Interview with “L Word” Stylist Cynthia Summers


Cynthia Summers has seen the stars of The L Word naked. It’s just another day at the office for her.

As the set stylist for the Showtime series, Summers has put together power
suits for Bette, dresses for Jenny and genderqueer outfits for Max since the
beginning of the show. Her previous experience included working on the sets of
films and television shows like Smallville,
The Dead Zone and The American Mall.

Now that the series she has worked on since 2006 will be coming to a close,
Summers talked to about what a lesbian looks like, which actress
she loves to pick out clothes for and what she was thinking with that hat for
Papi. What
kind of research did you do before you figured out how each individual
character should be dressed on The L Word?

Cynthia Summers: First the basic
research I do, like on any film, is to research the specific demographic. I
went to bars.

The show is in Vancouver — well we shoot in Vancouver­ — so
I took a look at what’s happening in the lesbian scene in Vancouver and then in
L.A. That’s where we’re supposed to be. Just sort of all the typical scenarios
and what we all think everybody — meaning the outside world, not just lesbians
— what everyone thinks that lesbians dress like.

Obviously [what they thought] wasn’t completely real or
true, thank God! [Laughs]

And then from there it really became more about what Ilene
Chaiken wanted to do with the show, and about our core group and who they are.
They’re a group of talented, some of them affluent, some artists — you know our
characters — living in LA.

A lot of what they wear and what their look entails has to
speak to that as well, of where they’re actually at.

In my mind anyway, season one was a bit tame. We were brand
new, and we were the only lesbian show, and we had a core design theme but we
didn’t know who it would be or who we were trying to reach. We wanted to reach
everyone but didn’t know who would be interested in watching. So we were kind
of playing it fairly safe in season one.

After season one, Ilene always wanted it to be a show that
spoke about fashion, right from the get-go. So for season two she said take
what you are doing and do it 100 percent bigger.

AE: That must be
nice, to have that kind of freedom.

CS: It’s so totally refreshing!
Fantastic! Bette’s character, for instance, is an easier one because she’s a professional
woman working in the art world and she’s surrounded by art and influenced by it
all the time. And she wears a lot more dresses now later on in the series, but
in the beginning we were dressing her as men’s inspired suits.

I actually bought her
men’s shirts and just cut them down to fit her. And she got a little more
feminine as the seasons have gone on but she’s still really true to that
silhouette, that song pants sort of silhouette.

And Jennifer — I’m so fortunate also be working with such great
bodies. I don’t have one difficult body on the show, I really don’t! And
Jennifer of course is statuesque and such a great body so going into the
fashion has of course made it a lot easier for me.

So to take that sort of ‘40s-inspired Hepburn/men-suit look
and diversifying on it over the seasons has worked out well, and I think it’s
been something that really transferred into real life, which is something that
I think the show­ does.

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