Cookie banner

This site uses cookies. Select "Block all non-essential cookies" to only allow cookies necessary to display content and enable core site features. Select "Accept all cookies" to also personalize your experience on the site with ads and partner content tailored to your interests, and to allow us to measure the effectiveness of our service.

To learn more, review our Cookie Policy, Privacy Notice and Terms of Use.

clock menu more-arrow no yes mobile
The cast of Girls. Photo: Mark Schafer/HBO

Filed under:

The Untold Stories Behind the Most Memorable Clothes on ‘Girls’

From Elijah’s shorts suit to Shosh’s Tokyo layers.

Racked is no longer publishing. Thank you to everyone who read our work over the years. The archives will remain available here; for new stories, head over to, where our staff is covering consumer culture for The Goods by Vox. You can also see what we’re up to by signing up here.

It almost seems cruel to ask Jenn Rogien, the costume designer for HBO’s Girls, to single out each character’s most important look from the show’s six-year run. After all, Rogien’s seen Lena Dunham’s Hannah Horvath go from mesh tank-clad cocaine dabbler to pregnant professor-to-be, and Allison Williams’s Marnie Michaels evolve from an Ann Taylor-wearing art gallerina to a divorced musician with a penchant for maxi dresses.

But as the slice-of-life series draws to a close, Racked tasked Rogien with sharing the untold story behind her single favorite look from each character’s closet — and her choices, interestingly, spanned all six seasons. Below, the scoop on Hannah’s “Dancing on My Own” dress, Marnie’s “Bob Mackie Barbie” gown, and Elijah’s unforgettable shorts suit. (You didn’t think we’d leave Girls’s leading guy out of this, did you?)

Lena Dunham as Hannah Horvath and Allison Williams as Marnie Michaels in season 1 of Girls.
Lena Dunham as Hannah Horvath and Allison Williams as Marnie Michaels in season 1 of Girls.
Photo: Jojo Whilden/HBO

“For Hannah, I always think of the plaid dress she wears in season 1 when she and Marnie are dancing together to Robyn; that A-line shape was sort of a Hannah signature for the first couple of seasons. The dress was thrifted; I don’t remember what store it was from, or even if it had a label in it.

So much of Hannah’s wardrobe from the first few seasons — and even through season 6, really — was very thrift-heavy. Thrifting is one of the only ways you can get truly one-of-a-kind items anymore, unless you go toward the opposite end of the spectrum and buy couture. And, well, Hannah wouldn’t even know what couture is!

I did most of my thrifting for her in New York, primarily because of our production timeline — we didn’t have a lot of time to get out to other cities — and because it made sense for her character. But there’s a great thrift resource I used a lot called Tagpop; you can shop them online, and they’ve got a warehouse out in Connecticut, too. So if we had time, we’d paw around there.

That quirky vintage necklace with the wooden fruits was actually from my own closet! I bought it at the wrap sale for Across the Universe, a movie I worked on as a PA in the mid-2000s, and had been carrying it around for forever, not knowing when it might meet the right character or find the right moment. But it fit right into Hannah’s [collection of] quirky themed necklaces from the first two seasons!

And by the time we went to archive it, the necklace had fallen apart. It was so old that the threads had snapped, so I left it in Hannah’s closet in a bag. It will forever be part of that look, which is kind of a sweet thing for me.”

Allison Williams as Marnie Michaels in season 5 of Girls.
Allison Williams as Marnie Michaels in season 5 of Girls.
Photo: HBO

“Marnie’s red dress was actually inspired by a joke: When she comes out of the fitting room in it, she says, ‘I feel like a Bob Mackie Barbie.’ So that was my starting point, that amazing direction that was in the script. I went back and looked at the stuff Bob Mackie did for Cher, the looks he did for television. And I know what Amarcord stocks and what they look for — we shop there every season! It’s a lot of vintage designers from the ‘60s, ‘70s, and ‘80s, so I knew it had to be of that era, and that it had to have a certain level of beading for that Bob Mackie feel.

Also, I wanted it to be movable for Allison, because there’s a lot of action in that episode. [She and Charlie are] dancing downtown at a restaurant in one scene, she’s falling into a pond in Central Park in another, she’s curled up on the subway, they’re falling into bed together and she’s taking the top half down. So I designed the back of that dress as much as I designed the front of it, to make it part of the action. And the slit up the front was both for sex appeal and ease of movement.

We actually shot the scene where Marnie’s walking home all wet and muddy before we shot the scene where she falls into the pond, so we made somewhere between four and six copies of that dress and had one of them painted to look wet! There were a lot of considerations for what was seemingly a very simple dress.”

