It’s the wildly offensive story about two “identical” twins who rediscover each other after being separated at birth. They decide to get their eccentric parents back together via high jinks, The Parent Trap-style, but things don’t go exactly to plan.
For a musical comedy so unique, the costuming had to match. The designer behind the film’s looks is Valerie Klarich, who has worked extensively in comedy with experience on Saturday Night Live, Broad City, Girls, and more.
With the help of a fellow costumer saved in Klarich’s phone as “Wilberth the Genius,” the team created some truly iconic looks that we can confidently say have never been seen in film before.
Editor’s note: The following conversation has been edited for length and clarity.
No Film School: What attracted you to this film?
Valerie Klarich: I think, ultimately, it was just working with Larry Charles, the director. Honestly, I read the script the first time and I called my agent and I was like, “What is this?” … I’d never done a musical before. I’d never worked with Larry before. Some of the producers had connections with some director friends at SNL, so it just seemed like a fun group of people. A24 is also very attractive.
NFS: How did you start conceptualizing these costumes?
Klarich: I remember I think I was on … I think I was on a T-Mobile commercial when I was sitting on the truck and I read the script, and then I spoke to one of the producers, her name is Kori Adelson. She is married to Paul Briganti, who is a director at SNL. So that was, I think, how they heard of me.
I spoke to Kori and she’s like, “It’s crazy, but this is what Larry’s envisioning.”
I read the script, and then I just started pulling images off the internet. I look at Instagram for real people, Pinterest for fashion and fake people, not fake people, but everything feels like more of a runway. I looked all over. I go down crazy rabbit holes. Then, I just put together boards and met with Larry. Him and I just… our personalities just vibed. I loved that he was like, “No idea is too crazy.”
Sometimes when you work with directors, they have a very distinct vision, and you sort of mold yourself and your ideas to work and help the director essentially produce their vision. Larry, he had ideas and a vision, but you could kind of do anything you wanted, and that’s what he pushed me to do.
He’s like, “Just bring me the craziest ideas, and I’ll probably say yes.” So that’s what I did. There was time restraints and budget restraints, so that was definitely tricky. But I think we came up with some cool stuff, even given the lack of time and budget restraints.
NFS: My next question was going to be about that collaborative process and also just being curious about Dicks having existed as an Off-Broadway thing.
Klarich: I watched it after I read the script, or maybe I watched it before I read the script, so I had a concept of what I was reading because you really read it and are just like, “What is going on?”
Larry would say, “Oh, for the Evelyn character, I like the idea of Miss Havisham. But I wanted it, because it was a musical, to feel more colorful.” I know God’s costumes were amazing, but Evelyn’s costumes, to me, were my favorite because it was just like she could be kooky. We added layers and textures, and nothing was too weird.
When Megan [Mullally] came in for her fitting … I don’t know what was in the air that morning, but I feel like, from a designer’s perspective, it was like magic. Because it was the very first fitting of the movie, and even before I fit the twins or Nathan [Lane] or God.
Costume design for Bowen YangCredit: Valerie Klarich
Klarich: He could have been like, “What the hell are you doing?” But he was like, “This is amazing.” They just loved it. And Megan was so happy. We knew that the top half of her had to be the more exciting part because she was sitting in a wheelchair. So yeah, no accessory was too much. We just added and added.
We laughed a lot because some of the stuff was crazy. There are some fitting photos, obviously, that didn’t get chosen. I look back at them and I’m like, “This was never it. It could have never been it.” The ones that we did decide on, it was just magic with her costumes.
I didn’t think I was capable, as a designer, of producing it like that. It was an aha, proud moment for myself after her fitting. And it set a good precedent for the rest of the fittings because Larry basically was like, “Go for it.” There was no limitations. He just was like, “Do whatever you want to do.” So that’s always fun from a designer’s perspective.
Nathan Lane, Megan Mullally in Dicks: The MusicalCredit: Justin Lubin
NFS: How did you source those clothes?
Klarich: They came from everywhere. Do you know Shopbop? So they are just a contemporary clothing store. I was lucky enough, their press offered me a discount. So when I shop there, it’s… And given the fact that we were on a budget, I sourced a lot of her stuff there, and then I mixed it in with The RealReal, vintage, random Roberto Cavalli vintage pieces.
Then, [to] my assistant, Haley Meeker, I said, “Go on Instagram and look for jewelry designers that are up and coming, LGBTQ,” just anybody that we felt could use a boost for any reason, even if they’re quirky with fruit on them or weird or interesting. I just wanted everything.
And so she went deep, reached out to all of these jewelers. I can give you names after. I don’t have them in front of me. They all sent us so much free jewelry to throw in the mix, which I was so grateful for.
Klarich: What else did we get? I pulled from different rental houses [in Los Angeles]. She didn’t have too many stunts … There was not a lot of stunt work because she was in her wheelchair. So a little bit in Le Chateau. We had to stunt her there. So everything could be one-offs, which was really lucky in that you don’t usually get to do that normally in a movie. They wear the costume multiple times, so you need multiples for that reason.
There’s an Instagram handle, @advancedstyle, and it’s all women of a certain age, and they are just extraordinary. Larry actually follows them on Instagram or did at the time, and introduced that Instagram handle to me. That’s where a lot of Evelyn’s headpieces were inspired from.
So I sent … the key costumer, William Mellette, to Michaels. He built the butterfly headpiece, and he … hand-glued gold onto eggs to make her … I don’t know if you can even really see it. You could see it a little bit when she goes to La Chateau, but it’s like a nest with gold eggs in it and a white feather. He made it all.
