When costume designer Kate Carin first heard about Apple’s period piece The Buccaneers, an adaptation of Edith Wharton’s final (and unfinished) novel, she knew that she needed to work on the project. So, she made a look book. “I think most people do, maybe 20 pages,” she says. “Mine was 187.”
Unfortunately, by the time Carin got the offer over a year later, she had taken another role. “I was begging them, ‘If you can’t find anybody, or you decide to split it up for any reason, please, will you keep me in mind?’” As luck would have it, the show wound up split between three costume designers, with Carin coming in for the third and final leg of the first season. While she worried that the cast and crew would be burnt out by the time she arrived, Carin and her crew “came in with more energy than you could shake a stick with,” she says. “We bounced off the walls and had great fun with it.”
“My brief when I came in was to bring up the color, strengthen the silhouettes,” Carin says. And that she did. “My brief to the girls that went off the pull was that I don’t want anything wishy washy, I don’t want anything pastel. If you bring me peach, you’ll get sacked. I want strong, strong tones and pattern—don’t be afraid of it.”
The show—which counts Kristine Frøseth, Alisha Boe, Josie Totah, and Christina Hendricks among its leads—is filled to the brim with jewel toned overcoats, corsetry, knitwear, and dresses. Many of the leads’ costumes were made by hand.
While Carin has previously worked on period pieces, she didn’t feel inclined to stick to a rigid set of standards. “I am not a period designer. I am not classically trained,” she says. But the lack of rigidity worked in her favor. “We very much approached it with a contemporary twist. I don’t care what the history books say, for me, let’s exaggerate.”
Carin’s costuming particularly shines with Kristine Frøseth’s Nan, whom the designer imagined as a tomboyish figure. “I really didn’t want to lose that element of her. She’s a sporty outgoing girl, she’s a nonconformist,” she says. While Carin’s pitch to get Frøseth in pants “raised a few eyebrows,” she was able get the actor in trousers for a quick scene, as well as a wide-legged pair of culottes, slyly transforming a skirt into a more gender-neutral option. “If you look at the silhouette straight on, it looks like a skirt, but when you see her running along the beach, you can see it’s trousers.”