- Saturday Night Live -How 'Saturday Night Live' Creates Its Newsworthy Outfits (Hello Kamala Harris' Victory Suit!)
At first, it belonged to Melania. Then, it belonged to Kamala. No, I'm not talking about a high-ranking position in the White House — instead, I'm talking about the white, satin pussy bow and blazer that brought Maya Rudolph's Vice President-elect Kamala Harris to life on Saturday's new episode of Saturday Night Live.
Anyone who stayed up late enough to watch Joe Biden and Vice President-elect Harris speak, and then kvetch through that double overtime Clemson-Notre Dame game (*shakes fist* Sportsball!! *shakes fist*), knows just how fast Saturday Night Live was able to work its live TV magic. After all, there were only three hours between Harris' 9pm victory speech in Wilmington, Del., and the series' cold open, featuring Rudolph's Harris and Jim Carrey's Joe Biden — that's not a lot of time to create a replica of the Vice President-elect's Caroline Herrera suit for a series that was already working last-minute to write sketches reflecting a big news day.
That said, we are talking about Saturday Night Live — a series that has spent decades perfecting the art of the fast turnaround. Look no further than this behind-the-scenes look at the series' backstage operations, which will make even the peppiest individual feel like they have the energy of Debbie Downer.
But back to that outfit. So, how did the late night team manage to reflect the night so late in the game? We culled together PopSugar's conversation with Saturday Night Live producer and costume designer Tom Broecker and wardrobe supervisor Dale Richards, and other previously released details about the series to get an inside look at their process.
Step 1: Research
The series treats the costuming process differently depending on whether its sketches are mimicking actual history, or finding humor in relatable topics. As Broecker told The Hollywood Reporter in 2019, when it comes to the former, "I look at it more as a reflection; they're playing real people so we're trying to get them as close to the real people as they can be."
In order to ensure they've developed a look as close to reality as possible, they produce what they call "side-by-sides," so media outlets will splice photos of the real person with the SNL cast member that portrayed them. When it comes to Saturday's Harris moment, mission accomplished.
Safe to say they repeated that strategy on Saturday. As you would probably assume, the Saturday Night Live team does not have a mole on the inside of the Biden campaign, so they found out what Harris was wearing at the same time as the rest of us. SNL staffers: They're just like us (without the champagne day-drinking hangover)!
Broecker told PopSugar:
My assistant started capturing screen grabs of everything Harris was wearing so we could get all the details right — the shoes, the jewelry, the hair, makeup, blouse, and the suit. By 9 p.m. we had pulled all the "research" photos together.
Then it's time to get to work.
Step 2: Reuse
Given the late hour, "there was no way to shop this look anywhere, except in our back rooms," Broecker told PopSugar. Even if the series did have the benefit of time on their side doesn't even mean it's that simple to get what they need for any individual sketch. In his interview with The Hollywood Reporter, the costumer said New York City's unique boutiques that supplied more unusual needs for the series have largely shifted to online shopping, with delivery windows that aren't guaranteed for live TV. (That said, relationships with Etsy creators have allowed them to rush order some products in recent years.)
Good thing Saturday Night Live has an extensive wardrobe closet (check out this excellent inside look from The Coveteur), filled with 40 years of sketch comedy history. Though they can't always count on that closet for male politicians — Broecker has talked in the past about how they often have to create ties from scratch — it turned out to be clutch for Rudolph's Harris.
On Saturday, the team discovered a box of cream charmeuse fabric for Harris' blouse, but needed to completely recut a blazer they found to fit Rudolph. Broecker credits "the most incredible tailors in the world" with being able to execute the vision, comparing them to the woodland creatures who create Cinderella's wardrobe. (After all, they have dressed princesses before — Broecker has talked in the past about just how difficult it was to replicate the Royal Wedding for the series.)
It wouldn't have all been possible, however, without Melania Trump — the costumer said the suit used for Harris was originally intended to outfit Cecily Strong in a sketch about the First Lady that never materialized. Everything happens for a reason?
Step 3: Refine
Broecker told PopSugar the process took about 80 minutes in full before Rudolph completed her fitting. And the team barely had time to spare before they spotted a big error that would stand out in any future side-by-side:
As she was leaving her dressing room, I realized she didn't have her flag pin on her lapel. Her dresser went running into the wardrobe room to get her flag pin. I will say this: nowhere else in the world could this happen."
It's no wonder he's said it's a job that requires "nerves of steel." Impressive, considering very little goes wrong when it comes to the Saturday Night Live wardrobe team. And, when it does — well, at least it's hilarious.