Midge (Rachel Brosnahan) isn’t the only character on a quest to reinvent herself in “The Marvelous Mrs. Maisel.” At the start of Season 2, while Midge continues her rise to stand-up stardom, her mother, Rose (Marin Hinkle), impulsively returns to Paris to relive the bohemian life she left behind after college. Bored with being a wife and mother, Rose longs for her own adventure full of art and romance, which inspired production designer Bill Groom and costume designer Donna Zakowska during a refreshing break from New York.
“It was important to get a sense of why she’s in Paris,” said Groom. “We don’t want to see monuments in every shot — this is not like a postcard. “When I was a college student in Oklahoma, my English teacher was talking about how Paris was such an artistic place…how art was in the air. That’s basically true, and you don’t have to try too hard to capture that.”
“Throughout Season 1, Rose refers to Paris, which represented her past and happy days for her when she was sort of carefree,” added Zakowska. “And that is based on her artistic interest and her romantic vision of life. So, to a degree, that was what I was trying to do with the clothing. It was also based on my studying in Paris in between college and graduate school. I could relate to her and I changed her palette with the choice of reds and purples, which I very much associate with Paris.”
While scouting Paris locations for Rose’s apartment, Groom kept in mind that she was yearning to recapture the spirit of her college experience. At first, he thought he found what he needed in an artist’s studio, but it wasn’t suitable as an apartment. However, a happy accident occurred when he spotted an inviting garden window across the courtyard, upstairs.
“I asked the woman who showed me the artist’s studio if I could take a look and she said it was her mother’s apartment,” he said. “It was perfect. She was an art collector in her early ’90s and she wasn’t around much and it didn’t require much modification. I added a piece of wall and removed her paintings, which created some wonderful shadows where the paintings had been.”
Groom found a nice cafe close by, which husband Abe (Tony Shalhoub) frequents, as he lightens up and they rekindle their marriage with a little romance. The art department built almost all of the period facades throughout the street for their cozy strolls, and the production designer was inspired by the sight of couples dancing at night along the banks of the Seine river.
“That’s something we saw when we were scouting, couples dancing in Paris, and [Amy Sherman Palladino and Daniel Palladino] wrote that into the show [as a waltz],” Groom said. “There are several places where you can go down to the water level and you can walk along pathways. I found a spot that was wider and set back that we could use. They wanted to get it through one of the bridges, so that was a little tricky to do.”
For Rose’s makeover, Zakowska drew immediate inspiration from a recent Christian Dior exhibition in Paris. “The purple coat was based on that,” she said. “I changed the color but it was a very important coat in the late ’50s in terms of its shape. And then I looked at other French designers from the period, like Jacques Fath, and basically took their silhouettes for her raincoat that you see when she’s standing in front of the museum. The shapes have a very evocative quality to them. They’re not structured in a very tailored way. It’s couture-demi, which is very different.”
The costume designer also culled from her own college experience in Paris, fitting Rose in dresses modeled on an elevated school jumper and tight sweaters. “It harkened back to to a moment when she had more of an open lifestyle. changing the shapes, changing the colors, and a rejection of her being a mother and wife,” Zakowska said. “All of the looks have a romantic, flowing quality–the coats that I chose were designed for movement. And I think that the romanticism that we see in those garments are what seduces Abe into Rose’s world. Suddenly, it’s like two people rediscovering the romance after getting married and having children.”
But when Rose steps out of her blissful sojourn and returns to New York, she brings a little bit of Paris back with her. “During the last scene when she gets in the car and pulls the hood up, with its deep, inner lining, it was like closing this very artistic and passionate moment in her life,” said Zakowska. “It should be a little melancholy.
“And then when she gets back to New York — this was a discussion that we had — I tried to include a slightly more artistic, fashion-forward, and sexier element in her clothes, even when she’s in the Catskills. So it was definitely a turning point. The show is really about women thinking about their identity and finding ways to redefine it, the choices and the evaluation at various points in their life.”