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Visual Storytelling and World Building in Dominique Dawson’s Costume Design for ‘DMZ’ – Black Girl Nerds


Visual Storytelling and World Building in Dominique Dawson’s Costume Design for ‘DMZ’ – Black Girl Nerds

It’s nice when BGN gets to talk to folks behind the visual magic of incredible entertainment. Here, BGN talks to Dominique Dawson, costume designer of the HBO Max miniseries, DMZ, based on the DC graphic novel. 

In the DMZ series, how much of your costume design choices were influenced by the comics, and how much wasn’t? I’m especially curious about your use of the color black and the range of stylistic choices using that color.

Initially, I got the first seven of the graphic novel and did as much as I could to absorb the world. We strayed away from the story to a certain degree and made it more of a female-based driven story and a story of Brown people. I called upon the aesthetic of the graphic novel — the wear and tear of things, the ingenuity of the characters of how they had to put on this armor when they set out to go into the DMZ.

I really pulled from my time from living in New York. That was the best research I had to denote each of the different areas and crews. 

Black is a loaded blank canvas. It allows you to just absorb the personality of the person. But with it comes power and strength, so it commands attention. I utilize black a lot with Skel (Freddy Miyares) and Parco (Benjamin Pratt). That was a good way to tie them together. But also how Alma ( Rosario Dawson) enters the DMZ. You see her progression from this black into this more earth tone olive, eventually blossoming into this ivory white feminine strength. 

What were some of your favorite designs in DMZ?

I had so much fun designing for Wilson’s character (Hoon Lee) because Wilson’s character came from Chinatown. He had a lot of access to underground streetwear stuff that we incorporated into power suits. Finding these slick silver sleeved button-up shirts with detailed futuristic collars and covering that underground street aesthetic was really fun. Especially his army! All his goons! We had so much fun. 

I also enjoyed designing for his adoptive mom (Jade Wu). She was this wise elder that carried with her past in China but also had so many years in the U.S. So I was kind of…

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