It’s been 22 years since O.J. Simpson was on trial for the murder of Nicole Simpson and Ronald Goldman, and yet the story continues to captivate today. On February 2, FX will premiere the first episode of The People v. O.J. Simpson: American Crime Story , a miniseries that delves deep into the so called “Trial of the Century” and the characters who defined the media spectacle.
And while you may think that fashion has no part in this tragic story, the show’s costume designer, Hala Bahmet, told us that the clothing in this particular series helped facilitate the story arc in a fascinating way.
“1991 was very different than today,” said Bahmet, who’s known for her work in styling epic music videos for Michael Jackson and Kelly Clarkson. “There were many different subculture groups and different styles happening simultaneously. You had the lawyers, with the power suits with big shoulders and really vibrant, bold neckties that were a hangover from the ’80s; women were in suits with longer silhouettes; grunge was happening full-on; and gangsta rap was starting to take over and dominate the hip-hop scene in L.A. We were able to show all the different types of fashion culture happening at that time.”
Bahmet created outfits for the show’s speaking characters and some 3,000 extras, the latter of whom were mostly protesters outside the courthouse. Most interestingly to us, however, is how she went back into the early ’90s archive to re-create looks for Selma Blair, who plays Kris Jenner, as well as the child actors who play Kourtney, Kim, and Khloe Kardashian, who are featured in a dinner scene with their father as young teens (Khloe was nine at the time of the trial).
Here, Bahmet tells us the behind-the-scenes stories of the costumes in anticipation of the premiere:
Selma Blair as Kris Jenner
Kris Jenner in 1990
Selma Blair as Kris Jenner in the miniseries.
“Selma Blair is delightful to work with,” said Bahmet. “When she was cast to play Kris Jenner, she started doing her research, I started doing my research.” Bahmet went late ’80s, early ’90s luxe for Blair’s character. “Well, of course we pulled some Alaïa, Chanel, Versace; it was true vintage’90s wardrobe for her,” she said.
Bahmet noted that the cast had all agreed not to reach out to the actual people they’d be playing, so it was sheer luck that Blair had met Kris Jenner at an event. “After the first fitting, [Blair] left and was going to a fundraiser—complete unconnected to the show—and she bumped into Kris Jenner,” said Bahmet. “She said ‘I’m Selma Blair and I’m playing you in this television show’ and they became really good friends. No [actor] was reaching out to anyone for information. Selma’s situation was completely incidental.
Blair and Jenner meeting on the red carpet for a fund-raiser for the Children’s Justice Campaign on May 15, 2015.
The Kardashian Kids
The Kardashian family in 1995
“All four [Kardashian children] are in a couple of scenes in the show. They’re played by child actors, and they’re in some interesting scenes,” said Bahmet. “David Schwimmer [who plays Simpson attorney Robert Kardashian] sits with the kids in a restaurant, having a meal and there’s a dinner where he talks about the importance a of being a good person and a good friend. We sort of reveal what a good and honorable person Robert Kardashian was.”
FX hasn’t release a photo of the actors who play the young Kardashians, but Bahmet said she outfitted the Kourtney and Kim characters in jeans and “typical teen style” for the time.
Connie Britton as Faye Resnick
Faye Resnick in 1990
Connie Britton as Resnick on set
“Connie Britton is another incredible actress who did a ton of research [on her character], Faye Resnick.” said Bahmet, who went full-on Beverly Hills glam for the character. “She was Nicole’s best friend and she’s a big part of the show. We looked at the video [from the period] and tried to capture the essence of Faye Resnick at that time.”
Sarah Paulson as Marcia Clark
Marcia Clarke at the Simpson trial
Sarah Paulson playing Clark in the series
“Sarah’s incredible to work with and for her, it’s more important to get the character right, than to look good,” said Bahmet, of Paulson’s portrayal of prosecutor Marcia Clark. “Through the costumes, we show Marcia’s struggle in becoming a public persona, because this was the first trial that became a major television event. … She wondered why newspapers were writing about her hairdo.
She went right two different makeovers during the trial, but she never became someone different. She had friends helping with [styling]. She starts out in a very limited palette—gray, navy—and then we start to add more color later on. [Clark] always saw it as being about the trial, not the Marcia Clark fashion show.”
David Schwimmer as Robert Kardashian and John Travolta as Robert Shapiro
Robert Kardashian and Robert Shapiro during the trial
Schwimmer and Travolta in character
Bahmet said that articulating the male lawyers was one of the most daunting tasks of the entire project, as suit styles have changed remarkably over they years. She outfitted the Kardashian and Shapiro actors in strong-shouldered ’80s suits from the likes of Claude Montana. She re-created the bold and bright ties they often wore, and even went to the customer shirtmaker who made the real-life lawyers’ actual shirts and had special ones created for the series.