Wearing all black is a statement, a lifestyle, a uniform for the too-cool New York City crowd. Natasha Lyonne’s Nadia blends in perfectly in her East Village stomping ground wearing the black blazer, blouse, and pants that are her signature look in hit Netflix show Russian Doll.
But there’s also a more practical reason for her colorlessness. Throughout the series, created by Lyonne, Amy Poehler, and Leslye Headland, Nadia dies over and over again, and resets at her birthday party. Because of the many possible causes for death—some bloodier than others—the black outfit proved sturdiest against spills, falls, and crashes.
It’s not just Nadia’s cool birthday suit (a literal suit) that has garnered all the buzz. Party host Maxine’s (Greta Lee) sea-creature-meets-fashion-blogger look is an aspirational ensemble for the fashionably thrown-together type; their artist friend Lizzy wears fun but not fussy vintage overalls; and even the boringly dressed Alan (Charlie Barnett), who also repeatedly dies like Nadia, earns dimensionality through his very purposeful button-down shirts. Russian Doll‘s costume designer, Jenn Rogien, who’s previously worked on Orange Is the New Black and Girls, and Lee take us behind the seams on the show’s most memorable wardrobe moments.
The birthday suit
Lyonne wears a black H&M blazer and Gap pants in her repeated reset scene. “A big part of the shopping strategy was the number of multiples that we needed for the series,” Rogien says. “We needed at least 12 of everything, head to toe. The most important thing was the look, but there is also a budget constraint. And, so we wanted things that could walk both lines.”
The Helmut Lang coat
“The coat needed to be a really strong silhouette and also able to accommodate all the action that Nadia goes through, like repeatedly falling down the stairs and getting hit by cars,” Rogien says. And yes—they had 12 identical Helmut Lang coats on set for this very reason. “It was a very strong combination of character, coupled with the practical reality of shooting such a unique show. Natasha needed multiples for her own stunts, for the possibility of blood on the clothes, and extra, just in case something goes wrong. And then there was a stunt double, and there was a third double. Twelve to 14-hour days are very hard on clothes, and so there’s just a reality of wear and tear as well.”
Maxine’s life-of-the-party outfit
Though Maxine looks like she just stepped off the runway, her outfit is all fast-fashion finds: The blouse and pants are from H&M, while the chain vest she wears over the blouse is from Forever 21. “It does go to show that, with some really savvy shopping, sometimes you can pull off something pretty magical. Again, we needed some multiples, but our hard second runner-up was a head-to-toe Dries Van Noten look. So we really did mix and match high fashion and mainstream fashion. It just happened to be that the thing that we loved the most cost less.”
Lee, who plays Maxine, says Rogien’s instincts helped her better understand her character: “In my mind I feel like Maxine loves her body—she’s got a lot of issues in her life, but that’s not one of them, which I find refreshing and fun. She’s part of this art world, she’s part of this New York crowd. Where does she shop? What does she like to put on? If she’s hosting a party, does she like to wear shoes? Or is she a shoes-off kind of person? It reminds me of a time in my life where you’re throwing a party or going to a party, and just kind of grabbing something, not making it such a precious affair. It felt very real to me, like, ‘Oh, look at those annoying pants, I love those. I’m gonna wear those tonight.’ That’s a crazy outfit that someonewould believably put together themselves.”