David Tabbert press
Singlets & Jessica Simpson Heels: Inside the Heightened Reality of "Fire Island" with Costume Designer David Tabbert
June 6, 2022

written by Christopher Rudolph, New Now Next

How do you dress characters who are spending an entire movie at a gay summer getaway where people are known to wear as little as possible?

That was the exact dilemma costume designer David Tabbert had when he came on board to style the cast of Fire Island, Hulu’s hit new queer rom-com directed by Andrew Ahn and written by Joel Kim Booster.

“Andrew and I have admired each other’s work for some time and we’ve tried to connect on a project previously before this one,” Tabbert tells Logo when asked how he became involved with the project. “He sent me the script and I’ve been going to Fire Island since I was in my early ’20s. So I was immediately drawn to it. It’s such a great script. Joel is brilliant.”

“I think finding a sense of heightened reality was certainly the goal,” Tabbert explains. “We wanted things to feel real and we wanted things to feel authentic and natural, and at the same time we wanted to control the environment with color and texture and how things worked collectively on an ensemble. How costumes complimented each other. For instance, when we went out there and we really thought about, Okay, how do people pack? I was thinking about how I pack for Fire Island. I pack very practically, swimsuits that can dual as shorts and things that I can repurpose and not a lot of clothing. And that’s one of the interesting and fun challenges was finding ways to separate the characters when not a lot of clothing is typically worn out there.”

Logo asked Tabbert about certain characters and their outfits from Fire Island. Scroll through below to hear him tell who was wearing what, and what you should keep your eyes peeled for on your next re-watch:

Luke's Low Tea Singlet

"That’s Patrick Church, actually. He’s a queer New York designer, and I actually just discovered him on Instagram and saw that a lot of his pieces had caught my eye and I was like, who is this guy? And we discovered him in pre-production and it just felt really right on for Matt Rogers’ character, Luke, who tries really hard. That’s part of his whole thing, he’s extra and really goes for it. And there’s certainly a lot of that all throughout the island day to day in real life.”

Queer Brands Galore

“I contacted Julian over at Double Scorpio and let him know what we were doing. Double Scorpio was hugely supportive of us. They threw merch and poppers and so much our way that we were able to incorporate, like at the Underwear Party, and it’s all sprinkled throughout the film. We customized that tank top. We dyed it. I think it was a white tank top that we dyed and we fit it on Bowen. It’s such an iconically queer brand. And it was important to us that we put brands in there that queer people would identify with. Specifically that we, as a community, totally could speak the same language and understand the reference of a Double Scorpio tank top, but to some mom in the Midwest, it’s not going to mean anything to her. We did that intentionally.”

The Underwear Party

“We had so many jocks and briefs and every single kind of underwear and peekaboo cutouts, we really wanted to show a range. We, of course, asked people to bring things, but we supplemented a lot of it. We really wanted to make sure that a real, diverse assortment was in there and represented. And it really felt right to put Torian Miller’s character, Max, in a wrestling singlet, and Noah, it felt really right for him to be in classic Calvin Klein briefs. Once we started putting pieces together, we were like, Okay, what’s missing? Who’s going to wear the jock? Okay, that’s Luke. Who can pull off this very extra harness jock? Which was, of course, Tomás Matos’ character Keegan. So, just finding a way to balance the proportions within the cast was key.”

Vintage Vibes

“Luke’s vintage DC Eagle shirt is from Cesar Padilla at Cherry Vintage in Long Island City. He [Padilla] has an incredible extensive vintage collection, a lot of queer vintage and vintage with homoerotic innuendos and nuances. And we used that. We also put Matt Rogers in this vintage Sergio Valente muscle shirt with mesh on it in his intro, which came from Cherry Vintage. And so did Keegan’s International Male swim brief.”

Keegan's Fiery Fashion

“We collaborated with an artist named Thomas Knight who hand-painted Keegan’s (Tomás Matos) crop top in the Pantry, which is a mirror image of two guys sharing a hot dog. And that was something that was very cool that we were able to get in a studio film for a mainstream audience. They always wore pearls from Edgar Mosa. At tea, Keegan wore high-heeled boots from Jessica Simpson. In the Pantry scene he also wore heels from Jessica Simpson and wrestling shorts from Aquaria (RuPaul’s Drag Race).”

Peppermint's Trans Flag Colors

“We worked with Marco Morante from the line, Marco Marco, does a lot of custom work for a lot of queens. We’ve been acquainted for years and I reached out to him and we put something together and Peppermint weighed in as well. We decided we wanted to do the trans flag colors. Then we just started coming up with concepts and just kind of explored some different sketch ideas, and then it all came to life.”

Margaret Cho's Motherly Wardrobe

“A lot of vintage. Just thinking about Margaret’s character, Erin, as this motherly figure for them who has been going to the island for years and has collected this really extensive closet of scantily clad clothing that is very easy to throw on when she goes out on the island. We put a lot of crochet pieces and vintage on her. And when she was in the fitting and things started to come to life, we knew when it felt right and just kind of leaned into an aesthetic that really encapsulates her aesthetic that we see throughout the film.”

The Ocean Walk Boys

“For the Ocean Walk boys, we wanted to show that they had different outfit changes constantly, especially characters like Cooper (Nick Adams) who was in head-to-toe designer looks pretty much throughout the film.”

Fire Island is out now on Hulu.

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