After “Emily in Paris” arrived on Netflix last fall, the series — about a young American marketing whiz stumbling through life in a new city — was derided for portraying a fantasy version of French culture. Parisians bristled at the show’s inaccuracies and clichés, from people smoking in the office to the number of berets onscreen.
“It’s the series that French people love to hate,” said Marylin Fitoussi, the show’s costume designer.
Still, the show provided a welcome escape for those stuck at home. It was a warm bath for weary souls; a silly, romantic, candy-colored romp through a beautiful city untouched by the pandemic. The clothes played a part in that.
Fitoussi had originally tried for realism with certain outfits. For Mindy (Ashley Park), an heiress moonlighting as a nanny and Emily’s first real friend in Paris, her instinct was to dress her in comfortable clothes and sneakers. But that changed after a conversation with the show’s costume consultant, Patricia Field, known for her fantastical costuming on “Sex and the City.”
“They said to me the magical sentence: ‘Marylin, we don’t care about reality,’” said Fitoussi, who appeared on a Zoom call wearing a black turban, a gold collared shirt under a printed yellow jacket, and an array of enormous sculptural rings. “That is my mojo in life.”
For Season 2, out Wednesday, Fitoussi and Field were determined to push the show’s fashions even further. Emily (Lily Collins) is navigating a sticky love triangle but settling into life in Paris, and her style has become more sophisticated, if no less eye-catching. Even Emily’s imperious boss, Sylvie (Philippine Leroy-Beaulieu), is pushing the boundaries of French work wear, turning up in metallic suits and dramatic fringe.
As these outfits show, more is always more in Emily’s Paris.
A Bold Print and a Power Suit
Emily has evolved beyond a certain Eiffel Tower print from Season 1, but obviousness remains her signature. For a party on the Seine promoting a heart-shaped jewelry collection by Chopard, she wears a white Anouki dress covered in red hearts. Field was not sold on the dress when Fitoussi bought it.
“In the beginning, I just didn’t know where in hell I would use it, because it just seems so silly in a way,” Field said over a video call. “But along came that scene.”
Fitoussi said she loved the puffy sleeves. “Pat hated the sleeves, and I said, ‘The dress without the sleeves is nothing. It’s just a tube with some hearts,’” she said. (The red and pink striped jacket Emily wears with the dress had to be custom made to fit over them.)
Mindy, meanwhile, has joined a band, bringing her vocal talents to the streets of Paris. (Park has been nominated for both a Tony and a Grammy.) Her performance scenes gave the costume team a chance to go wild with glitter and feathers.
Case in point: the shimmering green Zadig & Voltaire suit she wears to sing at the Chopard soiree, paired with sparkly Roger Vivier pumps.
“We’re so used to having Mindy look very sexy, very feminine, very outrageous,” Fitoussi said. “I said, ‘Why not a suit?’”
To give this look “the Mindy touch,” in Fitoussi’s words, they raised the glamour quotient with a vintage rhinestone necklace that streams down her throat.
A New Take on French Style
Sylvie is the first to call Emily out on her ignorance of French culture and her American arrogance, reprimanding her for talking shop at parties and for treating Paris like her personal “amusement park.” But while Emily’s boss is in many ways the show’s archetypal Frenchwoman, Fitoussi had no interest in dressing her as such.
“I know how to design the perfect Frenchwoman,” she said, rattling off “boring” basics: bluejeans, T-shirt, white sneakers, black or navy jacket, “beige if we are crazy today.”
For Season 2, Fitoussi dressed Sylvie in several suits in shades of bright red and silver. (The silver one came to be known on set as her “Mick Jagger suit.”) One eye-catching office look includes a low-cut gold Saint Laurent button-down, a black Maje skirt with a thigh-high slit, and an Alaïa belt. “That is my idea of a business outfit,” Fitoussi said. “Black skirt, but instead of a white, black or navy blue, you put gold.”
Designing for a New Character
Some of the most extravagant looks of the season belong to a new character, a fashion designer named Gregory Elliott Dupree (Jeremy O. Harris). He first appears in Saint-Tropez with a green and white Casablanca faux fur coat slung over his shoulders and a floppy Patou hat on his head (accessorized with a yellow Dolce & Gabbana flower pin).
“The truth is, when Jeremy O. Harris walked in the door, he was dressed,” Field said. “I’m like, ‘Perfect. I don’t have any work to do.’”
While Fitoussi has a special affinity for Gregory — “If I was a man, I would look exactly like Gregory Dupree” — she identifies strongly with Emily’s fashion sensibility.
“I’m always very colorful, and I mix patterns because I was a textile designer,” she said. “In Paris, people call me ‘the parrot,’ call me ‘the clown.’
To her, the point is for Emily to retain her bold sensibility, even as she begins to learn the language and customs of her new city.
“I don’t want her to look like an ordinary French girl,” Fitoussi said. “I don’t want to make a clone of what is French or what is supposed to be French fashion. If I do that, I fail.”
This article originally appeared in The New York Times.