Interview: The Gifted's Costume Designer Cameron Dale
Cameron Dale always wanted to work in fashion, but didn’t learn about costume design until her senior year at UC Berkeley. She spent years in New York City learning about draping, pattern making and textiles at Parsons fashion design program. Now, after a decade climbing her way up the costuming ladder she’s landed a dream job: Costume designer on Fox’s X-Men-inspired new series The Gifted.
As is fairly common for a TV series, Dale didn’t join the show until after the pilot had already been shot. The character’s “looks” -- costuming shorthand for a character’s overall design -- were partially established by the pilot’s Costume Designer, Louise Mingenbach, who did the X-Men films. Dale points out that Mingenback put a lot of thought into some of the finer details of the characters, with the goal of making sure what they wear also functions as an extension of their mutant abilities.
“For Polaris, for example, since she can control metals, it’s always important to incorporate metal in her costume,” Dale says. “Her rings, for example, can be used as weapons. Her steel toed boots can be used for levitation.”
Part of the fun, Dale says, is imagining new ways to incorporate a character’s mutant power with their costumes or accessories. The most important aspect though has been to “ground all of the characters in reality,” she says. That directive is the most apparent in the show’s main characters, Lauren and Andy. When we meet them they’re just two seemingly normal students and as “super heroes” they don’t have comic book counterparts with colorful costumes. Quite the opposite, in fact. According to Dale, the characters’ on-the-run status means their costumes have to match their refugee lifestyle which translates onscreen to aged clothing and a somewhat repetitive wardrobe. “Lauren and Andy are high schoolers who have been refugees so it's been important to age down their clothing and repeat pieces,” she said.
Adding: “The mutant Underground, unfortunately for me, doesn't have a Barney's.”
The lack of refugee-themed clothing stores can be especially tough on the costume department thanks to the show’s many stunts, Dale explained. “I always say this is the show of multiples! For certain changes, we will need upwards of 8 duplicates of one costume.”
“If you think about stunt doubles, plus multiples for rain or squibbing [fake movie bullet wounds], the multiples go fast,” she said.
Dale is new to the world of the X-Men comics, having only been exposed to the characters via the film franchise, but tells Wizard she's "learned so much" since joining the series and feels "so lucky to be a part of this awesome universe!”
X-Men fans are some of the most dedicated in the world and the cosplay community is absolutely littered with them. It’s only a matter of time before they turn their attention to the characters on The Gifted, and while Dale hasn’t cosplayed herself (“Does Halloween count?” she joked) she was more than happy to give some helpful tips for creating your own Thunderbird costume.
“Go thrifting,” she says. “I think the Thunderbird (played by actor Blair Redford) costume with his black leather vest is a great cosplay! There are so many cool leather vests at vintage stores around the world.”
“And,” she adds, “who wouldn’t want to be Blair for a day?”