Costume Designer Valerie Klarich on ‘Dicks: The Musical’, ‘SNL’ and How To Break Into The Industry Without Film School

Posted on: Nov 21, 2023

Photo Credit: Courtesy of Valerie Klarich

By Steffanie Bradley

Valerie Klarich is a costume designer who recently wrapped the highly-anticipated A24/Chernin Entertainment film Dicks: The Musical. Valerie’s journey in the film industry began as a costume coordinator on The Amazing Spider-Man and Gossip Girl. Shortly thereafter, she joined the costume department of SNL, designing costumes for the live show as well as their digital shorts.

How did you get your start in the industry?

A friend of mine on Facebook messaged me. I was working in New York and she went to high school with my brother. She asked if I wanted to interview for an internship on Gossip Girl. I loved clothes, but I didn’t go to school for any of this, so I was like, “Let’s give it a try.”

I interned there for season 4 of Gossip Girl and just worked my way up. I did seasons 4, 5 and 6 and jumped from intern to costume coordinator. Then I worked on Spider-Man as a coordinator. [After that] I got into the union and moved onto TV shows like Orange is the New Black and Girls.

Then you moved to SNL?

Yeah, I just kept working my way up [and] got a job at Saturday Night Live. I was there for a really long time. Tom Broecker, who’s the head designer there, was my mentor. The jump from assistant designer to designer was the hardest because you’re no longer within your department.

You need to know producers and directors because those are the people who will hire you as a designer. It all started with a friend reaching out to me with an opportunity. I’ve tried to do the same for others who are trying to get into this business.

I love that because it is such a pay-it-forward industry. How do you feel SNL helped you hone your craft since it has so many costumes with quick changes in each episode?

I think it helped me a lot because there is such a quick turnaround, so there’s no job that scares me in terms of timing [at this point]. Dicks for example—we shot it in 20 days and the prep time was only a couple weeks, but I felt like there was always time.

With SNL you have an abundance of funds and very little time. I feel like in every job I take, it’s either you have the money and you don’t have the time, or you have the time and you don’t have the money. You have to use your resources to make it all come together.

What was the experience like on Dicks? That must’ve been such a fun one to do.

It was really fun. A majority of the stuff I’ve [worked on] has been comedies. I love them and I’m [also] trying to pivot and dive into more serious scripts, but a lot of directors, they look at your work and they’re like, “A comedic costume designer wouldn’t know how to do serious stuff.”

With Dicks, I was working with Larry Charles and he was such an SNL fan growing up. I think that [helped me] get an interview with him. It was a very small crew, so it was a labor of love and we all got really close while shooting. 

Do you have a favorite project you’ve worked on?

I think it would be Dicks. For the first time in my career I had this director who trusted my vision enough to include me in conversations with production design and props and wanted my creative input. The actors trusted me as well. When Megan Mullally came in for her first fitting, I don’t know what happened in that room, but it was like true magic. I’m so proud of the costumes.

It was a dream for a costume designer to come into something like that. Larry and I spitballed ideas. It wasn’t like anything I’d done before, to be told, “Here’s your money. Here’s your actor. Now go with it.” It was awesome.

Do you have a long-term goal in the industry? Something that you’ve dreamt of working on?

I’m dreaming of landing a period project. This was the closest thing to it just because it was our world and it was contemporary-ish, but it was the kookiness and the craziness with Bowen Yang’s costumes and playing God, Megan and Nathan, and there was a lot of building.

Coming from the Gossip Girl world, which is more high fashion, and mostly contemporary comedy, it’s shopping in stores and pulling from rental houses here and there. I would love to get a 1960s project, or even a futuristic something where you’d build and have to come up with ideas because I feel like you’re really designing them. One of my favorite movies is Troop Beverly Hills—those costumes are unbelievable.

What advice would you give to someone looking to break into costume design?

I would say, “Go for it and don’t be afraid.” Everyone says that the industry is so hard to get into, and to an extent it is, but I truly think if someone were to try and get into it, I would say go on IMDb. Look at all of the work that they admire and find out who did it.

Costume designers aren’t hard to get hold of. Reach out to designers that you admire. Or even look at assistant designers because they’re the ones who, for the most part, are hiring the departments or the supervisors. Whenever I’m crewing up for a job, I go to my core people, but especially now [that the strike is over], it is going to be busy.

This would be a really good opportunity now for someone to try and break into because it’s going to be so busy that it’s going to be very hard for people to crew up based on the sheer volume of the work that’s coming our way.

If anybody reads this that wants to break in and didn’t go to school for it and feels defeated, reach out to me because I am a big advocate for allowing people the opportunity.

I’m also doing a panel at Comic Con in LA—it’s a bunch of industry creative, so it could be a good opportunity for someone interested in the industry to come and check it out and meet us in-person. It would be a good learning experience and a good networking opportunity and all of the above.

Valerie Klarich will be speaking on a panel at the LA Comic Con on Sunday, December 3rd. Get your tickets here.

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