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Getting ‘Physical': How Creating Rose Byrne’s Retro Threads Went Beyond the ’80s Norm

TheWrap Emmys Magazine: Costume designer Kameron Lennox talks Jane Fonda’s influence and the shifting styles of the Reagan Era

This story about “Physical” first appeared in the Comedy & Drama Series issue of TheWrap’s awards magazine.

Olivia Newton-John sang of the rewards of getting physical in the early 1980s, but costume designer Kameron Lennox knows there is much more to her job than busting out the pastel-colored leotards and throwing on a few choice headbands. In the case of AppleTV+’s “Physical”, starring Rose Byrne as a people-pleasing fitness enthusiast who seeks to make herself a brand while juggling aid to her needy, would-be-politician husband (Rory Scovel), raising a daughter and secretly trying to keep an eating disorder at bay, the key thing was simply making sure everything, as Olivia also sang, let the body talk.

“There were a lot of meetings and fittings and discussions with Rose, and I needed to make sure that she could feel comfortable in these leotards and move and jump around a room,” said Lennox, who also costumed Hulu’s “Pam & Tommy”, which takes place roughly a decade later than “Physical”. “It was a lot of tweaking here and there. The fittings were fun but there was a real pressure to get it right, because we were truly creating a character with Rose.”

Illustration by Heathyr Lawrence

Lennox and her crew wanted to avoid kitsch, which would distract viewers from the tribulations of Byrne’s Sheila, who undergoes quite a personality transformation through the show’s debut season. (The second season began airing on June 3.) The clothing also had to echo the ever-changing political climate depicted onscreen, with a chronology not as rigid as it might seem, as the series often uses a late 1970s palette as its guide before depicting the fashion clashes of the early 1980s.

“Something we were trying to touch on in “Physical” is that 1981 was the beginning of the Reagan years, and things had changed a lot coming out of the 1970s, which was a little looser and freer, and then we went into these conservative ’80s.” Lennox said. “Showrunner Annie Weisman and I both grew up in Southern California then, and we had a lot of conversations and compared notes on what it was like to be a kid in the ’70s. And then a lot of money and conservative political views later came into the beach communities. It did shift as far as clothing goes.”

Illustration by Heathyr Lawrence

The process involved making some outfits from scratch and sourcing others, but Lennox said that what people think of 1980s fashion came much later than the events depicted in Season 1. “People think of these bright colors, but a lot of activewear and leotards came from ballet. We were just trying to touch on the roots of it,” Lennox said. “I tried to show that this is all homemade stuff. Sheila was creating it for herself because she was creating this business and that was her commodity, you know, her funk. I got those references from doing a lot of research on Jane Fonda (and her workout empire) because she really started out doing exercise classes in her ballet classes.”

Lennox’s work will not be seen in the second season of “Physical” because she is hard at work on the Apple TV+ series “Platonic” starring…Rose Byrne. (And co-starring Seth Rogen, who is one of the stars of “Pam & Tommy”.) “I’m very excited to see (Season 2),” she said. “I’m talking to Rose about it constantly. I have to say, working with Seth and Rose on all these shows really feels like family.”

Read more from the Comedy & Drama Series issue here.

Photos by Jill Greenberg for TheWrap

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