‘Only Murders' Costume Designer Dana Covarrubias Sourced Literally Hundreds of Coats for S2

There aren’t a lot of times when a show goes viral not only for being an absolute delight, but because the costumes are 10/10. Only Murders in the Building season 1 managed to do that, and for weeks on end, screenshots of the show’s looks popped up basically every time you opened social media. The same can be said for season 2, which airs its finale tomorrow and has somehow created an equal amount of red herring plot twists and “add to cart” moments.

Costume designer Dana Covarrubias is the woman behind the clothing racks responsible for creating all those viral moments. She chatted with Cosmopolitan about her recent Emmy nomination, why she tries not to think too hard about the social media reception to her work, and how Conan O’Brien had an unlikely influence on her plan for season 2.

Congrats on being nominated for an Emmy! How did you find out?

I was driving to drop off some returns, as we do in the costume world. I’m somewhere in Harlem and my husband called and we were just sort of chatting about the news or something. But he was being kind of weird, and then he just stopped talking, and all of a sudden he was like, You know, we’ve been talking this whole time, but I’ve been trying to figure out how to tell you this. I think you might be nominated for an Emmy. I was like, Wait, what?! And he was like, I didn’t know if you knew. I was waiting for you to say something. We were having this 20-minute long conversation. He knew the whole time but he didn’t tell me.

That’s hilarious. Where did you start with these characters when you were designing for season 1? What were some of your inspirations?

One of the biggest inspirations for season 1 was The Hardy Boys, which are featured in the plot line of the first season. When I’m first researching how I want to design a show, I make myself a little list of every major prop or theme, and then more closely research it to see if it sparks inspiration. The Hardy Boys books were a big part of the plot, so I started looking at at the illustrations on the covers and the colors were so beautiful and so saturated. I thought they were perfect for the show.

The reaction to the costumes in season 1 was overwhelmingly positive. Were you surprised by that? How did you experience that in the moment?

I was very surprised. You put out costumes in the world and you shoot them and you’re proud of them and you think they look good, but you never really know what the reaction is going to be. I remember the day that we shot the scene where Selena Gomez is walking down the street wearing that marigold Michael Kors cropped jacket, I went to last-look her on set and one of the producers came over to me and the showrunner, and they were like, Dana, this is huge. This is gonna be huge, people are gonna freak out. I had an inkling that people were going to be excited, and then when the show came out, the first time I saw a dog dressed up like Mabel I was like, Oh, wow, this really has reached a level that I just wasn’t even prepared for.

Does that impact how you think about your costuming going into season 2? Do you have that viral-look potential in the back of your head?

A little bit. What I love about costume design is that my design specifically is so based in character development and psychology and where are these people at in their lives. In season 2 I used Alfred Hitchcock as my inspiration. I focus all my energy on these color palettes or themes that I’m excited by. And then obviously what’s going on with our characters in the plot. I’m not really thinking, Will this go viral? But when I see a stunning winter coat I’m like, This could be good, people are gonna want this coat.

Do you think about highlighting specific designers that you want to give a little bit of a spotlight to?

Yes, for sure. For season 2 I did shop a bunch of different designers that were all Mexican because I’m half Mexican and Selena’s half Mexican, so I wanted to get some Mexican designers in there. I definitely also think about sustainability of the clothing industry and I try my hardest to shop secondhand.

The coats on this show are fabulous, and I heard that you pushed to make the statement coats continue into season 2. Tell me about that choice.

That’s really a hilarious story. Conan O’Brien has a podcast and a bunch of friends of mine texted me and they were like, Hey, Conan O’Brien is interviewing Kieran Culkin on his podcast and they’re talking about your costume designs. They very sweetly were talking about how much they love all the costumes. They made a joke about how Mabel changes her coat every scene. I usually try to keep things somewhat realistic as far as people not changing or not changing a ton. But when they said that I was like, This is now a show about coats. This is not a show about murder anymore.

I love that, a different coat for every scene.

We’ve established that she’s staying at her aunt’s apartment. We’ve never met her aunt before, but what we do know is that she’s able to afford this gorgeous, gigantic apartment on the Upper West Side. So she’s got money, obviously. My whole justification of the coats is that Mabel is dipping into her aunt’s closet whenever she wants to. That allows us to have a lot of freedom with the price point of her costumes.

How many coats would you say you sourced for season 2?

Oh, gosh. Well, by the end of the season when we wrapped we had at least four racks of coats for Mabel, and a rack probably holds 50. I don’t know, 100? And that’s just the ones that we tried and altered and kept. There are many, many more that we had in fittings but that didn’t work out for one reason or another. And that’s just Mabel.

The word cozy comes up a lot when talking about this show. What is the coziest thing you’ve been able to get on screen for this show?

In season 1 Mabel wore this beautiful sweater that we found that was vintage. I have no idea where it came from. There was no tag in it. It’s this multicolored, beautiful, cozy sweater. It has every color in it. It just looked so gorgeous and cozy on camera. I got so many requests asking about the details and it was so sad to have to respond basically being like, I have no idea where it’s from. And then in season 2, because I loved it so much I wanted to reuse it, so we actually had Cara Delevingne wear it after the scene when they’ve spent the night together and it’s the next morning and we had Cara wearing her sweater.

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