How to Dress When You’re Entering Your 30s with Master of None Costume Designer Dana Covarrubias

aziz-ansari-master-of-nonePerhaps, like the rest of us, you recently binge-watched Aziz Ansari’s series Master of None on Netflix. If so, maybe you noticed that beyond all its jokes, drama and frank dialogue about dating and race in America, this is also a show about style.

In particular, you can view it as a guide for how to dress unembarrassingly as a city-dwelling person entering one’s 30s. That’s due to the careful work of costume designer Dana Covarrubias.

We spoke with Covarrubias on the phone about the individual styles of the buddy crew at the center of Master of None: Dev (Aziz Ansari), Arnold (Eric Wareheim), Denise (Lena Waithe) and Brian (Kelvin Yu).

Also: how to reconsider your style as you turn the big three-O.

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Nordstrom blogs: Congratulations on the considerable work you’ve done on this show. How are you feeling about it?

Thank you! I feel great about it. I knew this show would be cool because Aziz has a great sense of style. His character, Dev, is a lot like him, and when we started the show we had lots of meetings about how he wanted that to come across. Dev has some money coming in, but he’s not rolling in it. He’s an actor but not at a very high level yet, not like Aziz. So there were certain brands and designers where we had to make it realistic that he would have worn that. We thought Dev would spend all his money on clothes and eating out at restaurants. He would have saved up all his money and bought Common Projects sneakers.

Aziz and Alan [Yang, co-creator and writer] wanted to set the show apart from other shows about young people right now, like Broad City or Girls. In those shows, the characters are still too young to be able to spend money on clothes. Aziz and Alan wanted our characters to be a little older and with a little money. Not a ton, but they’re doing OK. And they can and want to spend money and effort on the way they look. That was really exciting that we got to make all these people look put-together. And we got to do some 1950s stuff, and go to India and Taiwan.

That episode with the flashbacks to India and Taiwan is amazing.

Yes. I mostly work on comedy shows, which is usually just guys wearing T-shirts. So it was nice to do something that had a lot of high-end style and also those period costumes.

How would you describe Dev’s style?

First of all, Aziz as Dev, there’s only certain brands that fit his body well because he’s quite trim. So we had to stick to A.P.C. and Gant and Saturdays NYC, brands that make a really nice slim-fit leg or slim-fit shirt. His style is almost Americana. We stuck to a lot of navys and reds and darker khaki colors for his pants. A lot of navy. Navy was the number one color. For shoes, he wore Common Projects and Nike, stuff you can walk around in all day. He didn’t want to be too hip but obviously not boring. Interesting but almost everyman. A little bit everyone but with a touch of high fashion. On the edge.

arnold-master-of-noneWhat about Arnold’s style?

Oh my god, Eric Wareheim is hilarious, and he is a giant. His size dictated our shopping for him. But we also wanted to play against the way that big people are dressed on TV, which is pretty sloppy. Graphic T-shirt with a flannel over it, ripped jeans. We wanted him to be different from that. We decided we wanted to make him nautical, perhaps from Cape Cod. He wears shirts with anchors and fish on them, toggle coats, and lots of white and navy. We put him in a lot of white outfits. When do you see someone who’s 6’6” in all white? And he totally rocked it.

Yeah, in another show, Eric Wareheim’s character would be wearing something jokey or sarcastic.

Right. We wanted to make him realistic.

denise-master-of-noneWhat about Denise’s style?

Besides Aziz, she was my favorite character to dress. Lena Waithe has amazing personal style, and Aziz told me that he wanted her to dress how she normally dresses. So I talked to Lena at length and then went shopping for her. We kept saying she has sort of a Kanye West style: drop-crotch sweatpants, Nike, high-tops, Timberland; simple shirt, bright hat, urban-y jacket. She wore a lot of ZANEROBE, BLK DNM and wings + horns. She really liked to tie a hoodie or shirt around her waist and wear a jacket over that. We only shopped menswear for her—all men’s clothes. She has a very stylish urban look that’s so fun to shop for: simple silhouettes, longline tee over low sweatpants, and every now and then a camo sweater. And her hats are always fun.

Where did her “Ratch” hat come from?

We made that! We knew we wanted to make a hat for her, since she wears them in her personal life so much. We asked Lena and Aziz for a list of words for the hat. That was one of them.

brian-master-of-noneWhat about the character of Brian?

He’s sort of an everyman also, like Dev. But for Dev we went for Americana colors, and for Brian we went with a lot of greys and pinks and blacks. And navy. We wanted him to be slick and streamlined, more modern. That character is based on Alan Yang, and the actor, Kelvin Yu, has totally different personal style. So every day when I had my meeting with Alan, I would clock what he was wearing and then basically go shop it. So I stole his outfits every day.

That character is supposed to be a ladies’ man. Is that him writing his fantasies into the show?

I don’t know! But Kelvin definitely is. We wanted to keep the shirts and pants tight to go with that ladies’ man vibe.

What do you think people entering their 30s should think about as far as dressing themselves? Is it time to start thinking about things differently?

Yeah, I think it’s a time to reconsider your closet and your wardrobe. It’s a time when you’re hopefully making a little more money, and are more aware of your needs and desires. What looks good on you, which colors look good on you, what shape of jeans looks good on you. Hopefully that’s all being honed. Because of all that, it makes sense to spend a little more money on stuff that’s going to last you a while. Instead of fast fashion, it’s time to get nice pieces that fit your body well: nice fabric, good designers.

–Andrew Matson

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