The Costumes in 'Only Murders in the Building' Offer Clues — and Alfred Hitchcock Easter Eggs

·8 min read

Returning costume designer Dana Covarrubias continues each of the core trio's signatures while weaving in nods to iconic mysteries in season two of the hit Hulu show.

The second season of "Only Murders in the Building" picks up just minutes after last year's finale, which ended with a cliffhanger and a mystery: Who killed Arconia Board President and resident bully Bunny Folger (Jayne Houdyshell) with a knitting needle?!

The new whodunit quickly escalates, and ventures into some interesting places — like, literally. Same goes for the costumes by Dana Covarrubias, who returns to help reunite Arconiacs with our favorite amateur detectives-slash-true crime podcasters by continuing each of their signatures. Raise a bottle of Gut Milk!

Broadway producer Oliver Putnam (Martin Short) keeps hustling in dramatic scarves, jewel tones and early-aughts designer jackets and vests. Charles-Haden Savage (Steve Martin) deals with his unfortunate breakup with bassoonist Jan (Amy Ryan) by staying protected in his blazers, navy palette and the porkpie hat associated with the TV detective he once played. Millennial artist Mabel (Selena Gomez) still inspires OOTDs in her striking marigolds, plaids and really good coats. (Are you a Putnut, Haden Maiden or Mabelline?)

Charles matches Mabel, while Oliver channels Mabel.<p>Screenshot: 'Only Murders in the Building' season two trailer</p>
Charles matches Mabel, while Oliver channels Mabel.

Screenshot: 'Only Murders in the Building' season two trailer

Still, Covarrubias says, "our cast has now moved into a new phase of their lives, as a trio." So, she devised a visual way to connect the three.

As Mabel, Charles and Oliver move into the sophomore season of their own real-time investigative podcast (while becoming persons of interest in Bunny's unfortunate demise), they begin to merge and borrow each other's trademarks. At Bunny's memorial in episode two, for instance, Mabel and Charles team up in glen plaid blazers (above), hers in a dark green by Maje and his dark navy by Hugo Boss. Oliver's marigold cashmere coat by Marciano — worn over his brown Oliver Spencer blazer — and matching vintage paisley scarf nod toward Mabel. These choices represent the "subtle, subtle ways we could say, 'OK, they're growing, and they're changing, and they're coming together as a group,'" says Covarrubias.

Gomez, Martin and Short are adorable on set on the Upper West Side in December 2021. <p>Photo: James Devaney/GC Images</p>
Gomez, Martin and Short are adorable on set on the Upper West Side in December 2021.

Photo: James Devaney/GC Images

Last December, the paparazzi snapped the trio filming on location on the Upper West Side, clad in what may be the item most sartorially associated with the hit Hulu show: statement coats. The season premiere solves the mystery behind Oliver and Charles copping Mabel's look, but behind-the-scenes, Covarrubias takes the credit.

"I actually kind of wrote that moment myself," she says.

In a production meeting with showrunner John Hoffman (who directed the episode), Covarrubias suggested a scripted reason to keep the trio warm, as the action moves quickly from the interior of the Arconia out into the wintry courtyard. "He was like, 'Yes, I love it!" she says.

Covarrubias presented the team with racks of faux fur coats as options. "Hoffman chose the favorites for the three of them, but the one they ended up choosing for Mabel is just a cute little capelet," she says. (It's vintage Donna Karan.)

For the new mystery arcs that keep pulling our trio back in, Covarrubias looked to an on-theme reference point: "I rewatched all of the classic Alfred Hitchcock films, like 'Rear Window,' 'Vertigo,' 'Dial M for Murder and 'The Birds.'" She even drops some nods to the director in the wardrobes of all three leads, but mostly Mabel.

"She's figuring out who she wants to be," says Covarrubias. "She wants to be more of an artist, but she keeps getting pulled back into this murder mystery world."

Podcasters turned persons of interest.<p>Photo: Craig Blankenhorn/Courtesy of Hulu</p>
Podcasters turned persons of interest.

Photo: Craig Blankenhorn/Courtesy of Hulu

At the police station, Mabel changes out of her white turtleneck — soaked in Bunny's blood — into a crimson hoodie (above). The Hanes Comfort Wash sweatshirt, which was hand-dyed for extra saturation, references the red lace evening gown that Grace Kelly's socialite/potential murder victim wears at the outset of 1954's "Dial M For Murder," costume designed by Moss Mabry.

"I just thought that was so fascinating: In a murder mystery, why would you have the female leads start out in a blood-red costume?," says Covarrubias. "It's on the nose and strange, but I also love it."

Martin, Gomez (in Proenza Schouler) and Short papped on the Upper West Side again in January. <p>Photo: Raymond Hall/GC Images</p>
Martin, Gomez (in Proenza Schouler) and Short papped on the Upper West Side again in January.

