Leesa Evans on Designing for 'The Five-Year Engagement'

Emily Blunt Jason Segel
Photo Credit: Glen Wilson
Emily Blunt (Violet) and Jason Segel (Tom)

We have to say, if this whole journalism thing doesn't pan out, we've got our eye on Leesa Evans' job as our next coveted position. The costume designer on many an Apatow production, Evans got to skew a little girlier on her most recent project, The Five-Year Engagement.

Emily Blunt and Alison Brie are always such standouts on the red carpet, and Brie must have a stylistic opinion or two from working on Mad Men. Did they offer their opinions about their characters?
It's funny because generally because it's very little input. It's always more collaborative when we get into the thing, and I've pulled all the clothes and we're underway to talking about the characters because generally I spend a lot of time with the director beforehand coming up with the look and the design concept of the film for all the characters. But I must say Emily and Alison both have great taste and we had such a great time in the fittings. It was so much fun. It was never, you know, long and difficult. It was always just hilarious and we just wanted to try on more clothes. In the end, Alison and I joked a lot about the fact that we had too many cute Suzie (Brie's character) clothes and which ones would we use. They both came up great ideas that helped put the final touches on things. Alison had come up with this really cute idea with her bridesmaid's dress that Emily would wear it in the long version to her wedding and then she would turn around and wear it in the short version to Emily's wedding.

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Photo Credit: Glen Wilson
Alison Brie as Suzie

The two sisters have really different styles in the film. Violet (Blunt) is much more academic and utilitarian, while Suzie is seen in a leopard coat and more party clothes. How did you approach dressing them?
I definitely wanted to feel like they both had this British heritage, and there are pieces of their history that came through both of their styles. Suzie is much more of a party girl and we kind of joked a lot that—the director Nick Stoller and I—would joke about how she was an adorable catastrophe, that she's so adorable but it's just too much. We called her super-cute all the time. There was that aspect of it that she didn't really have it all together, and then Emily's character Violet does have it together and you see it in their wardrobe: she's very put-together and she's a little bit of a tomboy and it all appears very effortless. And yet the interesting contrast is that Suzie and Alex (Chris Pratt) seem to make it work and they have two kids before Violet and Tom even get around to getting married. It just seemed like a comment on different people's personalities and how people come to getting their lives together.

So much of the clothes are humorous—Jason Segal's bunny suit, Chris Parnell's knitted sweaters. How much interpretation did you have with the comedic pieces?
I came up with the bunny suit because I thought 'What is the most hilarious, ridiculous, adorable thing that...this handsome 6 foot 4 guy could wear?' It worked out so well as a part of the story because he wears it later when he's feeling a bit depressed about his life. In regards to the sweaters, Chris Parnell's character, Nick had come up with the idea that he is Mr. Mom, but he does really contrasting things as Mr. Mom, one of them being hunting and the other one is changing diapers, but what else could he do that is sort of masculine and feminine at the same time? Which is the idea of knitting and then I came up with the all design concepts for the sweaters and I had a knitter put them together. It was really fun because after the first sweaters were finished which were the hunting ones, I would get these emails from Nick Stoller that would say 'More sweaters, please.'

You worked on Bridesmaids as well. How did prepping the bridal looks for that film differ from this one?
In Bridesmaids, we were really trying to do something that was couture meets comedy, and in The Five-Year Engagement, we were just looking for something that was authentic to the characters and felt right in the locations where they were ultimately getting married, something that these real people would pick out. It was a different way going about it, and I've done so many films with weddings for some reason that it's really fun to see who that character is and try to get into, if they were planning a wedding, what would it be? how would it look? and then put that all together.

You've worked so much in comedy, on I Love You, Man, Forgetting Sarah Marshall, and American Pie, to name a few. Was that your plan?
I never thought my career would be in comedy necessarily, but i must say, it's so enjoyable to go to work every day. The tone of the set while we're shooting a comedy is exactly as you would imagine it: really fun, lots of jokes, people in a great mood. I really come to love it because it's a great atmosphere to work.

In these films, clothes aren't the central focus. How do you approach styling when clothes aren't the attention-getters?
I think I'm always trying to downplay things so that the clothes aren't comedic because I don't think that that works in the context of a contemporary comedy. I'm always trying to find the real people in these comedic situations. The clothes shouldn't necessarily be a focal point because I think it would take us out of who the characters are and we would be less sympathetic and interested in them…keeping things in good taste is something that i love and creating fashion that feels like fashion for the people as opposed to fashion for the runway…It's more of the full experience as opposed to being the fashion experience.