'Orange is the New Black' Costume Designer Dishes on the Upcoming Season

Much like our anticipation for the season two premiere, Jenn Rogien just can't keep her excitement for her job locked up.

Art by Tanya Leigh Washington

While she might not exactly make orange jail uniforms fashionable, as the show's title might suggest, costume designer Jenn Rogien has her work cut out for her designing costumes for countless convicts on Orange is the New Black. With the season two premiere of the Netflix original series mere weeks away, Rogien (who is also behind the fashions seen on HBO's Girls) opened up to us about what it's really like on the prison yard—well, at least on the set of one—and what to expect from our favorite inmates.

'Orange is the New Black' Costume Designer Dishes on the Upcoming Season
Craig Barritt/Getty Images North America

What is the best part about your job? “I have the best job in the world. I’m so lucky to get to do what I do every day and to work with amazing, amazing writers, directors and actors. And then my office is essentially a giant walk-in closet for the quirkiest, weirdest, most wonderful characters that I’ve ever met, so that makes work a real joy every day.”

What is the hardest part about your job? “One of the hardest things is the insanely early call times—I’ve had a couple at 4am, [especially] in the last couple of weeks. But I’m a morning person, so that works out okay overall."

'Orange is the New Black' Costume Designer Dishes on the Upcoming Season
Theo Wargo/Getty Images North America

How much input do the actresses get on their wardrobes? “Wardrobe is a collaborative art form because it’s not my story to tell. I’m taking this uneven direction from the show’s creator, the writers, the director of each episode—all of the creative team on that end—and then we get to the fitting room. At the end of the day, the actor is going to be the one wearing the costumes, so it’s really important for me that they feel that it’s important to the character and also that it doesn’t distract them on set."

How do you get the characters’ personalities to show through during the prison sequences? "We have a cast of between 35 and 50 inmates, and the challenge is to differentiate them when they’re all wearing essentially the same six to eight pieces. All of a sudden, the smallest details become very important; we spend a lot of time talking about long-sleeved versus short-sleeved T-shirts and rolled or not rolled at the waist band. Is this character a rule-breaker, and if so, does that mean she would tuck her uniform pants into her boots, which is explicitly against the rules? Or is this character more conservative, even though she may have broken one big rule, so she wears the uniform as it’s issued? Does this character wear the hoodie she bought at the commissary all of the time to try to individualize herself, whereas another character might not be able to afford it based on her background and her story? We spend a chunk of time every evening making sure that the next day, all of those details have been checked over."

It’s always about finding the little ways to be you in a sea of uniformity."

–Jenn Rogien

What tips do you have for our readers about developing their own signature styles? “Go after inspiration images. Whether Pinterest, Tumblr or even going old school and tearing pages out of magazines, pull the things that you respond to and then set them aside for a week. Later on, go back and look at them, and you’ll start to see the things that are common about them, whether it’s color, silhouette, style, accessories—those will help you pinpoint the direction you want to go with your wardrobe, and then you can start shopping. I don’t ever encourage someone to jump in and start shopping without having an idea of where you’re going. And that’s how I work at work as well."

Be on the look-out for Rogien's handiwork this season on Orange is the New Black, available on Netflix Friday, June 6.

Associate Editor at StyleBistro. California native, Brooklyn resident & country girl at heart. Follow me on Twitter: @katie_ddavidson Follow me: Google