Photo: Raymond Hall/GC Images

Gomez was also snapped by the paps in January as Mabel, wearing a moss green belted faux fur coat by Proenza Schouler (above). The plush layer pays homage to the iconic skirt suit and fur jacket that Tippi Hedren's newspaper heiress wears for the majority of 1963's "The Birds," costume designed by Edith Head. Covarrubias asked herself, "How would Mabel wear something like that?"

Covarrubias also references Hitchcock's cinematic techniques in the costumes, with a continued black-and-white theme speaking to his usage of "shadow imagery." It illustrates the inner conflict and contradiction that the lead characters experience.

"They're constantly trying push towards who they want to be, but then they get pulled back into this murder drama and they can't move on," says Covarrubias. "There's a lot of duality there."

Mabel in her Hitchcock-inspired black and white, with Oliver and Charles on a stake-out.<p>Screenshot: 'Only Murders in the Building' season two trailer</p>
Mabel in her Hitchcock-inspired black and white, with Oliver and Charles on a stake-out.

Screenshot: 'Only Murders in the Building' season two trailer

In a climactic moment in episode six, Mabel wears a chic white wrap coat from H&M over an all-black ensemble, down to gold chain-embellished patent loafers by Steve Madden and leather gloves (above). This look hearkens back to the white oversize-lapel coat over a black turtleneck dress, gloves and a sheer scarf worn by Kim Novak's enigmatic character in 1958's "Vertigo," also costume designed by Head.

In addition to referencing Hitchcock, the squares-and-checks motif continues Mabel's previously-established penchant for wearing patterns. "There's this continual theme of grids," says Covarrubias. "You see it throughout 'North by Northwest.'"

Oliver, Mabel (in a Lisa Says Gah cardigan and Zara pants) and Charles study their new murder board.<p>Screenshot: 'Only Murders in the Building' season two trailer</p>
Oliver, Mabel (in a Lisa Says Gah cardigan and Zara pants) and Charles study their new murder board.

Screenshot: 'Only Murders in the Building' season two trailer

In season two, Mabel finally starts spending time with someone her own age — and with shared interests: art gallerist Alice (Cara Delevingne).

"There's this funny thing where Mabel is always hanging out with two old guys, and when she's with them, she's in 'detective mode,'" says Covarrubias. "She has to be comfortable and able to run around and tackle someone onto the ground if she needs to. There's really not the opportunity for fashion and glamorous looks."

When Alice invites Mabel to her gallery opening, Covarrubias jumped on the opportunity to depict a more experimental and chic side of Mabel's personality.

Per the script, Mabel enjoys free access to her wealthy aunt's wardrobe, and plucked out a sheer orange watercolor trench by Dries Van Noten, an orange shirtdress by Nanushka and white By Far boots. (Mabel's auntie has really good taste.) Complimenting Mabel's party outfit, Alice says: "I know I want that dress."

Mabel puts on heels for a visit to Alice's studio.<p>Photo: Craig Blankenhorn/Courtesy of Hulu</p>
Mabel puts on heels for a visit to Alice's studio.

Photo: Craig Blankenhorn/Courtesy of Hulu

Along with venturing downtown to Alice's studio in episode two, Mabel veers from her usual perp-chasing, lug-sole boots, and instead layers a soft buttercream coat by Cinq à Sept (above) over a black and white sweater from & Other Stories with cropped knit pants by Vince and architectural-heeled patent leather boots from Steve Madden.

"Alice is representing a different kind of New York look that we've never seen on the show so far," says Covarrubias. "She's coming more from the Lower East Side or Brooklyn art scene."

Alice has her own duality — be it her intentions or her contrasting wardrobe aesthetics. In her studio, she wears very practical but chic ensembles, like a cropped white tank by James Perse and structured cargo pants by Maeve (below). "But then, you see this other side of her," says Covarrubias, pointing toward Alice's gallery-owner responsibilities, having to put on a front to sell expensive art and impress a tony crowd. "That's the side of her that you're like, 'What is she up to?'" (There's also a touch of international supermodel, as Delevingne provided some of her personal accessories for Alice, like her chunky chain necklace and boots.)

Alice (Cara Delevingne) welcomes Mabel to her studio.<p>Photo: Craig Blankenhorn/Courtesy of Hulu</p>
Alice (Cara Delevingne) welcomes Mabel to her studio.

Photo: Craig Blankenhorn/Courtesy of Hulu

When she sends Mabel an intriguing DM, Alice wears a very Cara Delevingne rubber Burberry trench coat and then later, for a gallery party, a contrast lapel Thierry Mugler tuxedo jacket with Max Mara trousers. "She wears these bright colored blazers with sexy little tops underneath — or no tops underneath — and skinny jeans and boots. It's a very Saint Laurent kind of vibe," says Covarrubias. In a later episode, there's a faux python blazer by Rotate worn over a corset top by Zara with faux leather pants by Philosophy, which she describes as "more of [Alice's] 'showman look,' where she's trying to pretend to be this person that she's not really."

Because at the Arconia, there's a clue at every turn — and in each outfit.

The first two episodes of 'Only Murders in the Building' stream on Tuesday, June 28 on Hulu, with one episode per week following.

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