Official Costumes from Firefly
Firefly Costume Information
Welcome to the costuming section of Browncoats.com! If you have any suggestions for this site, or would like to tell everyone about your Firefly costuming projects, please contact me. My thanks to everyone who has contributed suggestions!
Costume Designer Shawna Trpcic
Shawna Trpcic was the costume designer for Season 1 of Firefly; she also worked on Angel, including the costume for Illyria. She has a website at http://www.ishawna.com where you can see sketches of her costume designs. Also be sure to view the gallery of photos taken during the filming of the episode "Shindig" at http://www.ishawna.com/firefly_shindig/firefly_shindig.html.
Shawna Auctions Actual Firefly Costumes and Offers Costume Comments
Firefly's costume designer, Shawna Trpcic, has been auctioning off her private collection of Firefly costumes. The first round of auctions included the original browncoat, Inara's ballgown from Shindig, several other Inara dresses, Atherton Wing's suits, fabric from Kaylee's pink dress, and more. More auctions may be held. Go to http://www.FireflyCostumes.com/ to find out what's coming up.
The San Francisco Browncoats organized a charity auction for Comic-Con 2005, and Shawna Trpcic donated the actual red dress worn by Inara in the opening bar scene of "Shindig"! See a picture of this fabulous dress at http://www.sfbrowncoats.com/events/comiccon2005/charity/prizes/reddress.php.
In their conversations with Shawna, the SF Browncoats collected some additional interesting information, which they posted in the thread at http://forums.prospero.com/foxfirefly/messages?msg=24098.1:
- "Shawna says River's boots were from a boot store on Melrose that has since closed. But she has been told by fans that they have found some similar boots on the web. I did a google search for "river's boots" and found this thread on FFF. Might be a good place to start.
Interview with Shawna Trpcic in "Firefly Talk" Podcast
The "Firefly Talk" podcast interviewed Shawna in Episode 8, available at http://www.fireflytalk.com or via your podcatching software.
Q&A With Shawna Trpcic
Shawna has been kind enough to answer questions submitted by fans! (Questions below were contributed by Radegund, Petranef, Eloramoonjaj and Tzhegha.)
Q: You've cited the American Civil War, China, and India as major influences on costume design. What other eras and cultures were big influences?
A: I got a lot of research from the 1930's Depression era - including circus and freak shows. Also for Jaynestown I used Indonesian mud miners as an influence as well as oil rig workers. Every episode went to another planet so - so did I.
Q: If the series had continued, what eras and cultures would you would have liked to explore?
A: The sky's the limit - literally... I used a lot of fantasy art and comics to inspire me. I like tapping into cultures that are still "savage" that you have never seen on any show. I worked with Brian at the Fox research library to dig up mysterous old photos from around the world.
Q: Was there any particular significance to using brown coats for the Independent fighters?
A: That is a Joss question. I do not remember being told specifically to use brown. Jonathan Logan made the coats for us and we picked the leather - suede rather - from his extensive supply.
Q: Were there early wardrobe designs for the characters that were different from what ended up on screen?
A: Yes, I have all the sketches and orginal photos from the fittings. We would show the different ideas to Joss and he would circle his favorites. Do not know if I am allowed to share those - if there is an interest let me know and I will ask.
Q: In the commentary for 'Shindig' you point out that Simon's starting to loosen up and dress a little more like the rest of the crew. Certainly when we first see Simon in 'Serenity' he's very buttoned-up in that dark suit, and he's got those sunglasses to hide behind; over time he opens up more. What was your thinking behind his wardrobe and what it represents as it changes? River's style is quite different from Simon's; is her wardrobe actually what Simon chose for her when he packed for their escape (or are we just over-thinking these things)?
A: River's clothes were supposed to be like Kaylee rejects. As if Simon in his rush did not pack anything, he was just planning his escape with his sister. His clothes loosen up as he is more accepted by the crew and lets his guard down a little. You are not over thinking anything. I put a lot of thought into every choice I made as did Joss.
Q: Also in the commentary for 'Shindig' you mention that Badger is wearing your 'signature pink flamingoes' – two flamingo pins (or is it one pin of two flamingoes?). Are there other flamingoes stashed here and there that we should be watching for?
