Jenny Eagan: Costume Design Adds Character in ‘Olive Kitteridge’

Olive Kitteredge still with Frances McDormand

Seven years ago today, Olive Kitteridge premiered on HBO! The anniversary of this award-winning television show is the perfect time to celebrate Jenny Eagan, who received an Emmy nomination for Outstanding Costumes for a Contemporary Series, Limited Series or Movie for her work as the costume designer on set. 

Olive Kitteridge is a four-part miniseries featuring Frances McDormand, Henry Jenkins, John Gallagher Jr., Zoe Kazan, Billy Murray, and Rosemarie Dewitt. The show, directed by Lisa Cholodenko, is based on a novel of the same name, and follows the titular Olive Kitteridge’s life over the course of 25 years alongside her husband (Jenkins) and son (Gallagher). It also focuses on the effects of mental illness, specifically depression. In Katusha Jin’s article for FF2 Media, she writes, “The presentation of the people showcases the feelings that are usually buried deep down, but exist in most of us. Perhaps the audience may know someone like Olive Kitteridge—a person who comes across as bitter, antisocial, and filled with hatred towards everyone around her. But Cholodenko makes sure that this is not all that we see. It’s never as simple as that. Her direction ensures that the audience sees how Olive observes her husband’s actions towards other people—the disgust, the boredom, the fear. She also shows Olive as someone who needs reassurance, but only shows the opposite. Why do we act the way we do? It could be because we had a bad day, or that depression runs in the family. Why do people have affairs? But also why do some choose to stay in marriages? Cholodenko shows the audience her answer. The direction and the acting is phenomenal. Frances McDormand’s portrayal is so enticing that I find it difficult to see her as anyone but Olive Kitteridge.”

In Katusha Jin’s article on the career and accomplishments of Jenny Eagan for FF2, she writes about the costume design in Olive Kitteridge, “A very telling moment in the costume design for me was in episode 2, ‘Incoming Tide,’ when Olive makes her own dress for a special occasion. Although ‘Henry’ (Richard Jenkins) complements it, others from out of town see it as something that shows just how small and secluded this town is. The fact that Olive made a dress with bright flowers on it adds many layers to her character. It is as though she is trying to show those around her that she cares about the event and wants to make nice without having to do so verbally. It also gives the actors interacting with McDormand the opportunity to show a feeling towards the dress, and in turn towards Olive, through a simple gaze at her dress. Amidst all the classier clothes, Eagan’s choice for Olive was a successful attempt at making her look and feel left out from the majority; once again she is the ‘odd one.’”

Since Olive Kitteridge, Jenny Eagan has worked on acclaimed productions such as Knives Out and Widows. You can read more about the importance of women costume designers here!


© Anna Nappi (11/2/21) Special for FF2 Media.



Featured photo: Frances McDormand and Richard Jenkins in Olive Kitteridge (2014); photograph by JoJo Whilden. All Rights Reserved.

Tags: Anna Nappi, costume design, jenny eagan, katusha jin, lisa cholodenko, olive kitteridge

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Anna is currently a senior at Brandeis University studying Film, Journalism, and Psychology. At Brandeis, she writes for the student newspaper and is the undergraduate degree representative of the Journalism program. From theaters to museums to concert halls, she loves exploring the art world in Boston as well as in her Maine hometown. Anna is passionate about FF2’s mission and excited for the opportunity to work alongside a wonderful team dedicated to supporting women artists.
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