Costume Design for Marvel's Daredevil on Netflix

By Joe Kucharski - April 14, 2015

Marvel has burst onto the Netflix scene to rave reviews with its new original program Daredevil. The first of four planned shows, capped off by a “Defenders” miniseries, Daredevil brings to the small screen one of Marvel’s most popular comic book characters, who has yet to receive live action success. With this new platform, Marvel has created a far grittier cinematic world than any of their previous endeavors, packed with more aggressive violence (be prepared for the “squishing” sounds), sex and language. Daredevil is grounded in a very realistic, and troubled New York City.

 

Stephanie Maslansky is an acclaimed New York City based costume designer with credits that range from Oz to White Collar, and Law In Order: Criminal Intent. She designed the costumes for Daredevil, and is already hard at work on Marvel’s A.K.A. Jessica Jones for Netflix. I recently had the opportunity to ask Stephanie about her to approach to Daredevil.

Marvel's Daredevil. Costume designer Stephanie Maslansky's research boards.

 

Tyranny of Style: Marvel’s new Netflix programing is so exciting for fans! Television costume designers often are given little information about what is happening more than a few episodes ahead, making planning on a larger scale difficult. With the "release all episodes at once" format of Netflix, how much of the storyline and character development was given to you at the beginning? And how did this format help you or provide a challenge to you as designer?

Stephanie Maslansky: “I’m thrilled to be working with Marvel. I feel a responsibility to honor the origins of the Daredevil characters, and help them journey into the 21st century. 

I immediately read the first two episodes. There were also some future script outlines. A solid understanding of the arc of each character and the story overall is key. Costume design requires advance planning. We asked many questions in order to prepare for a character’s stunt needs or demise, or costumes that would require building or retro-fitting, it was challenging but not insurmountable if information was unavailable. We find solutions to accomplish the tasks at hand.” 

Marvel's Daredevil. Costume designer Stephanie Maslansky's research boards.

 

T/S: Can you tell us about your inspiration and design vision for the overall Daredevil series?

SM: “Daredevil is rooted in the authentically gritty New York City neighborhood, Hell’s Kitchen where Matt Murdock grew up. In the comics—particularly those of the Frank Miller era in the early 1990s—there were detailed illustrations we endeavored to bring to life in a grounded, gritty, and updated way, with respect and a strong nod to the original characters.  We wanted to pick up where the comics version left off. I studied the illustrations from The Man Without Fear, Daredevil Yellow, and the issues of the 1960s, to which the newer collections pay homage.  I wanted the costume design to reflect the illustrations of those volumes through a modern lens while maintaining a retro sensibility.”  

 

Marvel's Daredevil. Costume designer Stephanie Maslansky's research boards.

 

T/S: Can you tell us about your design vision for Matt Murdock?

SM: “Matt Murdock was not born with superhuman powers. A childhood accident left him with heightened senses and he learned to channel his abilities.  His superior training resulted in fearlessness, giving rise to Daredevil. Matt engages in the fight against evil as an attorney by day and a vigilante by night. I love the character for his inner turmoil, causing conflict and remorse about his choices. Emotionally withdrawn, honesty and close relationships prove elusive.  Those closest to him are unaware of his subversive activities.  He has a troubled relationship with his church.  The result is a dark, complicated human being with remarkable abilities utilized to help those in trouble. The story is affecting due to the complex humanity of both Daredevil and Matt Murdock.

I endeavored to illustrate his character’s complexity by creating a consistent and uncomplicated look, yet full of depth. As an attorney Matt wears a uniform every day. His palette is limited to black, white, and tones of grey and blue. Every piece in his closet coordinates with one another. The depth is achieved from the especially textural fabrics. Ties are jacquard, shirts are made of oxford cloth and the weave of each suit is exceptionally tactile.  For a man whose sense of touch is so greatly enhanced, it seemed a justifiable choice.”

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 Marvel's Daredevil. Comic book art, "The Man Without Fear."

 

T/S: Daredevil's costume evolves from homemade vigilantle suit to full-fledged super suit in the comic book as well as the series. Can you talk us through what it was like as a designer to create that all-important, and iconic suit evolution for the series?

 SM: “I collaborated with Joe Quesada and Steven Deknight on the vigilante costume. Joe, an extraordinary artist as well as the CCO of Marvel, conceptualized the look. Steven our brilliant show-runner/EP had particular requirements in order to propel the story.  It distinctly paid homage to the black costume illustrated by John Romita Jr. in “The Man Without Fear.”  We wanted to pick up where the comics version left off, designing a costume that would move the character into the 21st century and look absolutely badass!

