Costume designer Staci Greenbaum talks about Abbi and Ilana's iconic "Broad City" style
It’s hard to get through an episode of Broad City without noticing at least one totally out-there element of either Abbi or Ilana’s wardrobe. Their clothes are often part of the jokes — period pants, anyone? — and the fact that the characters are shamelessly broke leads to many creative ensembles and repeat wears.
Who is behind the brilliance of it all? Costume designer Staci Greenbaum. Greenbaum, who also designs for Odd Mom Out, answered our questions about the girls’ signature looks, style icons, and shopping haunts. All those crop tops just don’t grow on trees, you know.
HelloGiggles (HG): How much of Abbi Abrams and Ilana Wexler’s style is based off the real-life styles of Abbi Jacobson and Ilana Glazer?
Staci Greenbaum (SG): I would say it’s a bit more of a heightened reality, but without being fake or too far-fetched (although some may feel Ilana is too far-fetched at times). I think [on the show] it’s more colorful and bit more extreme.
Abbi in real life is still very relatable, although she has a chic aesthetic, more of a minimalist, very good taste and does not misstep like character Abbi does so frequently. I think overall character Abbi on the show is more accessible and a touch more youthful in the way she dresses.
Ilana in real life is a little bit more polished and alternative. She still has a laid back sensibility, but is probably a little more classic than we let character Ilana be. Character Ilana thinks, “I found this on my floor, it smells . . . okay, and it looks cool with a chunky necklace and highwaisted shorts” . . . and out the door she goes! Or she dresses for the occasion, which may just be Ilana wanting it to be an occasion. We play up the outlandish and unapologetic confidence she has.
HG: How would you describe Abbi’s style, and who would you say are the greatest influences on her look?
SG: Cool. Practical. Classic. Aspirational.
Firstly I look to Abbi and Ilana, since their characters are loosely based on themselves. I look to Brooklynites and New Yorkers alike. New York is filled to the brim with walking inspiration which is incentive enough to get on the subway. I get a lot of my inspiration for Abbi by looking to those people I can relate to.
HG: Same question for Ilana.
SG: Diverse. Confident. Brooklyn/Urban. Androgynous. This year our inspiration for Ilana was pulled from ’90s style icons like Fran Drescher and Whitney Houston. We also still love Rihanna as a source of inspiration, and [also] pull some from ’90s grunge.
HG: Where do you shop for the characters? Not just the girls, but also the supporting cast?
SG: We find these clothes from all over! We like to keep it both accessible and realistic for women on their budget, venturing to stores like Urban Outfitters, H&M, Topshop, Uniqlo, Old Navy etc. Then we like to source local designers in New York and Brooklyn who make special pieces that we feel are “splurge-worthy” and add some individuality and uniqueness.
For example, Mollypacks fanny pack and holster were a big hit this season, MessQueen New York makes some wonderfully vibrant digitally printed leggings and a custom bathing suit for Ilana. Catbird is an amazing brand that makes beautiful and interesting jewelry and Abbi wears their earrings in almost every episode. We also look for thrift and second-hand items to enhance the costumes for a little bit more depth and realness.
Lastly, we go through their closets from previous seasons because who doesn’t have their favorites that they wear until they die? We love keeping it real on Broad City.
For the supporting cast it truly depends on the character, each one has a different lifestyle. For instance, Lincoln is a dentist (Bloomingdales, Club Monaco, Nike) so he makes more money than someone like Jaime (Urban Outfitters, H&M, Zara).
HG: How has the girls’ style evolved since the series first hit the air?
SG: I think like most young people, we go through phases as we grow up and are trying to find ourselves, and oftentimes that expression happens through the way that we dress. In New York City, there is no better route to find trends than by stopping and taking a look around. People-watching in the big apple offers a wealth of knowledge you can’t get by any amount of Pinterest-ing. I think the girls’ style has evolved with their jobs, their relationships, and evolving trends as we approach each season, but at the core I imagine our message about the girls’ expression though their clothing has stayed true to who they are as people.
HG: When you think of Abbi’s wardrobe, what item of clothing comes to mind first?
SG: Skinny jeans.
HG: Same question about Ilana.
SG: Crop tops and bras.
HG: What have your fave looks been for both of the girls?
SG: For Season 3, I love the clubbing episode, “B&B-NYC,” when Abbi and Ilana’s clothes go from “hanging out” to club wear. It was a really awesome creative challenge and I think it was so successful.
I also loved how Ilana’s costume in “Burning Bridges” was playing and a little bit of a nod to the ’90s as we were referencing Mrs. Doubtfire. That striped bodysuit could be adjusted throughout the episode to reflect Ilana’s vulnerability as she and Lincoln just broke up. My other favorite moment was episode 2 “Co-Op” where the girls swap costumes! Lastly, would be “Joyful Joyful” with Whoopi [Goldberg], because how can you not love that?
HG: Now, I just wanted to ask you for a little of the background story on some of the most famous looks/wardrobe pieces:
Abbi’s blue dress.
SG: We adore that blue bandage dress! Everyone finds it so hilarious Abbi and Ilana scripted it back into multiple episodes. I think it’s one of the most real things we do on Broad City, repeat clothing! The dress is from a website called www.hotmiamistyles.com. We originally had three because, if you remember, the episode where she carries Ilana out of the restaurant after going into anaphylactic shock, we did have a stunt woman there to help us out. Two [dresses] for Abbi and one for the stunt. I wish we had more!
HG: Ilana’s bras and crop tops.
SG: Ilana’s crop tops are just a form of millennial expression we found to be fitting for her character. Despite the fact she is frequently rocking crop tops, you’ll notice her pant waistline is typically mid-rise to high-rise. Its all about proportion, not really about all around exposure.
HG: Ilana’s white power suit.
SG: The white suit was scripted to convey the plot point about her gloating to Abbi about her “white power suit.” I believe the one she wore was Tommy Hilfiger, but she got it for a great deal . . . maxxinista 😉
HG: Ilana’s Bed Bath & Beyond look.
SG: Ilana dresses for the occasion, like you saw in the Season 2 premiere. It’s hot, SO HOT . . . she’s wearing hardly any shorts and a jersey, which is really billowy, and it makes sense to have your hair up and back, but we do it in a way that makes it very Ilana — outlandish, and we made the hair and makeup a little ridiculous to match. That lip gloss was in her ring! It was a skull with the black lipstick inside it.