There’s a distinct sense of style on display in Netflix’s Master of None. A certain ineffable cool and throwback charm. Nowhere is this more evident than with the always well-dressed Dev Shaw, played by the show’s co-creator Aziz Ansari. Unlike so many TV characters, Dev never seems to be trying too hard to represent his entire ideology in an outfit. Still, his look says something about him — his old-school tastes, his Euro influences, and his eclectic interests.
Costume Designer Dana Covarrubias — who’s helped dress characters on Louie, Boardwalk Empire, and Inside Amy Schumer, to name a few — is responsible for Dev’s clothing sense (with input from Ansari). A San Antonio native, Covarrubias moved to New York City for college. She’s worked in fashion and design ever since. We got the chance to talk to Covarrubias about what goes into creating Master of None’s unique style aesthetic, as well as what you can do to create a similar look in your own wardrobe.
Was there a noticeable difference in fashion when you first moved to New York from San Antonio?
Oh my god. It’s vast. Where I grew up in San Antonio, it was 2001, 2002, so it was very preppy. I guess that was the main difference. Then, coming to New York, I think the first culture shock that I saw clothing-wise was everyone here fell more into the stereotype of being very artsy. I was just so excited by that. I went to a really crazy art college and there was a girl who would every day… do you remember those Beanie Baby things? They were weird little animals?
This girl would every day wear an outfit that was made out of those. She would just baby pin them to herself or she would have them in her hair. It was all structural. It was just so interesting. You would never see that growing up in San Antonio. So I think just immediately I was like, ‘Oh my god, this is amazing.’ It was very inspiring to be in New York, for sure.
Did that kind of bold artistic expression have an influence on your work?
Oh yes, for sure. I mean just thinking about clothes in a way that is about light and dark and color and structure. You know, the fact that you are choosing to wear something, and choosing to not wear something else, is a statement.
Just thinking of clothes as more of an artistic choice, which I think a lot of New Yorkers tend to do. Whereas in Texas, it’s more you just wear what’s comfortable, what’s appropriate for the season. Here it can be so much more of a statement. That’s not to say that everybody in Texas dresses like that. That was just one of the main difference I saw.
It has definitely inspired me and inspired the career, costume designer. I was always drawing pictures of clothing and just very into fashion, the theater, and movies. So it was kind of always brewing in my mind. My parents are both huge shoppers, so I was basically raised in malls. But, yes, it definitely made [me] see clothes as an artistic choice and not just something to throw on.
It seems like that kind of enthusiasm that you have would pair really well with Aziz Ansari, with the kind of passion he brings to everything he does. Is that the case?
Yes, for sure. Everything in the show and everything with Aziz, it is very much a decision, very much a creative choice. Nothing really happens just to happen. I mean, they improv a lot on the show, but most [of the] dialogue is very specific. All the creative choices they make on the show are very specific, even shot for shot. There was some stuff that we did in the black-and-white episode that mirrors the Fellini films and stuff like that.
Aziz is very much a huge creative thinker and I think he is just constantly getting inspiration while we’re on set. To work with someone like that is very helpful, you know, being an artistic person myself.
Is there an overlap there between his personal wardrobe and style and the character of Dev Shah?
It is a pretty large overlap. They do dress very similar in a lot of ways. A lot of the pieces he wears on the show are pieces that either we bought or are inspired by stuff that he owns. He has some vintage pieces in his closet that he really loves and he brought in and was like, ‘Is there any way we can have more of these made, maybe in a different fabric or whatever?’
So, yes, definitely collaborative, and he is very similar to his character in Master of None. As far as his fashion goes, I would say [Aziz’s] day-to-day style is pretty similar to Dev, but then I’ll style him for events and stuff. For that, he likes to be more flashy than I would think that Dev would be.
Did you have a little more freedom with what you could do this season because Dev’s flush with Clash of the Cupcakes cash?
Yes, totally. I think we did have such a positive response after the first season. I probably got hundreds of emails saying ‘Where did you get this?’ Not just for Aziz’s wardrobe, but for all of the characters.
So many people contacted me about Eric Wareheim’s look, about Lena Waithe’s look, and Noël Wells‘ look, [all] asking where they can try on that stuff. So, I think we’ve had such a general positive response from the first season in general, [that] it was really exciting to dive more into the fashion world this season.
There’s a real stylish, understated look to these characters. What’s your secret for creating a timeless look, but one that’s still fresh?
Well, I would say a lot of it is about the quality of the clothing. T-shirts are not created equal. Pants are not created equal, unfortunately. What I like to do for Aziz, and for a lot of the shows that I work on, is a couple of go-to websites that are just very well curated. For Aziz, I use MrPorter.com all the time. They just have a beautifully curated website.
I always suggest my male friends just start there because it’s hip, it’s young, and you kind of can’t go wrong. When you go on the website, it has all those filters where you can put in the max amount of money that you want to spend. Then, from there you can just search t-shirts, casual shirts, chinos, and all that kind of stuff.
If it’s coming from there, it’s going to be a better quality product. It’s going to definitely be hip and it’s going to last you a long time because they have nice quality things. It’s not just normal mall shopping.
That’s my advice to either go for the quality — because that’s always going to look better — and focus on fit. A lot of the reason I think that website is good is because the fit of everything on there is a slimmer fit. Yes, I think that the fit of getting things tailored is always going to make it look better.
I noticed there was a lot of mixing and matching with the clothes, which seemed like a good way to approach a wardrobe for those of us that don’t have Cupcake money. You can buy a few nice things, and from there you can create a whole range of looks from that handful of items.
That is exactly what we do. Realistically, with the amount of money that his character would have, we buy a few nice pieces, and then exactly what you said, we just mix and match them as best we can. You know, a different sweater with this shirt. If you have a sweater that has more detail on it, we try to keep everything else very basic. We have a beautiful leather jacket that has this deep blue, shearling collar. That piece is just so strong that you don’t want to put it with something else that will muffle it. You want that to be your stand-out piece.
I think it is just focusing on what piece you are featuring and building your outfit around that. With him, sometimes it can be a shoe. It can be a really amazing shoe that has a cool detail on it. If you bought a brand new pair of shoes, you spent some money on them, and you love them, build the outfit off of that. Put it with a really simple chino and white button down and you’re done.
It’s just keeping everything simple. Making sure you have a good amount of staple pieces in your closet. Like three or four outerwear pieces, five to ten dress shirts; some patterns, some solid. A chino, jeans; really good fitting jeans, really good fitting chinos. Then a handful of shoes and that’s it. Then you can mix and match and go from there.
I also help Aziz do his personal closet, [and] he has to be focused on doing that exact same thing.
Is there truth to the idea of putting an outfit together, then looking in the mirror, and then before you leave the house, you take something off? A less-is-more approach?
I mean, sort of. What I said about making sure you’re not overdoing it. As far as patterns, if you have one beautiful statement piece that you are trying to feature, don’t then add plaid pants with that or something crazy.
On the show, before Aziz would leave the trailer, we’re like, ‘Okay, let’s add this scarf. Oh, wait, is this pattern too much with the pattern of the jacket? Yes, let’s take that off.’ I think that definitely applies. But again, if you have this really great closet you built that has these sort of simple, classic, timeless pieces that are good quality, then you can kind of mix and match those as much as you want as a basis, then add a statement piece.