SPOILER ALERT: Some of this information may be considered SPOILERS for ‘The Umbrella Academy’ Season 2, so proceed with caution.
Kate Walsh debuted as The Handler in the latter half of ‘The Umbrella Academy’ Season 1, and fans of hers were a bit startled at how “unrecognizable” she was, with her famous red hair hidden by a gray wig, and decked out in crisp 1950s-60s style garments. But S1 could hardly prepare viewers for The Handler’s sartorial evolution (explosion?) in S2. The Handler took an even bigger role in the sophomore installment (despite her apparent death in S1), and Walsh’s wardrobe went fully Effie Trinket along the way!
The role of The Handler was written for a man, so when Walsh was cast, series creator and showrunner Steve Blackman didn’t have a preconceived idea of how she should look, so he told costume designer Christopher Hargadon that he could “do whatever you want to do with hair, makeup, and costume.” Hargadon dove all in!
Hargadon referenced magazines and photos from the early ’60s (S2’s primary setting) and worked closely with Walsh herself to cook up her new Kentucky Derby-meets-the-Apocalypse looks. Hargadon’s greatest period style inspiration was Jacqueline Kennedy, but with lots of leather and vinyl gloves and other accents because Hargadon “wanted to have a little element of kink.” And of course, you can’t miss The Handler’s dramatic chapeaux.
As Walsh said:
“Those hats are works of art.”
Attribute those to costume builder Milena Radeva. It also seems that Hargadon drew inspiration from an unlikely source– the insect/bug world!
Hargadon and Walsh broke down some of The Handler’s most striking costumes from S2 with Variety, and here are a few highlights.
This sky blue look appeared in Ep 3 and is described by Hargadon as “Audrey Hepburn meets Marge Simpson.” But there is a subtle touch that the casual viewer may miss.
“The hat and purse were made from white vinyl, but I put a blood-red and gold spider on the purse to give it a creepy element. And we weave spiders throughout her design throughout the rest of the season.”
The Handler cut a sharp figure when she showed up to the Commission in Ep 2, only to discover that she had been demoted. On top of the vibrant “persimmon” suit, her look is once again topped off by one of Radeva’s killer hats.
“And this is something I love about Kate: she loves wearing hats and veils, which are things that directors and cinematographers often hate and will nix because they don’t work for lighting. But Kate insisted on them because they finished the outfit. I’m so grateful that she fought for them… That hat was off the charts. I said, ‘I want to go big.’ And the first one [Milena] made wasn’t big enough so I made her go bigger here.”
It isn’t just spiders that influenced Hargadon’s designs for The Handler. He invoked a different bug for this suit.
“When I was sketching that outfit, as I got to the back, I wanted it to look like a wasp. I took the tails and brought them back into points with a slit up the middle to get that effect. Again, adding in the kinky element, I used black vinyl on the trim instead of fabric. With her outfits, there’s always something off-kilter which reflects her character.”
Spiders, wasps… cockroaches? Yes, Walsh wanted an outfit that drew reference from arguably the ickiest bug around. Hidden under the voluminous gold coat, Walsh was wearing a “nipped” and tailored black suit.
“Kate said she was OK wearing the larger outerwear. Underneath, she wanted to feel like a cockroach — nipped and slim. Within her persona and acting, she wanted this feeling of something very cringe-worthy and not easy to look at. She wanted something creepy and psychotic lurking beneath.”
Even though it isn’t visible under the coat, Walsh’s suit helped her get into her role even further.
You can check out all of The Handler’s faaaaabulous costumes in ‘The Umbrella Academy’ S2, now available on Netflix.