It’s no secret that Atlanta’s film and television industry is booming. Dubbed the “Hollywood of the South,” residents and visitors alike can find little yellow signs with movie and television abbreviations all over town piquing their starstruck interests. While out and about around town, you might stumble upon a parking lot filled with trailers, signs for the crew or even a road closure for a scene. These behind-the-curtain moments give us a peek into film magic, but there is so much more that goes on before a production hits the screen. What is it really like to work behind the scenes on blockbusters like The Hunger Games and Passengers? Today we’re chatting with Ashley Dorough, an assistant costume designer and costume buyer for the film and television industry. By day, Ashley runs (sometimes literally) from shop to shop gathering wardrobe items for a variety of characters, but by night, she’s a wife, mom, blogger and personal stylist. It’s safe to say this boss lady stays bustling and busy. Today, Ashley shares insights about the ins and outs of her day-to-day, how she shops for characters and the highlights (and lowlights) of working in the film and television industry. Meet assistant costume designer and costume buyer Ashley Dorough, today’s FACE of the South!
Let’s just get this out of the way. Your job sounds really, for lack of a better word, cool. While we’re sure there are things that aren’t so glamorous about it, what is the coolest part about working in the television and film industry and, specifically, in buying and styling?
Some days, as I’m shopping, I stop myself and think, Wow. Do I really do this for a living? Seriously? I get to SHOP all day? How amazing is that?!
What EXACTLY do you do day-to-day?
Every gig is different. For the current TV show I am on, I am just the buyer. As a buyer, I read each script as it comes out and create a shopping list with my boss, the costume designer. We go through each recurring character’s closet and see what we need to buy for the look. Sometimes I am just filling in with new jeans or new tops, and other times I am shopping them head to toe. Of course, we always have a few new characters as well that have to be done head to toe. On other projects, a lot of times I am the assistant costume designer, which means I might shop a lot in the beginning, but then focus on aiding the design of the looks with my costume designer.
What type of character is the most fun to shop for, and what type is the most challenging?
Oh, this is my favorite part of the job. There is something that is so fun about diving into the mind of a character. This is what I do as I shop. So, for example, if I’m shopping for a conservative, wealthy female character, I’m going to shop as if I am her. What would she deem appropriate for herself? What looks are going to polish off this character? The most fun characters to shop for are definitely the ones who wear high-end, out-of-the-box fashion. These characters come along rarely, but when they do, I get pretty dang excited! I also really love to shop for quirky, unique characters. I love to thrift and vintage shop, so with those types, I get to. The most challenging characters to shop for, honestly, are those that need multiples. Depending on the show, and how many stunts or blood work there is going to be, you have to buy things in multiples of three or four. This limits your selection greatly.
Your IMDB page has quite the film and television repertoire. You’ve worked on blockbusters like The Hunger Games: Catching Fire, The Change-Up and Passengers. How do you shop for a dystopian or futuristic film? Where do you even begin?
Oh man! Great question. The Hunger Games is a huge production, as you can imagine. So we had several shoppers, and a lot of things came from LA and other parts of the world. A lot of things were handmade. But my job in particular on that film was to shop for some of the principal characters and a lot of the districts. For the futuristic stuff, you’ll never believe where you can find interesting things like that! I got a lot things from Little Five Points, high-end consignments, Buford Highway, Sally’s Beauty Supply, Macy’s, K&G, D&K (have you seen their men’s shoe selection?!) and, of course, online. But for the poorer districts, I literally shopped thrift stores all day, every day for weeks straight. It was so fun! My favorite, weirdest memory was there was one week where we needed tons and tons of really broken down, used men’s shoes. I found this little shop next to Value Village on Moreland Avenue. They sold new clothing, but then had this random pile in the middle of the store of unmatched, used shoes. I would go in there and spend an hour matching them up and buying them all. It was literally a mountain as tall as me of gross, used shoes. I probably should’ve worn gloves.
If you could create a costume for yourself for a movie, what would it be and what genre of movie would it be for?
’90s genre, for sure. And it would be inspired by Clueless. I would basically just be Cher head to toe. #noregrets
We have to ask you to spill your secrets: Where are some of your favorite go-to, reliable shopping spots?
For the everyday woman who isn’t looking to be dressed like a vampire or someone from the future, I have some fantastic spots! If you’re on a budget and always looking for a good sale, I swear by the Macy’s at Lenox Square Mall. Every Macy’s is different, and this one is the best. If I don’t find what I need there, I usually go to Nordstrom. My two favorite boutiques right by the mall that have a lower price point are Fab’rik and South Moon Under. You can find some really adorable, fun stuff there for great prices! When I’m shopping for a show that has fun, high-end female characters, my favorite spot is Tootsies in Atlanta. They are fantastic to work with and will go out of their way to get you the size you need overnighted. Their inventory is gorgeous and different than going to a department store. I’m also a huge fan of Anthropologie. I tend to shop for a lot of different types of people there because they have such an interesting selection.
The television and film industry places a lot of expectations on women in regards to sizing and overall appearances, yet one of the things you stress is body positivity. How do you encourage body positivity, and how does your work reflect that?
Wow, great question. It is really, really, really hard. Almost daily I find myself in a store saying, “I wish this came in my size!” I honestly don’t think that Hollywood has a handle on body positivity, and I have never encountered it in my career. If you’re above a certain size, even the costume department stresses out. I’ll tell you this, though, that doesn’t come from a hateful place. It’s because it is so hard to shop for someone who is a bigger size because the selection that is available is awful (compared to what selection you have when you’re a smaller size). This is something I am very passionate about, and I know firsthand because I am a size 16. One of my main missions with my blog is to raise awareness and encourage average women that they aren’t alone in this.
With the holidays coming up, can you give us a few pointers for holiday wardrobe shopping and styling?
Plaids are in and cuter than ever right now, but for holiday events and photos, I’d stay away from “red and green” plaid themes and instead go for plaids that incorporate either red OR green because you can wear this all season. Same goes for blouses. Get a solid red blouse, pair it with a black Spanx legging (my favorite) or a pant, booties and a cute scarf. You can wear this all season long, and it works for the holidays! I also love the dress, tights and boots trend. It’s been around forever and isn’t going away. Layers are your friend, and you can recycle, reuse and restyle them constantly.
What’s the best piece of advice that you’ve ever been given?
Don’t take a job based on the money. Words. To. Live. By.
What are three things you can’t live without, excluding faith, family and friends?
Dry shampoo, manicures and food!
Thank you so much for sharing a peek into your career, Ashley! To learn more about Ashley’s styling and shopping adventures, check out her blog, House of Dorough, or follow her on Instagram at @ashley_dorough.
Meet more amazing Southern women in our FACES archives. Prepare to be inspired!