Costume Designer Jennifer Haffenden on What It Takes to Style Wynonna Earp

*** Editor’s Note: This article originally appeared on The TV Junkies and has been republished here with the consent of its author. ***

There’s a lot that can be said about Earpers, but one thing is for sure, they notice EVERYTHING! Every little detail added to the backdrop of a Wynonna Earp scene, every word spoken by the characters, and every change in a character’s wardrobe does not go unnoticed. After waiting for two years, Season 4 of the SYFY and CTV Sci-Fi supernatural series has finally returned, and Earpers are diving into the new content with more unbridled excitement than ever before. To keep the excitement levels at that all-time high, and feed the Earpers’ desire for Wynonna Earp behind the scenes content, we thought it’d be a great time to share our interview with Wynonna Earp costume designer Jennifer Haffenden.

Haffenden spoke to us earlier this year as part of our Women Behind Canadian TV series to share her background and discuss her work on shows such as Fortunate Son, Tin Star, and Young Drunk Punk. She also went into a ton of detail about her work on every season of Wynonna Earp, for which she has earned a Canadian Screen Award nomination. Read on below as Haffenden details the science behind characters’ evolving looks from year to year, changes in Nicole Haught’s uniform, how the Calgary weather affects her job, and what piece of Wynonna Earp clothing was her absolute favorite. Haffenden also graciously shared many wonderful BTS photos that we are able to share below. 

The TV Junkies: We’re now in Season 4, and the characters always have different looks each new year. How do you go about deciding how you want them to evolve from season to season?

Jennifer Haffenden: Luckily I have a great showrunner [Emily Andras] and she generously made herself available for preliminary meetings. We had some great discussions about the fact that it’s been awhile — not only has time passed for us in real life, but also for the show. It’s just about having those initial discussions and talking with the actors about where their heads are at. In life we all evolve, and I wouldn’t wear the same thing I wore a few years ago. It’s really organic, and what I love about this show is that it’s all about good discussions with a number of different parties. 

TTVJ: More specifically, an item that gets a ton of notice from the Wynonna Earp fandom is Haught’s uniform. How do you decide on the changes you make there from season to season: getting rid of the Stetson, no more khakis, things like that?

JH: Sometimes there’s just practical behind the scenes reasons for it and those aren’t super exciting. Also, I think taking Nicole in a different direction from where she’s been is super important. There are some shows that have a great uniform and they stick with it forever, but there’s so much changing in these character’s lives that having the same uniform as a few years ago doesn’t seem applicable. Evolution is important, even with the uniforms. We try to not make the uniform super stylish, but we do follow trends for the coming year. While I look back at Season 1, and am still happy with those choices, for the contemporary eye, evolution is so important to keep things fresh. The actors like a little bit of variety as well. 

Photo courtesy of Jennifer Haffenden
Photo courtesy of Jennifer Haffenden

TTVJ: There’s a lot of iconic pieces of clothing when it comes to Wynonna Earp: Wynonna’s leather jacket, Waverly’s Shorty’s shirt, and of course, Bobo’s coat. Does any piece stand out as your favorite?

JH: My favorite would be the Widows’ dresses. Those were so much fun to make, and we had so much fun getting those ladies into the bustle skirt — all the layers and the corset. They were such good sports about it. We put a lot of detail into those costumes — like the metal nails. We also got this authentic hairwork jewelry that was super creepy and very common in Victorian times. Those were my favorite. 

TTVJ: One of the biggest moments on the show involved hiding Melanie Scrofano’s pregnancy so that it could be revealed mid-Season 2. How did that affect your job and what kind of challenges did it pose?

JH: That was huge! Emily and I would both wake at the crack of dawn as soon as the dailies would come out. We’d watch them, and I remember the one time she was in that cream sweater with the black swatches on it, and Emily wrote, ‘That sweater is a miracle worker!’ A huge part of the credit, though, has to go to Mel. She knew just how to stand where she’d arch her back a little so her growing pregnancy belly would just like tuck in. She knew how to arch, walk, and talk at the same time and pull it off. That was just a huge challenge because of course, in previous seasons, she’d be in a skimpy, tight dress. We were very relieved when we didn’t have to hide anymore. It was also an excuse to introduce a new, fun coat with huge, huge fuzzy wool collar and some other comfy sweaters that aren’t core Wynonna.

TTVJ: Wynonna Earp films in Calgary in the winter. While sometimes the characters don’t seem to dress appropriately, how much of a restriction do you feel from the weather? What challenges are present there for you?

