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Meet Leesa Evans, the Costume Designer Behind Your Favorite Movie Weddings

As Judd Apatow's right-hand costumer, Leesa Evans has styled a lot of weddings you've attended. She's made some of your favorite stars (Emily Blunt, Rashida Jones) look beautiful on their big, fake day, and she's responsible for making others, like Maya Rudolph, look ridiculous (all in the name of comedy, of course).

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Beginning nearly ten years ago, Apatow produced a spate of films that called on Evans' ability to create realistic and memorable on-screen nuptials, including those in Forgetting Sarah Marshall (2008), Bridesmaids (2011), and The Five-Year Engagement (2012). She also worked her wedding-making magic in non-Apatow productions, like I Love You, Man (2009).

Evans took a moment out of her current project to reminisce about all the movie weddings she's created, which will live on through Netflix and DVDs in perpetuity.

Photo: Courtesy of Leesa Evan

Where do you start when you go to create these on-screen weddings?

A lot of times it's sort of a collaboration. Certain characters have certain kinds of weddings. Like in I Love You, Man, Rashida's character wears yellow so well in the film, so we picked up yellow as the theme for the bridesmaids' dresses. In some ways, we wanted this really sweet and simplistic wedding, so knowing what we were going to do color-wise for the bridesmaids and knowing how simple and chic Rashida Jones is, it was easy to form the wedding around that. It helped from a production standpoint, and to set the wedding's tone.

Where did you find the dresses for that movie? Or did you make them?

I ended up finding up these really great Nanette Lepore dresses which were perfect for the bridesmaids. And the Rashida Jones dress in I Love You, Man is a J.Crew wedding dress. So for the character it's something she would have done.

Fans of the movie, too, probably loved that because anyone can relate to a character more when her dress is from J.Crew.

I think it's interesting, depending on what the scenario is. Like for instance, in Bridesmaids it was a totally different situation where we needed something utterly not simplistic. You can see the culmination of everything that's couture, which might look great on the runway, but doesn't always apply to real life, especially with Maya Rudolph's character. She's being helped along by Rose Byrne's character, who's very much into fashion.

It just takes it to the point where it brings Maya and Kristen's characters back together. Kristen ultimately understands what kind of wedding she's really having. We just removed a whole sleeve portion of the dress. You can see the progression that Kristen's character helps her through to get to the elegant dress that she wants to get married in.

Photo: Universal Pictures

What did Maya think of that dress?

We had a great time. I absolutely love Maya. She's incredibly talented and she just understands fashion because she loves it herself. We had a lot of fun with the draping and figuring out how voluminous the dress could be without swallowing her up, and what dress ultimately she would wear when the girls go try on dresses, and how similar it would be to the actual dress that she wears at the end. There were a lot of wedding dresses and playing around and fittings, and that was a lot of fun.

How do you approach dressing these characters when, for example, in Bridesmaids, the dress is the punchline to a joke? How is that approach different from something more straightforward?

When you know it needs to be the punchline of something and then it needs to convert easily into a dress that actually looks quite beautiful on her in the ceremony — that's something I designed. We went through the process of figuring out what's funny and what could be pulled-back and elegant.

Whereas in some cases — using Emily Blunt in The Five-Year Engagement — I actually found that Valentino wedding dress and it really fit Emily perfectly. It didn't need to be more than that; it was just this gorgeous gown and it was perfect. It's always funny because these different situations need different work — sometimes just more styling and sometimes more heavy design.

You mentioned once that your mother designed wedding dresses?

Yes, true! My mother was a couture designer for years. She's retired now, but before she retired she did a lot of couture gowns. She did Kris Jenner's dress when she married Bruce Jenner. She did Patti Scialfa's dress when she married Bruce Springsteen. She did a lot of gowns.

So I grew up in the wedding gown business. It was a great thing to use the knowledge of designing gowns I have through osmosis to design the gowns I needed for these movies.

Did she come in and consult on any of these projects, or did you just draw on the fundamentals you'd learned as a kid?

I would definitely show her sketches, like, "Hey, we're making this dress, doesn't it remind you of 'X?'"

The funniest wedding you've done, to me, are actually all the weddings in Forgetting Sarah Marshall. Everywhere you look, there's a wedding happening in the background. I had to watch it a second time just to catch them all! What was it like creating all those super-detailed, super-different ceremonies?

We did like 30-something weddings. I was always joking that we needed to do a whole outtake video of all these weddings, and each one was so specific.

We would play around with ideas in our department between weddings we had been to and fantasy weddings. We had a bride-and-groom bikini/boardshort wedding because we were in Hawaii, which was so funny. You start wondering, what crazy idea could people have? Like getting married underwater. And they each get increasingly worse. For Jason's character, it's so painful to watch all of these people being in love and getting married and fulfilling all of these dreams when he's going through this breakup.

Photo: Fame

Do you have a favorite dress that you worked on?

I love them all for different reasons, but I think that it's probably Five-Year Engagement. I just love that whole movie. I loved all the dresses in Forgetting Sarah Marshall. There's just different reasons for different films that you have a great experience on. Bridesmaids was just a great experience, and then I adore Nick Stoller, who I did Forgetting Sarah Marshall and Five-Year Engagement with. John Hamburg, who did I Love You, Man, is just such a great director to work with. I just feel incredibly lucky to be in these creative scenarios where you just really get to play with it all.

You also style private weddings?

I do private styling, some celebrities and some businesspeople. That's kind of my main business rather than film. I've just done weddings as a result of that. So a client will be getting married and I'll work on their wedding because I have done so many weddings and because I do their whole lifestyle.

Is the approach for dressing someone for their private wedding different from your work on these films? Because I assume you're still working with personalities toward their vision, etc.?

When you're doing a real wedding as opposed to a movie wedding, there's just so much real emotion involved when it comes to what they want to convey. I've had people want it to just be incredibly elegant. That's the most important thing to them. I've had people say that the most important thing to them is that it's very simple and inclusive. I've had people say that they want to feel like the queen for the day. I've had people say they just want to feel like themselves. The real emotion comes into play much more than in a movie wedding, because in a movie wedding you're creating the emotion by building up to the crescendo of the moment.

When you're dealing with real people, there are so many nuances to someone's idea of what that wedding should be and then you've got the bride and the groom and families and everyone involved — it's a fun thing to do. I love being involved in weddings. It's such a momentous occasion and you want to be supportive and help people feel confident and calm.


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