An iconic women’s wrestling series of the ’80s, GLOW (Gorgeous Ladies of Wrestling) is remembered for its big, frizzy hair, glittery eye makeup and a charmingly scrappy aesthetic—the colorful visual choices it made with its characters. Bringing the Ladies into the comedy arena with Netflix’s GLOW, series creators Liz Flahive and Carly Mensch were always going to bump up against the legacy of the original series, with the need for hair and makeup that would do it justice.
Enter Theraesa Rivers and Lana Horochowski, experts in period work—known for projects including Mad Men and The Last Tycoon—who could pull from their own childhood memories to portray ’80s stylings in a nuanced fashion. While the ’80s was a relatively easy decade to tackle, thinking back on their previous period efforts, the collaborators had to figure out how to design with the action of the wrestling ring in mind, while retaining the original series’ “homemade” essence in their work.
Centered on a hodgepodge of Los Angeles women vying for screen time wherever they can find it—most of them, with no wrestling experience—the series called for the heightened wrestling looks one might expect, but with a DIY edge, as if the series’ characters had designed their hair and makeup themselves. For Rivers and Horochowski, this meant circumventing their perfectionist tendencies, in pursuit of the perfectly imperfect.
What kind of discussions did you have with the creators of GLOW as you set out on Season 1?
Theraesa Rivers: We sat down with Liz [Flahive] and Carly [Mensch] and went through each character, and discussed a little about their backstory and where their characters were possibly going to go. From there, we also spoke with Beth Morgan, the costume designer, and that’s how we began to come up with some of the looks for the girls. But obviously, they have two different looks.
Lana Horochowski: We made boards for the girls for their regular looks. The wrestling looks are something that developed later on in the first season. So we had some time with them. Once we met with all the girls and got a feel for their real personalities, it was really easy for everything to come together, and it just sort of took on a life of its own.
Why were the ‘80s an easier period to cover than those you’d dealt with before? What challenges presented themselves early on?
Horochowski: Honestly, the ‘80s to me was, of all the other period shows, probably the easiest, mostly because I didn’t have to do any research. For the ‘80s, all we really had to do was research our little memory banks. The fun part about the ‘80s is, it was sort of anything goes—the bigger the better, the bolder the better, the more color the better. So the challenge was more like doing the shapes, and the awkward cheekbones and everything that looked a little costume-y and a little crazy. But once you get the whole look together, it just sort of works and makes sense.
Rivers: I think for me, it varies because of the ethnicities of the girls—with different hair vectors, and the background of their characters, and how they would have worn their hair during that time. It gets to be a bit challenging with people coming in and doing a period show, having modern hair—especially living in Los Angeles, where a lot of people have very long, one-length hair. That’s always a challenge. A lot of people don’t want to cut heavy layers into their hair, and not everyone is fond of bangs, and the ‘80s was definitely heavy with bangs and perms and things like that. So it can be a bit challenging for hair, but it’s a lot of fun. Like Lana said, the ‘80s was kind of all over the place. So it gives you a lot of wiggle room to create different looks.
Could you expand on your collaboration with Beth Morgan, and the ways in which hair and makeup dovetailed with her costume designs?
Horochowski: I think the three of us together are what made us able to pull this off. Beth would show us samples of her work and we would expand on it and go back to her, and she would be like, “Oh, what if we add this?” Or, “We want to throw this color in.” We definitely worked together, but used her base model as inspiration to go on, and built upon that.
In designing looks for the characters’ wrestling alter egos, where were you looking for visual inspiration? Did you look to the original GLOW?
Rivers: I think there are some similarities to some of the actual characters on GLOW, but it’s all new. We kind of stayed away from basing [the characters’ looks] on any one specific character. We definitely looked at fashion from the ‘80s, whether it be in magazines or newspapers, or movies and television shows from the ‘80s—and also from our memories.
What went into creating looks for the wrestling personas of your two female leads—Betty Gilpin’s Liberty Belle and Alison Brie’s Zoya the Destroya?
Horochowski: For the first season, we didn’t have a wrestling look for Betty because it was sort of a surprise. We didn’t develop her wrestling look until this year, and [heading into Season 2], we already knew she was going to be Liberty Belle. Makeup-wise, we always envisioned a red-glitter lip. Red, white and blue seemed super obvious.
