In an exclusive interview with E! News, Dana said she contemplated how the color schemes would reflect Steve's character Charles' closed-off nature, before finding a style reflective of Martin's zany Oliver. For all of this, Dana and her team scoured the script for clues that offered a better understanding of the characters' day-to-day lives.
But for Selena, Dana went a bit deeper into the actress' own background, drawing inspiration from her Mexican heritage. She said that the costume team searched high and low for covert ways to "weave a little bit of that Mexican culture" into the character Mabel Mora's wardrobe.
The end result is a subtle, but touching tribute to the marigold, a vibrant flower that holds much importance to the Mexican culture, especially during Día de los Muertos.
For those unfamiliar with the Day of the Dead, the celebration takes place across two days in November, with Mexican families celebrating life and death by creating altars for the deceased, which are then decorated with marigolds and photos. The marigolds, called cempasuchils in Spanish, are paramount to a good altar as they are believed to guide the dead back to their families.
"We decided that using the marigold as an influence for her character would be how we would [include Mexican elements], because it's a very powerful symbol in Mexican culture, representing grief and resurrection, but also passion and creativity," Dana, a half-Mexican and Texas native herself, explained. "We thought we could use [the color of marigold] symbolically throughout her wardrobe."
The flower motif was carried into Mabel's accessories as well, with the actress wearing a marigold necklace from Rellery in almost every scene.
This subtle accessory serves as a reminder of Mabel's own journey, reflecting her grief and search for answers in the mysterious death she, Charles and Oliver find themselves consumed by.
When it came to the actual clothes Selena wore, Dana took a more practical approach based on her own experience as a New Yorker. The costume designer explained, "As a young woman in New York City, so much of what you wear is sort of like an armor.
"In the city, you can feel very vulnerable as a young woman, so we kind of looked at her whole costume as like a type of armor," Dana continued. "The coats were part of that, the boots were part of that—we always did a really sort of like thick, you know, intense combat boot. Even when we were pairing it with cute little miniskirts."
Equally important was Mabel's backpack, which Dana found from Lotuff leather. "That was an iconic piece for her because we sort of said that you know, a New York City girl really needs to have her hands free, so that she can eat a hot dog while she's like talking on her cell phone, while she's riding her bike," she explained, before teasing that Mabel will need full mobility if she's going to "potentially protect herself from an attacker."
But Dana was also mindful of how Selena's wardrobe would look alongside that of Martin's and Steve's, sharing that the team questioned, "How do we make this ultra-hip, beautiful, stunning person, Selena Gomez, make sense next to Steve Martin and Martin Short," who are dressed in classy, traditional looks?
"How do you balance this visually? How do you balance these comedy icons next to this like, worldwide pop star, you know?" she continued. "We definitely wanted her to bring in the hipness and represent a different part of the city and a different kind of person who lives in New York City. But at the same time we didn't want her to look like, totally out of place next to the two of them."
Dana achieved this balance by dressing Selena in classic silhouettes and cozy sweaters, sharing that she chose these items because of their similarity to the Nancy Drew and Hardy Boys era. And mystery buffs will also be delighted to know that the touches of plaid are in fact an homage to Sherlock Holmes and other detectives.
To see how Dana masterfully crafted wardrobes for Martin, Steve and Selena, check out Only Murders in the Building on Hulu.