A: I wish I could say yes but not even in ANGEL did I fit in another flamingo. I got a couple pair of flamingo socks I was going to try to get on Kaylee - ah well. And it was two pins on Badger.
Q: We'd love to hear insights on the rest of the crew's wardrobe, especially the ones you didn't get to talk quite so much about in the 'Shindig' commentary (Wash, Book, River, and Zoe).
A: WASH - Happy go lucky unlike his military wife. The Hawaiian shirt is like Dean Stanton on ALIENS at Joss's request.
BOOK - Not Catholic but needed to say 'preacher' unlike modern pastors who just dress in street clothes - I always thought he'd turn out to be Alliance so I chose cool greys - who knows where the story might have gone.
RIVER - See through, soft fabrics to convey vulnerability but the tough motorcycle boots to hint at her killer hidden identity.
ZOE - All military - like a super hero - we tried to get her in a dress a few times. Joss and Tim were WOWED by her beauty then told me to go change her.
Q: This question is for a fan doing a Mal costume: In the commentary for 'Shindig' you state that Mal usually wears World War II canvas suspenders. Do you happen to recall if they were altered from the originals or are exactly as you got them? The costumer has been having a hard time finding a match with the right number of buckles and buttons.
A: They were altered a little, not much. Just to make it smoother for stunts. In hunting them down we could not find two that matched either. He also wore a thin leather suspender classic of the old west.
Q: When designing Inara's dresses, how did you distinguish between Inara's attire for entertaining clients and her 'casual' wear? Did you choose less formal designs, or did you pick out clothing that you envisioned Inara would have personally found comfortable? Or perhaps the Companion persona could never really be turned off, so that even the casual attire could never be too ordinary or drab. Also, I notice that there's a peasant outfit that Inara's worn several times (with the peasant skirt); is that as dressed-down as she gets?
A: Once, when Inara was just lounging around the ship I put her in a "sweat suit" - an off the shoulder brown velvet skirt and top. Like you said, she is never off. More important - traveling as she does - it was important that everything that she packed be an important piece - beautiful and alluring no matter the occasion. I used softer fabrics - cottons, velvets - to convey casual. The "peasant" skirt is a cotton fabric used to make couches and the ruffle on the bottom is raw silk - also used in upholstery - curtains - the top is chair upholstery - all very soft silks and cottons that I often washed before we made the piece to soften it even more. It is not so much peasant as the silouette of the forties and thirties movie starlets.
Q: What is inspiration or source for the flapper-ish apron-type dress Inara wears several times, once in the very beginning of Shindig?
A: There was a designer in the 1960's named Thea Porter - look her up. The caftan Inara wears is almost an exact copy. Sotherby's is auctioning off her designs at a huge profit - she was a great designer.
Q: Technically, was the underskirt a separate garment, or attached to the entire outfit? I made it, but couldn't figure out that part, so I just made it separate. I couldn't get how the gold line running down either side of the underskirt always seemed to stay in the middle of the open flap. Was it green? I want to know everything about that dress!
A: The dress is one piece - a caftan - like the Arabs wear. It was turquoise blue green Chinese silk with teal chiffon sleeves. The ribbon was sewn on top - that is why it does not move.
Commentary by Shawna Trpcic
The original Fox website for Firefly includes an interview with costume designer Shawna Trpcic. You can see the video at http://www.fireflyfans.net/firefly/features.htm. Quotes of note:
- "The influences that Joss sort of pointed us towards were the Civil War and the Asian influence of say a superpower like China and a superpower like America meshing into an alliance to create a new world order... They really liked the idea of us going towards the Asian influences, which I've really tapped into, especially with Inara's character being a futuristic version of a geisha..."
- "With the men, rather than the Old West it was always the more uniformed feel of the Civil War period."
- "Nathan Fillion's pants being too tight was a joke that started from 'Captain Tightpants' from the 'Shindig' episode, and that sort of stuck with him. The cavalry pants that he wears are actual antique cavalry pants from the Old West era and Civil War era, and every time we wash them they get a little bit tighter."
