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Hiatus Helper: Costume Designer Ann Foley Talks Marvel’s Agents of S.H.I.E.L.D. [Exclusive Interview] 

Photo Credit: ABC/Kelsey McNeal
Photo Credit: ABC/Kelsey McNeal

It’s about that time. Summer is coming to a close, kids are heading back to school and it’s time to settle into Fall and wait for our favorite shows to start again. I always love talking to the behind-the-scenes people on TV shows, so when I got the chance to talk to costume designer Ann Foley via email, I got excited. We talked during this year’s Comic-Con, where Ann was featured on a panel for costume design put on by the Costume Designers Guild.

The look of Marvel’s Agents of S.H.I.E.L.D. is very distinct and I just had to know how she got the gig, what inspires her to design these great costumes, who’s the most fun to dress and so much more.

TV GOODNESS: When did you know you wanted to be a costume designer and how did you break into the business? 

Ann Foley: “I’m originally from Savannah, Georgia and have a degree in Fashion Merchandising from Georgia Southern University. I was a senior at GSU when a film came to Savannah and my boyfriend at the time was working on it as a production assistant. He brought me to set and I was so blown away by the period costumes I saw that I decided to table the fashion degree after graduation in favor of a chance to work in film. With $500 and one phone number, I moved to Los Angeles. Fortunately that one phone number was the amazing costume designer Aggie Rodgers, who had just worked with a family friend and as a favor she recommended me to her previous assistant costume designer Hope Hanafin, who was designing one of her first films. Thankfully Hope hired me and thus began my career in costume.”

Photo Credit: Bob D'Amico/ABC
Photo Credit: Bob D’Amico/ABC

TV GOODNESS: Looking at your credits, you’ve mostly done films. What was it about Marvel’s Agents of S.H.I.E.L.D. that made you want to work in TV? 

Ann: “I am a big fan of Joss Whedon and of all of the Marvel films, so to me it was a once in a lifetime opportunity to get to design Marvel’s first television show and be part of the universe. We do feature level stuff every week, so my film background has been a huge help in tackling the needs of the show.”

TV GOODNESS: Take us through your process. Once you read the script and get an idea of the wardrobe needs, what happens from there? 

Ann: “The first thing I do is put my research together. Bobi Garland from the Western Costume Research Library has also been invaluable in helping me with the vast amount of research we do on each episode. Then I meet with the writers to discuss the look of the episode. From there I either start shopping, sketching or building depending on what’s happening with the characters. Then the fittings begin.”

TV GOODNESS: Who’s the most fun to dress and why? 

Ann: “That’s like asking me who my favorite child is! But in truth, they’re all fun because they’re all so different. I love finding those special pieces that help define Fitzsimmons just as much as I love printing Raina’s fabrics and figuring out her palette. There is never a dull moment in the costume department.”

Photo Credit: ABC/Sandy Huffaker
Photo Credit: ABC/Sandy Huffaker

TV GOODNESS: Working on a genre show must present its own set of challenges. Tell us about your biggest challenge on the show so far. 

Ann: “We have an 8-day schedule, which can sometimes be challenging. For example, I had 7 days notice with Agent May’s leather catsuit from T.R.A.C.K.S. and we then had 5 days to make and fit 3 of them,  2 for [Ming-Na Wen] so she could be harnessed for the parachute off the train and the other to fight in plus one for her stunt double. With other characters like Raina and Deathlok, I had a nice long lead time so I could work them out over time. Thankfully I have an amazing crew who pull off miracles daily.”

TV GOODNESS: Does someone from Marvel weigh in on your costume choices? 

Ann: “Absolutely! I also work really closely with the writers on the show, particularly Maurissa Tancharoen, who is one of our co-creators/executive producers. Maurissa’s voice and support have been invaluable to me in bringing these characters to life.”

TV GOODNESS: Can you tell us anything about the costumes you’re working on for season 2? 

Ann: “Not unless you’re Level 8.”

TV GOODNESS: Where do you find your inspiration? 

Ann: “Everywhere. I’m a huge fan of the street style blogs on Tumblr – they have been an endless source of inspiration for Skye and Fitzsimmons. I also love Pinterest – it’s also amazing what you can find digging around there, hours of fun.”

female thor

TV GOODNESS: If you could pick any fictional character to dress or design a costume for, who would it be and why?

Ann: “I’m kind of obsessed with the fact that there will be a female Thor! Now she would be an amazing character to design.”

Edited for space and content.

Season 2 of Marvel’s Agents of S.H.I.E.L.D. premieres Tuesday, September 23rd at 9/8c on ABC.

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