‘Palm Royale’ Costume Designer Alix Friedberg on Crafting Kristen Wiig’s ‘Slightly Off’ 1960s Wardrobe

When you first see “Palm Royale’s” prospective patrician Maxine Douglas Dellacourte, played by Kristen Wiig, she is drowning off the coast of Palm Beach, Fla. Despite her precarious position, Maxine is fabulously dressed in a pink cocktail gown embellished with tulle-beaded flowers and 20 yards of multicolored chiffon.

“[Maxine] has this shiny positivity about her and it reminded me of little girls and their unbridled optimism. So we modeled her a little bit after a doll or like how a little girl might dress herself,” says “Palm Royale” costume designer Alix Friedberg. “[The dress] feels very Maxine and very doll-like as I said before, so that was a good little silhouette. As simple as it was, it was a really difficult dress to build.”

More from Variety

Based on the book “Mr. and Mrs. American Pie” by Juliet McDaniel, the AppleTV+ series “Palm Royale” follows the fabulistic antics of Maxine Dellacourte, who after marrying the last living descendent of an aging dowager, does everything in her power to weasel into the Palm Beach socialite scene. Friedberg and her team crafted dozens of looks for Wiig over the 10 episodes with “60%” coming from “real vintage sourcing” while the remaining outfits were made from scratch.

The first time we meet Maxine on dry land, she climbs over a concrete barrier into the Palm Royale, an exclusive resort-style country club for Palm Beach’s rich and famous. As she sits poolside eavesdropping on the Royale’s most prominent members, she wears a tangerine Lilly Pulitzer dress with a cotton scarf tied over her Brigitte Bardot wig.

Still from "Palm Royale"
An original tangerine Lilly Pulitzer dress with a matching handbag.

“We had to make three of those dresses because she was climbing over the wall,” Friedberg explains. “And the dress just got shorter and shorter because [Wiig] thought it would be kind of funny to see a little peek of underwear climbing up the wall.”

“You know, there is something slightly off about [Maxine]. And a lot of times she’ll come to a theme party dressed way too over the top, like in Havana Nights with the turban,” Friedberg added “So she’s just never quite right.”

The Havana Nights Ball is one of the many fundraising parties thrown by the women of “Palm Royale.” Rather than come dressed in traditional evening wear, Maxine dawns a Carmern Miranda-inspired floral dress with a custom turban to match. In dynamic scenes like the Havana Ball, Friedberg wants an outfit that allows the audience to “always find her in the room.” Along with the striking color and style, the movement of the dress was a significant factor in creating the look.

Still from "Palm Royale"
A Carmen Miranda-inspired dress with a matching turban.

“There’s a lot of physical comedy that happens with Kristen and so the costumes have to celebrate that movement,” Friedberg explains. “There was always this feeling of choreography happening, whether it was just a quiet scene where she’s being funny and rolling on the floor or trying to seduce Ricky Martin in her tennis outfit.”

The climax of “Palm Royale” comes with the commencement of the Beach Ball, the most important party of Palm Beach’s charity season of which Maxine is the sporadic host. Despite the thwarting efforts of her rival debutantes, Maxine arrives at the ball with an exclamation point, draped in a white zibeline gown adorned with silver beads and shells. According to Friedberg, the bell-shaped dress and matching capelet make “her look like a Christmas ornament as she’s lowered onto the Beach Ball stage.”

A custom ball gown inspired by vintage Givenchy.
A custom ball gown inspired by vintage Givenchy.

Maxine’s Beach Ball attire, inspired by a 1967 Givenchy runway look, is her only white outfit in the entire show. Her stark formality represents her initiation into Palm Beach high society, further exemplified by her diamond tiara and silk opera gloves.

“It’s her coordination, you know, her moment in the sun. It’s just so silly and frivolous,” Friedberg says. “This was one of my favorites. And this is a built garment. They’re still manufacturing this zibeline fabric that’s a silk wool blend. It’s a lot of weight to it, so it’s quite stiff, but it is also beautiful and light and it flows. It’s wonderful. She wears it well.”

Best of Variety

Sign up for Variety’s Newsletter. For the latest news, follow us on Facebook, Twitter, and Instagram.