Jemima Kirke as Jessa Johansson in season 1 of Girls.
Jemima Kirke as Jessa Johansson in season 1 of Girls.
Photo: Jojo Whilden/HBO

“Funny story about that feathered Ann Demeulemeester piece: We’d shopped for these crazy, over-the-top fashion pieces for an entirely different character, a gallerist. We actually got it at Woodbury Commons — at Saks Off Fifth, I think, where we were able to find it for a couple of hundred dollars, as opposed to a few thousand. Woodbury Commons is a place that’s very near and dear to my heart.

Anyway, after the fitting, Lena and Jenni [Konner, Girls’s showrunner] were like, ‘Don’t return that feather thing. It’s not right for that character, but it’s perfect.’ I had no idea what they meant at first, and then I got the script for this episode, and Lena had compared Jessa’s look to ‘an elegant bird.’ I was so happy that Lena had given me the heads-up — otherwise, that costume would’ve been a huge challenge. Lena is really collaborative like that; she’ll point out things that’ll work down the road. After all, she knows these characters!

The printed dress was something I made based on a dress Jemima owned, this stunning 1930s piece. In this episode, though, she’s up on a fire escape, she’s in the middle of a fight, she’s in the ER — and I didn’t want to be the one responsible for damaging her amazing vintage dress, so we sourced fabrics to recreate a version of it, plus three or four multiples to make it through the rigors of production. That’s always a concern for television, especially when what we call ‘live blood’ is involved.

Those necklaces were re-creations of pieces Jemima owned at the time, too. Back when we did the first closet fitting for season 1, Jem brought in quite a few things of her own — her mom used to own Geminola, this amazing vintage store in the West Village. I was so grateful to have those pieces, since they were really one-of-a-kind.

Jessa’s jewelry got gradually smaller from season 1 to season 6; the first season, it was all these chunky, eclectic, often vintage pieces. And by season 6, it was a bit more fine, a combination of independent Brooklyn and New York designers and random finds. Think one or two rings as opposed to four or five! It was a very intentional arc, to have her jewelry reflect where she was [in her life].”

Zosia Mamet as Shoshanna Shapiro in season 5 of Girls.
Zosia Mamet as Shoshanna Shapiro in season 5 of Girls.
Photo: Geoff Johnson/HBO

“Of all the girls, Shoshanna’s always known exactly who she was at all times, regardless of setting. So for the Tokyo episodes, we pulled in all our Japanese street style inspiration, and then spun it to make it right for Shosh. Her Tokyo closet was a combination of Topshop, Club Monaco, Century 21 — we did a lot of digging at Century 21 — and pieces I bought in Japan once we got there.

We sort of imagined that Shoshanna had figured out the best of shopping in Tokyo — which I’ve heard described as a national pastime — and then incorporated pieces she’d brought from home. We figured she could’ve picked up some pieces at the places around Harajuku, or on sale at Isetan. And there’s this consignment-meets-vintage-meets-thrift store called Ragtag — you think you’re walking into this amazing designer department store, and you walk out having bought a never-worn, new-with-tags Balenciaga dress for a couple hundred bucks! Tokyo really does have some spectacular retail options.

This look was still quintessentially Shoshanna in terms of the colors, but the proportions, the footwear, and the accessories are totally different, and I think that’s what made it work as a hybrid of Shosh and Tokyo Shosh.”

Andrew Rannells as Elijah Krantz (with Allison Williams as Marnie Michaels and Lena Dunham as Hannah Horvath) on season 3 of Girls.
Andrew Rannells as Elijah Krantz (with Allison Williams as Marnie Michaels and Lena Dunham as Hannah Horvath) on season 3 of Girls.
Photo: Mark Schafer/HBO

“Elijah’s shorts suit, which I believe we got at H&M, will go down as a signature character look. The best part about it is that you don’t even realize he’s wearing shorts until the end of the episode, where he gets up and walks out!

What’s funny is that we had sourced that suit, fit it, and shot it — and then, around the time that the episode was airing, Pharrell also wore a shorts suit on the red carpet. So it seemed like this big style moment was happening, when in reality we’d picked out that suit several months earlier! Somehow, it worked out to look like Elijah was just incredibly on trend.

Later on, Andrew [Rannells] told me he was very nervous about wearing those shorts, but that I’d never led him astray. And it ended up being this moment that was both silly and quintessentially Elijah. I mean, Andrew had been a dancer on Broadway and has incredible legs, so might as well, right?”

The series finale of Girls airs this Sunday, April 16th at 10 p.m. EST on HBO.


How a Stop-Motion Costume Designer Makes Tiny Clothing for the Big Screen


The ‘Mamma Mia!’ Costume Designer Explains How to Dress Like Young Donna


20 ‘Cats’ Apologists Explain Why Paying $100 to See ‘Cats’ Is Worth It

View all stories in Entertainment