Rivers: For Betty’s hair, I tried to give her an all-American hairdo that was very common in the ‘80s—just very big, teased and textured. There are a lot of people that actually comment on her hair, that when they were in school, they remember their teacher having hair similar to that—maybe not as big as that, but similar to that.
Horochowski: For Zoya, it was one of those moments where we saw the costume; Theraesa knew about the hat for her, and it was kind of a ping-pong back and forth…
Rivers: …Trying to figure out her look, because Beth had designed the hat, and I had a different hairdo in mind. Then I was like, “Well, I think I know what I’m going to do. Beth, what if we cut out the top of the hat and then I just design her hair to fit up through the hat?” That’s kind of how we came up with the mohawk. It would be something that could last when she took the hat off, and it wouldn’t be all smashed, and she would still be in her show look.
Horochowski: Once the hair went up into that crazy mohawk, it seemed obvious that she needed a glitter eye that sort of pointed in the direction of the hair. We just did everything to drag her eyes up, [with the] angry eyebrows and the triangle glitter patches on her eyes, and it all seemed to flow together.
Rivers: It’s funny because the producers were asking, when we were first coming up with her look, if I thought the mohawk would stay the entire time, and I was like, “Oh yeah, it will.” [laughs] And thank God, it has.
Horochowski: Even when she takes the pins out, it stays. She takes the pins out and it’s standing straight up.
In preparing your actors for a day’s work, how much time did they typically spend in the chair?
Horochowski: Our goal is to never have anyone in the chair longer than an hour and a half. That’s a total for hair and makeup.
Rivers: It depends on the character. They’re all different.
Horochowski: Some are a little more complicated than others, and it’s a very busy trailer. With that many cast members, it’s like popcorn; people are ping ponging and bopping around from chair to chair, and it’s very active.
When wrestling scenes come into play, what’s been required on your end? Has it been a matter of constant touch-ups?
Horochowski: We thought it was going to be way worse than it actually was. We try to get stuff out of the way, where we get the close-ups first or whatever. They’re really helpful in shooting it like that, and then as we go along in the wrestling matches, if the makeup starts to bleed or whatever, we just sort of leave it, because it’s really what would happen. There are some touch-ups; we lock it in as well as we can, but then for the rest of it, we just want to try and keep it real, at least for makeup.
Rivers: People are always asking about Betty Gilpin’s hair—like, “Is that a wig, or is that extensions?” But that big hairdo is actually all her hair. I tease the hell out of it in the morning. After a while, with wrestling moves, it does have to be touched up. But like Lana said, we do really try to lock it in so it’s really not a lot of major touch-ups. It’s tweaks here and there.
Which of the character’s wrestling alter egos was the most challenging to design for?
Horochowski: They were each their own animal. We definitely took our time in doing each one individually; there wasn’t one that wasn’t discussed, and tried, and tried again. I know we did several test runs on Jackie [Tohn], on Melrose, before we got to her sparkly eye mask.
Rivers: Each character has a lot of thought put into them, and there really isn’t one that’s easier or harder. The main thing is to figure out, with whatever we’re going to do, how it’s going to hold up in the wrestling. We shoot the show in six days, so there’s a lot of stuff that we have to shoot, a lot of coverage. So whatever we come up with needs to be something that can withstand all the wrestling and also not be overly time-consuming. Granted, the wrestling looks do take a while.
Can you describe the challenge involved in creating imperfect, DIY looks for your ensemble of aspiring wrestlers?
Horochowski: For us as artists, we want to come in and make the lines perfect and make everything super clean, and we had to keep reminding ourselves that they’re not hair stylists, they’re not makeup artists. We had to just keep in mind, what is realistic, that these girls could put together on their own? Could they have done this, and could they have done this for a quick changeover on themselves?
Obviously, as we’ve seen as the [show’s] gone on through Season 2, they have definitely gotten better at it. But you would get better at it if you were doing the same thing on yourself every day.
Rivers: The challenging thing for hair for the ‘80s is to not overdo the hair. Nowadays we have all of these serums and products for frizz control, and in the ‘80s, there was tons of frizz, and fried hair from perms, and bleaching, and this and that. Even the teasing in the ‘80s is not like the teasing in the ‘60s that we did on Mad Men, where everything is very polished. The ‘80s is a lot rougher. If you’re teasing your hair, you tease it to where it’s just perfectly smooth, when you’re combing it out. But [on GLOW], you want to see webbing in the hair, and bad teasing, and asymmetrical hairdos and punk hairdos and things like that.