhile, Annie opts for a retro-style lemon yellow floral dress with ruffled sleeves. “We took bits from the seventies and created what we wanted to see on her,” Needham explained. Maybe the dress was something that Annie found and altered herself to “make it more interesting.” As for the color, Needham said it was an intentional moment to “serve as a contrast in this otherwise sea of pretty awkward moments for Annie.”
Meeting the parents is always a nerve-wracking prospect and in an attempt to impress Annie’s parents (Daniel Stern and Julia Sweeney), Ryan opts to wear something a little fancier than his usual shirt-and-shorts combo. “Ryan’s shirt wasmeant to feel a little off, like he dressed up for the dinner party as a way to show him committing,” Needham said. Constructing the shirt was a process as Needham described, given that the material for the first design was too thin and sweat showed through. Her team redesigned the shirt with different material in under an hour while the lighting for the shot was still being set up. The shiny olive-colored shirt becomes a topic of conversation at the dinner where Ryan presents bright red sports jackets as gifts for Annie’s parents, and tensions between Annie and her mother boil up. “The color was meant to be a compliment to the loud sports coats he was presenting,” Needham explained.
To truly capture the vibrancy of a lavish Nigerian wedding, Needham dove deep into research, working with a Nigerian wedding photographer to break down contemporary tribal weddings looks. She also looked at how Nigerian-Americans have modernized traditional wedding outfits. “This was important because Fran’s cousin grew up in the States, so I wanted a mix of traditional but realistic for our wedding party,” Needham explained. Fran’s family is Yoruba, and per Yoruba culture, the bride picks the color palette for her family to wear – in this case, a rich violet shade. Needham initially had all the groomsmen suits made in Nigeria but when the color didn’t match the dresses made by her team, she found a designer in New York to remake them in the right shade of purple. The episode sees tension between Fran and her mother (Patrice Johnson) and extended family boil up, but they mend their rift and celebrate with a dance, her mother’s traditional dress and accessories both contrasting and complimenting Fran’s modern embroidered suit. “We kept the wedding pretty traditional but had moments like in Fran’s suit, where I picked a purple brocade with a more tailored cropped suit to show Fran’s respect for her culture in the color but leaning into a more stylish Fran style,” Needham said.
Annie is back at The Thorn and ready to hit the ground running as her editor gives her a juicy assignment to cover a convention for women in business – WAHAM (Women Are Having A Moment). In keeping with the theme, Needham opted to give businesswoman extraordinaire and WAHAM founder Justine Kylie (Vanessa Bayer) a millennial pink power suit. “I wanted you to see Vanessa and immediately relate to who that person is – clean lines, iconic moments, inspirational but approachable,” Needham said. The pink suit was a statement, but she pointed out that opting for a double-breasted blazer elevated the look. Meanwhile, there’s a season 1 throwback in Annie’s outfit. “It was important that she stood out, but I also wanted to reintroduce the black smock,” Needham explained. “The Rachel Antonoff patched shirt was the perfect combination.”
Annie has found her footing back at The Thorn and her work husband Amadi (Ian Owens) has settled into his new role as managing editor, and the two are both hitting their stride. Annie’s pink check dress is a staple silhouette that she normally wears, but it’s the deep pink shade that holds significance, a color that “we wanted to really make sure popped, like a ‘look who’s back’ moment,” Needham explained. Meanwhile, Amadi style evolves as he becomes the boss. “We’re using more of a mixed business casual look while keeping his stylish undertone,” Needham said.
As Gabe (John Cameron Mitchell) belts out a moving rendition of David Bowie’s Moonage Daydream at his houseparty, a moment of vulnerability driven by his insecurity over his job, Needham wanted to make sure all eyes were on him in his black shirt emblazoned with Bowie-esque red lightning bolts. “It was important to me that the viewer saw Gabe without distraction here, because it humanizes him,” Needham explained. The initial idea had been for Gabe to wear a cape to this party, but Needham wanted to steer away from anything reminiscent of Mitchell’s Broadway background (as the co-creator and star of Hedwig and the Angry Inch).
Ruthie isn’t the only fashionista at The Thorn, as Calendar Cody (Gary Richardson) burst onto the scene in season 2 with his slick and bold style. Needham didn’t have to look much further than Richardson’s own “fire vibe” personal style to come up with looks for his character. “Cody became the style legend for us all,” Needham effused. “I wanted to show that Cody could pull anything off, from a leopard-print jacket to a suit with birkenstocks and socks — he literally looked good in everything.” Meanwhile, it’s HR training day at The Thorn (instigated by Annie and Ryan’s in-office escapade) and Annie has made sure to look as professional as possible in a high-neck floral dress. “This Annie dress was one of my favorite dresses because of the pattern and high neck,” Needham explained. “When we fit it, I think I actually gasped.”
Season 2 closes out with Fran’s celebration of herself, bringing Annie and her friends together (pictured here alongside Emily Fightmaster) to reflect on her growth and self-love. It’s also a moment of realization for Annie as she evaluates her relationship with Ryan and her own insecurities. “Fran Fest was an important event to illustrate that self love was the hero of the entire season,” Needham explained. “Red has been our signature color for powerful moments- think about Annie in season 1 when she got her groove back in her red floral dress, or or the confident plus size woman that she sees walking down the street, also in a bold red dress.” It was with this hot girl vibe in mind that Needham crafted Annie’s green dress. “We knew she would be breaking up with Ryan and we wanted it to feel like a real ‘Oh, our girl is gonna be just fine’ moment.”