NFS: You mentioned the cape, and I also saw that you posted some video on that. So I would love to know more about the cape and how that was made.
Klarich: There were so many ideas floating around in my head, and I didn’t want him to look like a god we’d ever seen before because, obviously, no one’s ever seen this type of movie before. It just isn’t anything anyone’s ever seen. So it isn’t like a Morgan Freeman in a white suit type of God.
In an early script, Bowen [Yang] or God is in a gay nightclub, dancing around, and he’s described as this high-fashion God surrounded by all these men dancing in a nightclub. This was a very early script. It’s the one I read to interview. So I was looking at amazing gold gowns.
I don’t know why gold came to me … Again, I was down a rabbit hole. Maybe it was RuPaul’s or something. So gold stuck in my head. And then I was like, he’s in a church. I know this assistant designer, Wilberth Gonzalez, who is this extraordinary painter. I had seen some of the work that he had done on Ocean’s 8. I called him up and I was like, “I’m making this God, and I really want this stained-glass-looking mural paint job, whatever.” So he helped me concept it. Then, I bought the fabric and mailed it to him in Texas, and he just started painting. Then, we were like, “The paint doesn’t do it justice. Let’s add rhinestones.”
So he literally hand-stoned every inch of the cape. It was like 8,000 rhinestones or something crazy. And then the bottom half was like, let’s take it to another level. So, Wilberth, he emailed me. If I can find it, I’ll send it to you, because it would be funny to add in his sketches of all these different sex positions.
I brought it to Larry and I was like, “Is this too far?” And he’s like, “No, this is amazing.” But I didn’t want it to be too much. There was lots of different positions. So we went with a little bit more tasteful, trying to achieve men of all different races. Larry loved it and loved it enough to add an entire camera panel of the costume, like a very big reveal, which was also a very exciting moment in my career … I design a lot of contemporary comedy, so there isn’t a lot of “aha,” wild, crazy costume moments.
When Bowen got to set that day, there was a round of applause. It was very exciting.
Bowen Yang in Dicks: The MusicalCredit: Justin Lubin
NFS: You may have already mentioned this because there are so many great designs for both Megan Mullally and Bowen Yang, but is there maybe one costume that was the hardest to design?
Klarich: The cape was complicated, but I think that Bowen in his iridescent suit, that was wild because I liked that, in certain lights, you could see the rainbowness of the fabric, but it was made of vinyl.
When they wanted him to be high fashion, I was like, well, instead of having the Gucci Gs, let’s do a G with a cross and a D. So he’s like the God Gucci. I don’t know. So in order to get the print on the vinyl, we went to a screen printer. We went to five and they were like, “It will melt the fabric. It won’t go onto that.”
So then we found someone in the Fabric District that could stamp the fabric. So we tried stamping it, but it didn’t get the detail that we wanted. It was more of a sponge stamp, and it just didn’t get the precise detail that I wanted.
So, Wilberth introduced me to Lucia Briones. She lives in Texas as well, and she had a Cricut printer. I mailed her the six or seven yards of fabric needed to do the hot shorts and the blazer, and she hand-stickered every inch of the fabric so that the fabric went from a plain silver vinyl to a printed Gucci God, Gucci G, printed, stickered on seven yards of fabric. And she did it by hand.
We loved it so much, we mailed her his boots and his hat. It was wild. So I would say it might not have been the hardest for me, it was logistics, but I would say it was the most intricate detail along with the cape. All of Bowen’s stuff was a lot, I think.
Detail of Bowen Yang’s costumeValerie Klarich
NFS: What would be one piece of advice you’d give an up-and-coming costume designer?
Klarich: That’s a really good question. I got into this industry because a girl that my brother went to high school with messaged me on Facebook and said, “Gossip Girl is looking for an intern, and I know you love clothes.” I didn’t go to school for this. I didn’t study it. Sometimes I have a little bit of imposter syndrome because of that.
I’m working with other designers who know every fabric, every silhouette, how to sew, all of that. For anyone who is already out of school and didn’t study this but wants to get into it, it’s definitely possible. I think I called my parents and I said…
I had just moved to New York. I was working at my dad’s friend’s company just because I knew I wanted to be in New York. And I said, “Can I take an internship? And will you guys help me live in New York because I won’t have very much income?” My parents were like, “If you think that this is a career, we’ll help you.” It just spiraled from there. I would just say, if it’s something that you want to do, move heaven and earth to do it, because I made a career out of it. We’re all struggling right now because of the strike.
Some people I know are getting other jobs because they have to. I’m lucky enough that I can sit tight, hop on commercials, do what I can to make ends meet, because I can’t imagine doing anything else. You don’t have to go to school for it. I studied sociology, which has helped-ish when I read scripts and I’m studying people and the type of people they are, and why they are, who they are, characters.
I just signed up with a friend of mine, who also is a designer and didn’t go to school for it, for an intro to sewing class and just stuff to teach myself more… I don’t Photoshop. I tried to learn Photoshop during COVID-19. I lasted five minutes. As long as you have a vision and this creative bone in your body, I think you’ll be just fine. You don’t have to know anything, and you can do it.
I also had an amazing mentor, I should mention, Tom Broecker from Saturday Night Live. I’d say a lot of what I know, he helped guide me and teach me. So I’m trying to pay it forward, but I’m not there yet. Hopefully, when I’m more experienced than I am now, I will be able to help somebody else do the same.
Dicks: The Musical is now playing in select theaters.