 

We imagine Matt easily procures the pieces on his own, shopping around town or the Internet. Most significantly was the development of the mask—something Matt probably created at his kitchen table. In the comic’s appearance, it was a strip of fabric barely covering his eyes. It went through a variety of modifications before we landed on the one seen in the series.  We continued to refine until it not only looked spectacular, but also was comfortable and functional. The vigilante uniform was an important component to Daredevil’s purpose. While flexible, it also needed to be practical and protective. There was an evolution to it throughout the series. The story of that evolution is grounded in reality; disbelief is easily suspended. That’s what makes it unique.”

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T/S: Can you tell us about your process balancing the look of the costumes of Matt Murdock and Daredevil- in what ways did you try to either link them or contrast them?

SM: “Matt Murdock disguised himself at night. One might say he also disguised himself during the day. Dark glasses or a mask always cover his eyes. The two looks have nothing in common on the face of it. However, consider that both are “uniforms” --practical, functional, and protective. Matt maintains a professional distance dressed as attorney. His vigilante uniform does much the same, although in disguise.  He does his best not to get involved with the people he helps or who help him, with limited degrees of success.”

 

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Marvel's Daredevil. Costume designer Stephanie Maslansky's research boards.

T/S: There is a beautiful shot in the series where the camera pans across Wilson Fisk's row of suit. The high-powered villain's wealth is a key element of his storyline- what was your inspiration behind designing his costumes?

SM: “Wilson Fisk has a specific look.  His choices reflect the man he is and the man he’s become. As with Matt Murdock’s costumes, I was influenced by the comics with the same stipulation that they feel authentic and modern. We dressed Fisk in current style, embracing a slim silhouette.  It’s classic and consistent.  His clothing was custom-made by a highly skilled tailor, Michael Andrews who’s well versed in modern design details.  


With Vincent D’Onofrio’s incredible performance, Wilson Fisk is a monstrous and volatile man, but also one capable of great vulnerability and depth. There’s an evolution to his costumes throughout the first season.  There’s also a significance attached to one of his accessories.  The cufflinks worn by Wilson Fisk belonged to his father. Their significance is eventually revealed. Based on Vincent’ D’Onofrio’s age, his dad would be in his 80s. He would have bought them in the 1950s or ‘60s—a mid-century design. We searched for the perfect vintage cufflinks.  We finally landed on a sterling silver pair with interesting negative space. We knew from reading ahead we’d need many duplicates. I redesigned them, adding more detail—a tiger’s eye stone and a portion of it cast in gold. They retained a mid-century look, enhanced to become unique in the world.”

Marvel's Daredevil. Wilson Fisk's cufflinks.

 

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T/S: Can you tell us a bit about your process and inspiration behind some of the supporting characters? 

SM: “Karen Page embodies innocence and knowingness. We referenced the comic illustrations and updated them, then built her wardrobe with the same retro nod as for the other characters.

Karen’s been accused of a hideous crime. Her path leads to Foggy, Matt, and a job at Nelson and Murdock.  She doesn’t have money. We imagined she dreams of a glamorous life. Her icons are Katherine Hepburn and Loren Bacall.  She thrifts her dresses and creatively re-works them. Her look is body conscious and professional.

Marvel's Daredevil. Costume designer Stephanie Maslansky's research boards.

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"In the original comics illustrations Foggy wears a bowtie and his color palette is lively. We updated his look but didn’t stray from his overall distinctive style—quirky but not flamboyant. He favors warm colors and printed shirts.  His ties are patterned with animals or objects.  Even his socks are patterned and colorful.  The audience may never see them, but the actor does. Foggy has one particular accessory that helps define his look, a vintage tie-bar w/ the letter ‘F’. We imagine it was a gift from his father."

Marvel's Daredevil. Costume designer Stephanie Maslansky's research boards.

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"Rosario Dawson has an easy sexiness and a warm beauty. Claire Temple’s look is effortless and casual; she exudes an unstudied sensuality. She wears slim boyfriend jeans and shirts that skim rather than hug the body. Her clothing might indicate a woman who has travelled or at least has an interest in cultures other than her own.”

Marvel's Daredevil. Costume designer Stephanie Maslansky's research boards.


Thank you to Stephanie Maslansky for sharing with us her expert insight. We look forward to seeing where you take us next in the Marvel Universe! Check out more of Stephanie's original Daredevil costume research boards below.

Marvel's Daredevil. Costume designer Stephanie Maslansky's research boards.

Marvel's Daredevil. Costume designer Stephanie Maslansky's research boards.

Marvel's Daredevil. Costume designer Stephanie Maslansky's research boards.

Marvel's Daredevil. Costume designer Stephanie Maslansky's research boards.

Marvel's Daredevil. Costume designer Stephanie Maslansky's research boards.

Marvel's Daredevil. Costume designer Stephanie Maslansky's research boards.

Make sure to check out Marvel's Daredevil, on Netflix now!