Costume designer Colin Wilkes discusses their time-loop wardrobes.
In what feels similar to quarantine life right now — and could definitely be many people's worst-fear scenario — Nyles (Andy Samberg) is stuck in an endless time loop set on a wedding day in "Palm Springs." During one of many resets, he connects with maid of honor Sarah (Cristin Milioti), who becomes his plus one on a trippy, emotional adventure that's like Groundhog's Day"-meets-German time travel mind-fuck "Dark"-meets-the "USS Callister" episode of "Black Mirror."
But even though Nyles and Sarah (and the wedding party and guests) are repeating the same day, their costumes by Colin Wilkes take a full-blown journey of their own.
"Today, yesterday, it's all the same," says a been-here-done-that (so many times) Nyles to another guest at the start of the film. He's lounging on a pizza-shaped floaty while clad swim trunks and an open Hawaiian shirt he probably grabbed and threw on, but will wear again.
"We really wanted to make something iconic — that wouldn't be dated quickly — but still felt natural and real and would work really well in contrasting him against this arid, desolate landscape," explains Wilkes over the phone, of the shirt by Ralph Lauren and orange swim trunks from ASOS ("which ended up working really well in being fun and quirky in its own way, without being too loud," she says of the latter.)
Wilkes pulled upwards of 80 options to land on the dad-style top "that wasn't like a hipster Hawaiian shirt." Especially for the repeat scenarios, multiples were necessary, but the variations in the tropical prints on different shirts caused a challenge in maintaining continuity. So instead of custom-building original shirts (like Amy Parris did for Hopper in "Stranger Things 3") she bought 15 of the same shirts, to whittle down to the six with the most similar print placements.
Sarah has a literal rude awakening upon realizing that she's caught in "one of those infinite time loop situations that you've heard about," per Nyles, casually dropping the bombshell. And she's still wearing the same outfit she went to sleep in the night before.
"We wanted to really make Sarah unique and effortlessly badass that's kind of unkempt, but effortlessly cool — which was not hard to do because Cristin Milioti such a force," says Wilkes, about the indie, cool-girl outfit the bride's sister, who drove in from Texas for the ceremony, primarily wears throughout the movie.
For authenticity, she asked Austin-based graphic designer Shaina Hedlund create the '80s geometric print on Sarah's slouchy sleeveless tee for a "cool band T-shirt" effect. The sea foam green hue contrasts against, but also coordinates with Nyles's vibrant shades and the desert backdrop. Wilkes custom-dyed a pair of light-blue jorts into black for an Austin-specific "rocker, grunge" look and completed Sarah's outfit with red snakeskin booties by Jeffrey Campbell.
"We just wanted to keep her badass and juxtapose her from how soft, romantic and feminine her sister Tala [Camila Mendes] was and also make her a little more edgy and show that she was going against the grain," she explains. This also illustrates how Sarah, like Nyles, doesn't fit into Tala's annoyingly picture-perfect wedding: "They're like this strange mismatched pair."
But Sarah and Nyles do have a coordinating theme low-key incorporated into their outfits: Her sheer J. Crew bralette has embossed polka dots, while his white boxers are covered in pink concentric prints, for example. "[It's] the idea of planting circles of infinity and the metaphor of that," says Wilkes. "Nyles's boxers are actually donuts that we call 'vegan donuts.'" ("You wear underwear under your bathing suit?" asks Sarah. Nyles: "Yeah, doesn't everyone?")
Understandably, repeating the same day — along with the same outfit — for eternity, could start to feel mundane. So as Sarah and Nyles find new activities to entertain themselves, they also incorporate fun layers, like faux-fur jackets in leopard prints and caps.
"We were able to take more liberties in wild things, where they pick things up along the way on road trip to who knows where that day," explains Wilkes, adding that the idea was to "evolve and become something really fun and aid in the whole existential craziness of it all. Like 'fuck it! Who cares? Let's just make this awesome."
The costume designer brought a "huge box of trinkets and hats and accessories and jackets" to set every day for Samberg and Milioti to select from, when appropriate for the scene, whether they're shooting at the gun range or drinking at the biker bar. "Those montage bits were actually perfect place to put those, because it allows us to see there's a passage of time, even though we know it's actually a reset," adds Wilkes.
The duo takes a pool break in a neighbor's empty house and Sarah changes into a color-blocked & Other Stories swimsuit, while Nyles's hero outfit proves multipurpose. "We wanted to keep it a one-piece, because I didn't want to sexualize her in any way and she's such a badass," says Wilkes. "It felt timeless and right and totally ended up working with the floaties."
During one reset, Sarah festively dresses to celebrate Nyles's who-knows-what anniversary in the loop in a party-happy tinsel capelet that recalls Harley Quinn's caution tape jacket in "Birds of Prey."
"The idea I had was that she made it and threw it together, and put it on to surprise him," says Wilkes, who found matching earrings from Free People at the last minute. She also wanted to contrast the bright metallics and texture of Sarah's outfit and the rugged bar setting to the very tight and elegantly neutral palette of Tala's wedding to Abe (Superman Tyler Hoechlin, in a The CW beautiful-people casting coup).
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If Wilkes is looking for a side-hustle, wedding planning is a solid option, considering her precise attention to detail to the nuptials at the center of "Palm Springs." First, she looked to the "eternal summer" of the titular setting to devise the "very romantic, but faded, retro, slightly boho vibe with the dusty roses, the terracottas and the soft pinks" color scheme for the bridesmaid dresses and the groomsmen linen suits.
"We wanted it to be very calculated. Tala was very methodical in making sure this was her day," says Wilkes, about bringing viewers into "Tala's world," which Nyles and Sarah visually disrupt (and sometimes more). "All the guys are in tailored suits, and each has a corresponding bow-tie to the bridesmaids' dresses and they all have the boutonnieres that match [the bridesmaids'] floral crowns."
As for Tala's delicate floral appliqué off-the-shoulder wedding gown, Wilkes looked to Los Angeles-based cool-girl bridal brand Tara Lauren. "[Mendes] put it on and it was just perfect," says Wilkes. "It encompassed everything we thought Tala was, it was romantic, it was very feminine but soft and still very elegant and it was also timeless, which was important."
Officiant (and illicit substance provider) Trevor (Chris Pang, from "Crazy Rich Asians" and "Charlie's Angels") nearly steals the spotlight from Tala in his on-theme cowboy ensemble — which wedding guest Roy (J.K. Simmons) refers to as "the ridiculous suit."
"It's my favorite costume," says Wilkes. "When I read it, I was like, 'Thank you Max [Barbakow, the director] and [writer] Andy Siara,' because it was just brilliant." She again headed to Austin to custom Western-wear design house Fort Lonesome and collaborated with owner Kathie Sever on the chainstitch-embroidered suit.
"He's just this wild eccentric character and he didn't need to fit into any of [the controlled wedding environment], so he just goes to the beat of his own drum. We wanted to do some classic rock 'n' roll, non-offensive iconography — meaning lightening bolts and hearts," laughs Wilkes, who also found inspiration from the song "Candyman" by Grateful Dead. "That was kind of his role at the wedding, so we decided to go with 'Candyman' and a rocker on the back in this really fantastic lettering with bedazzles."
Overall, Wilkes enjoyed collaborating both with Milioti and Samberg, who also co-produced the movie. "He was really hands-on in making sure it didn't feel like we were making this outlandish farcical thing," she says of Samberg, who also co-produced the film. "Especially with an absurdist or comedic work, but with an emotional current, that's a delicate balance."
'Palm Springs' premieres on Friday, July 10 on Hulu and select drive-ins.