Portlandia

A lot of Amanda Needham’s job involves running around town. She’ll shop for polar fleeces, cowboy hats and clown props. She schleps armloads of clothes to the dry cleaners. She visits shoot locations. She meets with clients for coffee.

And then she runs home to take care of her baby girl, Nova.

Amanda Needham, Costume Designer

Costume designer Amanda Needham outside the store Frances May on Portland’s SW Washington Street. 

sorel_22_201703The busy two-time Emmy-winning costume designer has to know her city well, and how to dress comfortably to get along in it. She works on IFC’s Portlandia, a sketch comedy show with Fred Armisen and Carrie Brownstein about Portland and its eccentric citizens. She lives there for most of the year. The other forty percent of the time, Needham is in LA working on Baskets, Zach Galifianakis’s show about a Paris-trained clown trying to make it in Bakersfield, California, where he works as a rodeo clown. It’s a black comedy about dreams half met–or trampled.

We met Amanda in Portland, where she took us around to her favorite spots–to shop, to eat, to get things done–and showed us how she dresses for her hectic days. Needham has an ability to mix fun and function in her outfits–perhaps it’s a result of the intention that must inform her clothing selections for comedy characters. The key to her look is fashionable, durable and element-proof shoes by (Portland’s own) SOREL–just watch how she styles them.

Read on to hear about Portland’s hotspots, the evolving PNW style that Amanda cultivates in life and art, and pursuing your dreams in an ideal outfit.

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L-R: “Lance’s mom” (Gretchen Corbett), “Lance’s mom’s boyfriend” (Justin Long), “Lance” (Carrie Brownstein) and “Nina” (Fred Armisen); image courtesy Portlandia from “The Fiancée” episode 

As a business which started in the #upperleft corner of these United States, we at Nordstrom have a special appreciation for IFC’s Portlandia. That would be the sketch comedy TV show where stars Fred Armisen and Carrie Brownstein basically teach a master class in how to mock life in Portland, OR. It’s all there: the passive-aggressiveness, the self-righteous savior complex, the questionable style choices. And yet the show, currently in its fifth season, is a love-letter.

“The Fiancée” episode aired Thursday, Jan. 15, and was partially filmed at the Lloyd Center Nordstrom. (That location is now closed, with every employee who wished to be relocated given a new home at a nearby Nordstrom). Key scenes in the episode occur at Nordstrom and feature Armisen’s character Nina, whose make-up is done by Jessica Needham and whose overall style is created by her sister, two-time Emmy-winner Amanda Needham.

We spoke with the sisters while the two native Portlanders sat in their car in deadlocked traffic. Topics discussed: Nina, Portlandia and good versus bad style.

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