Vagabond Shoes, Longing to Stray: "Girls" Costume Designer Discusses the HBO Show's Footwear Fashion

Vagabond Shoes, Longing to Stray: "Girls" Costume Designer Discusses the HBO Show's Footwear Fashion
Allison Williams, Jemima Kirke, Lena Dunham, and Zosia Mamet on HBO's "Girls"
(Photo by Mark Seliger)

For a 30-minute comedy, there’s a lot to take in when watching “Girls.” HBO’s latest attempt to explain how 20-something city-dwellers live now, “Girls” — only three episodes in, as of last night — has managed to arouse deeply held opinions among various sets of urban trend-seekers.

On one day, it’s a revolutionary moment for television, allowing the voices of young females to be fine-tuned until they’re absolutely accurate, and then amplified. On another, it’s the subject of vitriol from all corners of the commentariat. Some claim it lacks diversity, or is anything but authentic; others say it’s just not that funny.

And then there’s a point of contention that’s just as divisive: what exactly are they wearing? The four main characters each assume the style personalities of four distinctly different New Yorkers, and in terms of accuracy, they hit the mark often enough.

But this hasn’t stanched the barrage of online criticism of the show’s style, as viewers have been more than forthcoming with their complaints about the costumes on “Girls.”

And, whether you like the outfits or not, you must admit, these ensembles are as put-together as any costume-heavy period drama. Protagonist Hannah (Lena Dunham) assembles her looks from a roster of clothes so deep, each item meticulously chosen, it’s as if she takes off two days a week to shop at thrift stores on Bedford Avenue. And then the others: Marnie (Allison Williams) is a classed-up working girl, Jessa (Jemima Kirke) a hobo chic aficionada of post-Olsen Twins Manhattan, and Shoshanna (Zosia Mamet) dresses like she’s a NYU version of Charlotte York wandering alone on Little West 12th Street in 1999.

“I spent a ton of time trekking through Williamsburg,” costume designer Jenn Rogein told the Cut last month, a few weeks before the show’s premiere. “I live in Brooklyn, so I spent a lot of time just looking at people as I was going about my day. In the story, the girls live in Greenpoint, but one of them works in Manhattan, and Hannah [Lena’s character] has an internship in Manhattan, so we wanted to find clothing that would support that kind of existence.”

To achieve this goal, Rogein sifted through the racks at Lord & Taylor (for the infrequently used workday outfits) and also a series of celebrated haunts such as Atlantis Attic, Beacon’s Closet, Brooklyn Flea, and Geminola — a West Village boutique owned by Jemima Kirke’s mother.

And what about the shoes? This being the so-called anti-“Sex and the City,” there won’t be many Manolos popping up. Rogein talked to the Footwear News section of WWD today about how she picked the kicks for each girl, further explaining the look of the show and how it came together.  

Hannah gets to wear “something more indie and hippie” while her slightly more elegant co-stars trot about in Nine West, Alexander McQueen heels, and huarache sandals.

And in case you weren’t already excited for the rest of the season: “There is an incredible pair of shoes coming up at the very end in the season finale during a special event that happens,” Rogein said.

But most of the shoes on the show fall short of incredible, and that’s no matter. We’re just glad that the girls of “Girls” have something sturdy and stylish to support their feet as they flit between vintage stores, scurry in late to an internship, or embark on an early-morning walk of shame.