- (In the fabric room, showing off a sari) "These are all from Little India, which I love because there are all of these incredibly ornate detailed things which I use for Inara, and they come in saris which is about six yards that I can then make into a dress. Kaylee's dress from 'Shindig' was made from an antique sari from India, and then a bunch of chiffon hoops."
Shawna Trpcic also participated in the DVD commentary track for the episode 'Shindig'. Quotes of note:
- (Regarding the initial scene with the pool game) We'd lose a lot of detail in the shadows, so we tried to make them exaggerated... [The scene was] all darks and golds, and so I exaggerated Inara in flamboyant red, and I wanted her drink to be pink... I wanted her to be this little pink and red light in this dark scene.
- (Regarding the scene with Zoe and Wash) Zoe's necklace is representative of her marriage bond to Wash, and that's why she never takes it off. [Editor's note: If this is true, then there is a continuity error in the series because Zoe is wearing the necklace in the flashback sequences in 'Out of Gas,' before she had met Wash.]
- (Regarding the first client video that Inara watches, before seeing Atherton's) There's an example of tapping into other time periods for their costumes -- 1700's for him.
- (Regarding the first view of Kaylee's dress in the window) We had a lot of fun researching that, finally finding fabric in Little India, antique sari fabric to make her dress.
- (Regarding Badger) Badger's wearing my signature pink flamingos... On his lapel, two pink flamingo pins.
- (Regarding Inara's entry to the ball) There's my remade wedding dress... All that's left of the original dress is the skirt. We altered the top and made it a corset and then added chiffon that our ager/dyer Julia had to dye to match the Indian sari.
- (Regarding Kaylee's dress) The hoop skirt that Kaylee is wearing underneath her dress is from the original "King and I" which we borrowed from the Fox wardrobe department.
- (Regarding the tall card game) Jayne's t-shirt in this scene says "Soldier."
- (Regarding the ball again) Atherton's costume is a traditional Indian suit.
- (Regarding the distinct gap in the back of Inara's dress) The ladies who did the alterations made a very big mistake and we couldn't close it, so Cleo, who's our set person, magically made it work... They did it upside down. That was supposed to be the bottom, and the top was wider, so Cleo sewed [Morena] in real quick.
- (Regarding the crew watching Badger board Serenity) Simon's already in his period where he's starting to look more like the crew -- less buttoned-up, less put-together.
- (Regarding Inara and Mal practicing swordplay) That was a fun negligee to make. We got influences from ancient Greece.
- (Regarding the fight between Atherton and Mal) This is the first time Mal didn't wear his World War II canvas suspenders. We actually got him to wear something soft.
- (Regarding the final scene with Inara and Mal in the cargo bay) This is one of the rare gowns that we didn't make. It's actually a 1930's dress.
Screen Shots of Costumes
Screen shots of episodes and official production stills can be found at:
The makeup effects for many Buffy and Angel creatures were handled by professional makeup house Almost Human, http://www.almosthuman.net/ (check them out for lots of closeup photos). They also did the makeup job on the Reaver in 'Bushwhacked'; a picture is available in their prosthetics gallery.
Serenity, The Movie!
Woo hoo! The Big Damn Movie is here! Check out our photo gallery at http://browncoats.com/gallery/Photos-from-Serenity to check out movie costumes.
The London Prop Store at http://www.propstore.com is offering many one-of-a-kind props and costumes from "Serenity" for sale. They're good folks and have even donated props to a few Browncoat causes. Note that they are in the U.K. and the prices do not include shipping.
The website "How Stuff Works" has some costume information at http://entertainment.howstuffworks.com/serenity3.htm.
Some fans were fortunate enough to be hired as extras on the set of the movie. Here are their stories:
Bob, "TheDuke333", has shared pictures which show some of the main cast in their costumes.
Other lucky fans have described their experiences of being fitted for costumes:
Mal's Shirt from the Fight with the Operative
Wouldn't you like to be able to wear a shirt that Nathan Fillion actually wore? ita_moon_you bought this shirt from the Prop Store of London. It's the one he wore during the fight with the Operative, complete with burn marks and patched-up spots!