Kathleen Felix-Hager press
Can We Please Talk About The Fashion In HBO's HACKS, Costume Design by Kathleen Felix-Hager — It's So Good
June 14, 2021

by Rose Minutaglio, Elle

The new HBO Max series Hacks centers on two comediennes across the generational divide: Deborah (Jean Smart), a Joan Rivers-esque stand-up with a QVC contract, and Ava (Hannah Einbinder), a twentysomething TV writer who loses her job after a misguided tweet.

The women form an unlikely alliance in Las Vegas, where Deborah has a long-standing residency at a casino. Hilarity, heartbreak, and one very strange stint at a plastic surgery center ensue. Not only are the showrunners being lauded for the show’s ingenuity, but Smart is already generating awards-season buzz for her leading role.

Give Hacks a gold medal and more—it really is that good. But I’m here to talk about a part of the show that hasn’t garnered nearly enough attention: the fashion.

As Deborah, Smart lounges poolside in silky caftans, and sips champagne before shows in velvet robes. She dresses up in sequined pantsuits, and dazzles audiences both with jokes and her rhinestone-studded Jimmy Choos. Her style is overstated, but casually elegant. I like to think the late Fashion Police host would be proud.

It’s hard to pick just one favorite fashion moment from Hacks, but a standout comes mid-season when Deborah’s Rolls Royce breaks down on the way home from a trip to hunt down an antique pepper shaker. While waiting on a rescue, she seeks shade from the afternoon desert sun under a creamsicle-colored parasol.

After a year spent hibernating at home in sweatpants and oversized hoodies, seeing the return of over-the-top accoutrements on the small screen is fun. Sure, you can rock crop-tops and cut-offs this summer—but why not beat the heat beneath a colorful umbrella?

The showy septuagenarian's look is the brilliance of costume designer Kathleen Felix-Hager, who really knows how to nail the vibe of a lady of leisure.

In an interview with The Cut, Smart said she was so excited by Felix-Hager’s vision for the character that she went shopping. “One weekend, I saw this silver-sequined jacket that was on sale for nothing,” she told the outlet. “I called [Kathleen Felix-Hager] on my cell phone: ‘Should I buy it? Should I buy it?’ She goes, ‘Yes, yes, yes!’ I will admit that a few of the items are my personal possessions.”

Sure enough, there is quite a bit of sartorial sparkle in the series—and also some scales. In one scene, Deborah populates a manufactured lake on her property with live fish she gets delivered directly to her French chateau–influenced estate. The local neighborhood water-maintenance worker Wilson (Johnny Sibilly) disapproves, but in Deborah’s mind she’s worked too hard not to have this kind of insane opulence.

She oversees the mass fish dump in, what else, an orange, teal, and gold kaftan paired with a cheetah-print scarf and floppy hot-pink sunhat. Stone-faced, she takes a sip from her coffee mug as fish are hurled out of a giant reverse vacuum hose and into her pond.

Lucky for us, there's more of Deborah (and fingers crossed more pond fish) in our future. Hacks was renewed for a second season on HBO Max. Here's to another round of martinis, moussed blonde bouffants, and lots of moxie.