Extrapolations’s Costume Designers Created Wardrobes for a Future Earth

by Lorelei Marfil

A still from Extrapolations
Courtesy of Apple TV+

Apple TV+’s latest science fiction anthology Extrapolations provides a futuristic view of Earth—its topography and people ravaged by the effects of climate change. The limited edition series, which spans over eight episodes, starts in 2037 and takes place over the course of 33 years. Using interlocking storylines and recurring characters, each episode highlights the consequences of global warming—wildfires, heatwaves, droughts, poor air quality—and the citizens who suffer from related cardiovascular, neurological, and respiratory diseases as a result. Producer and screenwriter Scott Z. Burns is no stranger to this kind of End Times storytelling; he is known for his work on Contagion, a 2011 film which gained popularity during the early days of COVID-19 lockdown for its prescience.

Extrapolations’s costume design team—consisting of Nancy Steiner, Katie Riley, and Analucia McGorty—focused on fusing evolving fashion trends with the futuristic environment of the series and its all-star cast, which includes Meryl Streep, Kit Harington, Forest Whitaker, Edward Norton, Sienna Miller, Marion Cotillard, Gemma Chan, and Keri Russell.

While the department focused on the cycle of fashion, the key focus was sustainability, as they sourced most garments from thrift stores and vintage shops. “I thought about different things that have happened with the weather in the past, and what we’re going through now as far as climate change,” Steiner, who worked on the wardrobes for Lost in Translation and Twin Peaks told me via Zoom.

Most of the costumes in Extrapolations were based on what the future will look like if current environmental efforts do not ramp up. “It’s the loss of materials and the loss of natural fibers,” McGorty (Pose, American Horror Story) added. “Also, who is going to be able to afford things that are still like natural fiber? What do the ultra rich have to do to stay that ultra rich, generationally, and what does that mean as far as clothing goes?”

From a storytelling perspective, Riley (Mozart in the Jungle, Let the Right One In) added that the costume department’s job was to honor these characters and their circumstances. “In one part of an episode, we go to a village where all the villagers have to sleep underground during the day,” she said. “But I imagine they hung their laundry out to dry during the day, too. So how would you see the really harsh elements playing into the clothing? How could we demonstrate the way climate impacts people in their day-to-day lives where, you don’t even have to say it—you can just see it?”

Below, Steiner, McGorty, and Riley break down each of the characters from the series, and how their individual narratives played into their looks.

Kit Harington as Nicholas Bilton

Kit Harington and Diane Lane, who plays Martha Russell, in Extrapolations.

Courtesy of Apple TV+

Nicholas Bilton is a tech billionaire and the chief executive officer of Alpha Industries. At home, he’s typically dressed in traditional British hunting garments as well as comfortable leisure clothes—while in the courtroom, he dons classic silhouettes. “I based him a little bit on our zillionaires of today, like Jack Dorsey, from Twitter,” Steiner said. “When he started Twitter, he wore simple black T-shirts. But then he got into Rick Owens and started wearing cool silver boots. He now understands fashion—and what money does for you.”

Sienna Miller as Rebecca Shearer

Courtesy of Apple TV+

Rebecca Shearer, an archivist for the DNA-based IP company Menagierie 2100, leans toward minimalist and modern clothing, her looks pared-back, comfortable, and in neutral colors. “She’s a professional woman, but she’s not a suit professional,” Steiner said. “She’s not in that corporate world. She’s on her own. Her work is mostly solitary, and therefore she could be comfortable in what she was in. I did some simple looks. They are very Japanese influenced in texture, cut, silhouette and color.”

Marion Cotillard as Sylvie Bolo

Marion Cotillard and Hari Nef, who plays Anna, in Extrapolations.

Courtesy of Apple TV+

Sylvie Bolo’s major character arc consists of her plans for a lavish anniversary dinner party for her husband on New Year’s Eve. For her gown in the pivotal scene, Steiner looked to nature and big floral prints. “I wanted to show that she had money at one time,” she said. “And how she was still going to get dressed up and look elegant for New Year's Eve, even though it’s basically the end of the world.” Here, she engages in a discussion with Anna, played by Hari Nef.

Meryl Streep as Eve Shearer

Courtesy of Apple TV+

Eve Shearer, Rebecca Shearer’s mother, becomes terminally ill in the series. For her look, Nancy Steiner wanted to create an elegant and chic getup that was, above all, comfortable—so Steiner narrowed her focused on colors and silhouettes. “Meryl was wonderful,” she added. “It was really a healthy mom and a sick mom look. And with that, it was really about the clothing. She was a sophisticated, educated woman of some means.”

Diane Lane as Martha Russell

Courtesy of Apple TV+

Martha Russell, played by Diane Lane, is Nicholas Bilton’s right hand woman at Alpha Industries. The costume design team wanted to illustrate her evolution, as she had come a long way in her career—ultimately, into a position of power. So they employed sharp silhouettes and graphic details. “Diane has been an actress for a long time,” McGorty said. “And as an artist, she really investigates her character. She’s brilliant. We had this great fitting with her and all these conversations about her character and, and what she felt her character’s background would be, along with the strength from which she was pulling. That type of strength inspired us a lot.”

Gemma Chan as Natasha Alper

Courtesy of Apple TV+

Natasha Alper, a single mom who rents an artificial companion ​​in the series, was always supposed to be the epitome of chicness and style sensibility. Steiner aimed to create for Natasha a wardrobe that felt au courant and classic at once. “The colors we used were representing the different scenes and the emotions she was going through,” the costume designer said. “They would be brighter or darker, depending on what was going on in the scene.”

Keri Russell as Olivia Drew

Courtesy of Apple TV+

Olivia Drew works as a covert assassin who is traveling around India in search of two men. Riley wanted to create ensembles that could blend in everywhere, and which were practical for her job. She looked at some pieces that had a military feel, but stressed that she wanted to incorporate softness and adaptability into the looks. As a result, the designer played with textures and dressed Olivia in a lot of Issey Miyake. “I found the pleating to be really interesting,” Riley said. “What I loved about those pieces was that they told a different story from every angle. When you look at the construction of those garments and the way that they move—I thought it was interesting for someone who’s trying to disappear.”

Murray Bartlett as Ariel Turner

Courtesy of Apple TV+

A high-powered lawyer defending Nicholas Bilton in a lawsuit, Ariel Turner’s wardrobe evoked a new kind of future perspective. McGorty crafted for Nicholas a range of classic power suits, and paired them with pinstriped skirts instead of trousers. “I really wanted to play with gender,” she said. “The world that I created in my head was one in which gender was no longer an issue in the future—one where gender fluidity was accepted, among even the most wealthy and powerful. “