Moira Rose, the peerless once-wealthy Rose family matriarch on Pop TV’s hit comedy “Schitt’s Creek,” is an over-the-top television style icon for the ages.
Costumed by longtime Canadian designer Debra Hanson (Emmy-nominated with her assistant, Darci Cheyne), the multiwigged Moira is played to quirky perfection by Catherine O’Hara.
With guidance from showrunner and costar Daniel Levy, O’Hara leaned in to the campy Moira to offer Hanson and her team inspiration for the onetime soap star’s oddball couture as she and her family settled into Schitt’s Creek, the small town the Roses once purchased as a joke and their only asset after a business associate left them penniless.
“Moira puts great care into how she presents herself; she wants the world to see who she really is, which is, of course, an off-centered target,” says O’Hara. “I suggested Daphne Guinness [British heiress and high-fashion icon] as inspiration for Moira’s look but otherwise just stood there while Debra and her team and Daniel put me together in the most beautiful, formidable and hysterical way. “Johnny’s [Eugene Levy] impeccable suits and Moira’s wearable art tell everyone that these people are not going to give up who they think they are while being furloughed from their rightful positions,” she adds.
“I have to say there was a great deal of laughter in the fittings with Catherine O’Hara,” notes Hanson. “She tried everything, and by her response to it we always knew: ‘Nah, this isn’t quite it,’ or ‘Oh, my God.’ Most of the time, it was ‘Oh, my God. Put more.’”
Dan Levy also credits O’Hara with both Moira’s look and the vibrant and collegial experience. “I can’t pinpoint what exactly it is about Catherine that makes literally anything from a wig worn backwards to a complicated, high-fashion piece from Raf Simons work,” he says. “Fittings with Catherine were always fun because we could really experiment, and the weirder things got, the better she looked. We had this saying during her costume fittings that when it comes to Moira Rose, more is more. Too much is never enough. I’ll miss those mornings.”
How did you get this great job?
I met with both Mr. Levys, who were looking for a designer with whom to spend a lot of time discussing ideas and where the designer understood how the pair themselves had a very specific look to achieve and how it would have to be a true collaborative affair. I was recommended as someone who didn’t particularly feel I had to be at the forefront of all the ideas. I would integrate mine into theirs, adding my world and creative experiences and my own aesthetic.
Moira famously dressed almost exclusively in black-and-white with a smattering of bold, bright color. Did you consider using more?
We did buy clothes with color and tried them, but most just didn’t work as well. We had this amazing, brightly colored [Alexander] McQueen skirt, and it looked great. We also had a huge coppery-gold lamé dress and also a necklace with an ombre/red piece she wore a couple of times. At some point, you have to surprise the audience a little — take it out of, “Oh, we know this, she’s always in black and white.” I think the pops of color woke people up a bit. Sometimes you have to give a little salt to things.
How about Moira’s astounding bedclothes: pajamas, men’s waistcoats and sparkling brooches.
When we did the nightclothes as pajamas I felt there wasn’t enough going on, not enough style. A black fitted men’s vest was on a rack behind me and I thought, “Oh, that would be like Marlene Dietrich, like a movie star; Moira would like that.” So we put it on and it worked great. The vest just happened to have a brooch on it and as I started to take it off, Catherine said, “Oh, that’s fantastic!” “But you’re going to bed.” And she said, “Yes, and I’m going to wear it. It’s too great.” In the back of my mind, I thought, “Moira’s hidden some of her real jewelry [from the IRS].”
What was the hardest part of Moira’s outfits to get right?
The shoes. If the shoes were wrong, the entire outfit kind of went wrong. Again, we used a lot of McQueen but also Prada, and we had a pair of amazing Balmain boots, but the go-to boot was a McQueen. Catherine could wear any heel height — she had no fear of height whatsoever — but I didn’t want to be the designer who was responsible for Catherine O’Hara breaking her leg. She can walk in anything, she really can. The higher and more outrageous they were, the more she laughed.
That showstopper pope outfit Moira wears to officiate David’s wedding in the finale — tell us about it.
We knew we needed something special and knew Moira would put a focus on herself, but I didn’t know what or how that might look. Dan sent some beautiful images of designer black dresses and I thought, "They just don’t look celebratory.” So I went away and looked at whites and creams, with nothing specific in mind. While I looked for something else, a small image of a McQueen popped up; it was white and looked like an ecclesiastical bishop’s robe. I went, “Oh, my God.” It was just gorgeous.
I showed it to Dan and he said, “I like it but it’s a little brave.” “Well, we always have been brave.” So when it came, we said, “Ah, this is good.” Catherine came in, and I said, “It looks like a bishop, and I think we should do a miter.” And everyone went, “Whoa.” I had a milliner create the hat, and Catherine and Dan and I all liked it, and we just laughed a lot and then thought, “What are we going to do about a wig?” Catherine and Dan went away and came back and said, “Debra, I think we want to do a big sausage roll of hair.” I thought, “My God, we’re insane. It’s perfect!” So we played with the proportions, and I kept saying, “I don’t know,” and Catherine said, “That’s it. That’s what I want. It’s my vision, it’s my dream. We’re going to do it.” And we did. It was such a powerful look. It was really fun and really right.
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