Behind-the-scenes with the Offspring stylist.

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By LUCY ORMONDE

Not since Sex & The City has there been such interest in the clothes of a female TV character. Nina Proudman – played so superbly by Asher Keddie – is in her 30s, a doctor and a Melbourne girl.

She has a unique style that is modern, simple and distinctive without being fashion victim. These are not clothes that scream 2011 or 2012.

And fans of the show have noticed the genius that is Nina’s wardrobe.

There is even a Facebook page dedicated to helping Australian women dress more like her.

There is just something about the way she pulls together a maxi skirt, knee-high boots and floaty top, that leaves many of us sighing wistfully – “I wish I could dress like Nina”.

And that includes me.

I’ve tried to create a “Nina” look out of the staples of my wardrobe SO MANY TIMES but invariably I end up face first and failing in a pile of over-sized scarves (Nina’s scarves err on the side of skinny), ankle boots (she’s more knee highs) and clutches (Nina likes an across-the-shoulder tan satchel).

Michael Chisholm is the Offspring Costume Designer, which means he’s the one behind Nina’s casual/chic/amazing look.

I asked the man to teach me everything he knows.

1. Nina’s fashion is almost another character in the show. Did you expect this kind of response when you first thought about her style?

All designers have somewhat of a dilemma when they are creating a look for a character, as it is great for an audience to notice the costume but on the other hand you don’t want the costume to dominate over the performance. In the case of Nina, (Asher Keddie) I always saw her as an eclectic dresser with the combination of high fashion, retro and personally crafted pieces. I never expected that our audience would be so taken by her look, but of course Asher provides inspiration to make the world of Nina real.

2. Where does the inspiration for Nina’s costumes come from? What kind of work goes into developing a character’s style?

I love fabrics and texture so I think this is reflected often in my choice of Nina’s clothing. Many a time I choose an item of clothing for its fabric and thus I reshape and style the garment accordingly.

3. How much work goes into just a costume for a scene? Talk us through the process.

With our show I have a team of people  that all help in the process of producing costumes for each scene. Much of my day is out on the road sourcing fashion and retro pieces while my buyer, Zed whose role is to find additional pieces and accessories that reflect my brief. Simultaneously, my costumier Alison is manufacturing and altering many of our purchases so as to customize them.

Prior to the commencement of filming an episode, Asher and I have a meeting and then subsequent fitting where we select the appropriate costume for each scene. There are many factors that are taken into account when making the final selection such as “Nina’s” emotional psyche, surrounding colours in the scene and script requirements, i.e. running in sensible shoes.

4. How much of Asher Keddie is reflected in Nina’s style?

Asher has incredible personal taste and some of that is definitely reflective in Nina’s style. However the combination of the clothing and accessories are what I believe defines Nina’s style, and clearly the actress and the character are different.

5. For those of us keen to know how we can dress like Nina, what do you suggest?

Let’s start with the basics. You need a good pair of jeans, several colourful tank tops, scarves, a great pair of high boots, fitted denim jacket, and antique jewellery. Much of these can be purchased from high end recycle shops.

6. If Nina was real, where do you imagine she’d find her inspiration (magazines? fashion blogs?) and where would she shop? (Online? markets?)

I think Nina is a touchy-feely girl and thus she would buy her clothes from local young alternative designers as well as from overseas. She would always be interested in new trends, so fashion blogs and magazines would be of interest to her.

7. When creating the wardrobe for any character do you try and make it realistic? For example, do you factor that Nina is a doctor and therefore would have a certain budget to spend on clothes?

I honestly believe that there is a Nina out there somewhere working in a hospital and she has the money and the time to create her own world of style.

8. How much of the city in which a show is set reflected in the costumes? Is Offspring particularly Melbourne? Would the fashion be different if it was set in another city?

Every season I travel to Istanbul, London, New York, Hong Kong and not to mention the fact that I shop extensively in Sydney. So, Melbourne is reflected in the multiple layers of her wardrobe but her pieces are very international. It could be true to say that the colours and the layers would probably vary if the show was set in Perth or Sydney.

9. What about the rest of the cast – any particular style quirks?

I am fortunate to have a great ensemble and who provide costume challenges on an everyday basis. Billie and Darcy live in the world of real estate sales but their private style is reflected in their work clothes.

A list of quirks: Billie loves big jewellery. Darcy loves 1960’s boots and waist coats. Geraldine loves linen clothes. Doctor Clegg always wears French cuff shirts with no cufflinks.

10. And anything else you’d like to add?

One of the major developments in fashion is the under garments to enhance the fit and style of clothes. Thus I am in Turkey in developing a new range of shape wear with a Turkish company Form Easy and I am looking to commence private shopping tours to LA and NYC for women who want to enter the world of Nina.

Style Blogger Nikki Parkinson shares our obsession with Nina Proudman’s wardrobe. So much so that each week, she breaks down Nina’s outfits and points to where all the good stuff is from – or at least where you can get something similar. She suggests targeting brands like Zara, Acne, Country Road, Mavi, Samatha Willis, True Religion, Witchery, ASOS bags from Nancybird and vintage, vintage, vintage.

Here’s what she said about last week’s episode:

Patrick and Nina

Nina pregnant?

I could just leave this Offspring post at that, couldn’t I?

I mean the very possibility leaves itself open to so much discussion re designer maternity jeans vs the very good ones you can pick up at Jeanswest; whether she’ll move to low-heeled boots; or how she’ll make the transition from tiny hip bag to bulging baby bag?

Yes, we do discuss the important stuff here, don’t we?

Which is why I’m going to leave this week’s storyline right there and turn talk immediately to Nina’s boots.

Specifically the fact that the taupe knee-high D.Co boots we’ve seen her wearing almost every episode were swapped for some red-heeled ankled boots.

I know, there’s that big stuff again

They were worn as part of this outfit. Let’s all pause for a sigh when remembering Nina and Patrick’s “one last lemonade”.

In this scene Nina wears – vintage kimono fabric over shirt made in house, Zara butterfly print scarf, Acne jeans, Country Road yellow t-shirt.

If you missed last week’s Offspring post, Mamamia publisher Mia Freedman caught up with the show’s creator Debra Oswald and talked about what it takes to write an episode of the series (which is A LOT). You can read the full interview here. It’s awesome.

Are you watching Offspring? What do you think of Nina’s style? Are you digging the style of any other characters – from any TV shows? Why?

What do you think?

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