‘SNL’ Secrets: Costume Designer Reveals the Story Behind His 6 Favorite Characters

by Sarah Flanigan 5:03 PM PST, February 09, 2015
Photo: NBC

The Saturday Night Live 40th anniversary special is this weekend and we are literally falling out of our chairs with excitement and anticipation.

The show has created some of the most memorable characters since it first began in 1975. While the writers do an incredible job creating amazing sketches that leave us doubled over in laughter, it's the costumes that help the character really come alive.

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So who is the man behind the costumes? His name is Tom Broecker and he’s been designing for the show for 21 years. His work earned him a nomination for a Costume Designers Guild Award in the Outstanding Contemporary Television Series category alongside fellow SNL designer Eric Justian.

With the anniversary special right around the corner, Broecker is certainly going to be a busy man. Nearly everyone possible cast member is returning and we’re hoping to see some of our favorite characters recreated once again. But it’s a task that might prove to be pretty tricky.

“The hard part is they’re still figuring out what they’re going to do… It may be that thing where we’re trying to recreate costumes on people who are 35 years older than when they left the show.”

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There are so many characters we’re dying to see return. But until the show actually airs, thanks to Tom we have a few fun facts about a six of our favorites to get us by.


“With Stefon the reference was, ‘He’s like a washed up club kind of guy who might wear a shirt from Affliction or Ed Hardy.’ That was sort of the general reference. He’s sort of an Emo/Ed Hardy wearing kind of washed up club guy. That was the description and then we sort of ran with that idea.”

Mary Katherine Gallagher

“Sometimes the actor has a very clear idea of what they want and sometimes they don’t. Molly [Shannon] certainly had a very clear idea of what she wanted her costume to be. Working with her on Mary Katherine, ‘Like no, the skirt needs to be shorter, shorter, shorter, and we’d go like an inch shorter. No shorter!’ Then you’re like, really? It just sort of became like, okay, here we go, let’s do this.”

There isn’t much variation when it comes to Catholic school girl uniforms so the challenge was trying to find a sense individuality for Mary Katherine that made her look different than every other school girl.

“If you look it’s like, ‘What are their socks doing? What are their shoes doing? How short is the skirt?’ All that stuff is where you sort of get the individuality in that sort of Catholic school girl uniform.”

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More Cowbell

“One of my favorite things I designed was cow bell… That is probably one of my all-time favorite sketches. It’s amazing, it’s truly, truly amazing.”


“Originally it was called Omeletteville but each time, it’s becoming something different. At first it started with Chris Parnell as two eggs and bacon. Justin [Timberlake] was an omelet. When Jimmy [Fallon] did it, Justin was a roll of wrapping paper and Jimmy was a Christmas box. Those sketches are always one of my favorites to do, coming up with those sort of things.”

Dooneese/ The Lawrence Welk Show

“Kristen [Wiig] had come up with the character of tiny little hands and a giant forehead and a crazy looking person. Then they wanted to set it in the confines of a Lawrence Welk-type TV show… We had to create something that had sleeves and she could hold on to the tiny little hands at the same time. So it was partly mechanical and then it was also on top of that, how to get that sort of 1970’s Lawrence Welk doing the 1950’s, kind of look. And so each time there was a theme to the music, and so the music would sort of start to dictate what we started to do.”


“[Wiig] didn’t really have a general idea other than the fact that like, ‘Oh I’m like a 5-year-old girl who doesn’t want to talk, who has a silly little face.’ So it’s sort of this combo of, we think about a shape, and then how that shape might translate on an adult body and how to get just sort of a cartoony version of something that might feel like a 5-year-old girl.”

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