JH: We tend to hide things underneath. I don’t know if you remember, but there was a scene in Season 3 where Melanie was in an evening dress out on the side of a cliff. We got her a flesh-tone dry suit to wear underneath. We’d just cut away the sleeves and anything that’d show beyond the skimpy dress. With that underneath, we’d also give her body warmers and toe warmers. We try to figure out clever layers like that to put under everything. 

TTVJ: How do you take moments like Doc becoming a vampire or Waverly being Gooverly, where a good guy becomes bad, and use clothing to show the changes in them?

JH: Those situations, like with Gooverly, it gives you the perfect opportunity to dress her unlike herself, but still have elements of her. She had some ruffles, but the colors were dark, and that green fishnet top was super sexy and a lot darker in color than anything she’s worn. But it’s still Waverly, in a way, as she has a cute bra underneath paired with a little skirt. 

I love those opportunities, and I think the actors do too because it’s a bit of a fun vacation from being yourself. Those experimental moments are just super fun. We have great writers too. They often put great details and hints in the script that are an amazing jumping off point for every department, in terms of what direction these characters need to go in. It makes our job so much easier when the writers write such strong characters and dialogue that you really understand who these characters are supposed to be. 

TTVJ: But whatever you do, don’t mess with Doc’s hat!

JH: Tim [Rozon] is very attached to that hat. The wardrobe comes and goes, and has definitely evolved, but we cannot do anything to the hat. That would be very mean of us. 

TTVJ: It was so sad when he lost it for those few episodes.

JH: It really was so sad. Also, remember at the end of Season 1 when they are at that fancy party, and Mel is in the red dress? Emily and I first said that maybe Tim wouldn’t wear the hat with his tux. Tim felt very strongly that no, Doc would wear the hat. We tried it off, but then he walked in and put it on and was Doc again. He was definitely in the right there. 

TTVJ: I’m guessing Emily ultimately has the last word, but do you work with the episode’s writer or director on the costumes as well? 

JH: Emily is the final word, but the director does weigh in too. Emily has it all in her head, and she’s the ultimate multi-tasker. She’s put so much thought into every single aspect so that when we show her one aspect of the costume, she really does understand how it’s going to work in the universe. She is definitely the final say.

Photo courtesy of Jennifer Haffenden
Photo courtesy of Jennifer Haffenden

TTVJ: The villians on the show have had some pretty iconic wardrobe pieces: the Widows’ dresses, Bobo’s coat, Bulshar’s hat, etc… Do you always aim to give them a signature piece?

JH: Yes, I think so. We also had a lot of fun with the Jolene character when she was in that shroud look. It was a little terrifying and bizarre. We used hundreds of meters of cheese cloth and a lot of paint, but that was really fun. It’s great to have a signature look, and it also makes the actors feel special and like they aren’t just cookie-cutter villains. Bad guys are probably my favorite.

TTVJ: What about the revenants then? Wynonna Earp isn’t a period piece, but these are people that have lived through many trends and decades. How do you approach styling those characters?

JH: They’ve also had the chance to evolve over the years. In Season 1 they were bikers, but that evolved more into rock and roll rough around the edges types. It’s a good opportunity to keep them evolving, but we don’t want them to look fashiony, or as if they put any thought into their looks, because they don’t. We just want them to be grungey and super rough around the edges. In their case, small evolutions are the way to go because as you said, they’ve been around for a long time, and consistency is more important than overhauling the look they are portraying. 

Photo courtesy of Jennifer Haffenden
Photo courtesy of Jennifer Haffenden

TTVJ: One thing I really wonder is what it’s like for you, having a fandom like the Earpers, that really notices and picks up on every little thing? Also, what do you think of the cosplays?

JH: I think it’s super fun! They are the best fans in the world and it’s thanks to them that we’re here discussing Season 4. All of us on set are so thankful that we get to bring more Wynonna to the Earpers. It means so much to see people dressing up, and I love to see what people respond to. I think some people still love Nicole’s uniform from Season 1, and there’s a lot of Waverly Shorty’s shirt wearing people out there. It’s so great how the fandom goes above and beyond in every way. It’s just so much fun to see what’s out there.

TTVJ: Is there anything else you wanted to touch on?

JH: The point I really want to get across is just how everyone on set is so happy and thankful to be working on Season 4. The actors and the show are so special. It’s just unbelievable the lengths the Earpers went for Mel, Dom, Tim, Kat, and Emily.


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