The thing about Barnard is it’s about being independent. It’s about really having your own mind, making your own judgment.

In September 2019, veteran costume designer Donna Zakowska ’75 won an Emmy Award for Outstanding Period Costumes for The Marvelous Mrs. Maisel, her second straight for the hit show. The stars would have it that Zakowska’s vision of Midge et al. involved collaborating with another award-winning alumna, Jamie Babbit ’93 — the director of But I'm a Cheerleader — with whom she worked on two Mrs. Maisel episodes. (Midge will return with her humor and high fashion for a third season, which debuts this Friday, December 6, on Amazon.)

When Babbit and Zakowska first met on the Mrs. Maisel set as strangers, Babbit did what most Barnard students would do when curious about something — she researched. As it turned out, they were both cut from the same creative and intellectually rigorous cloth. After Babbit told Zakowska they “should do something” about their shared collegiate roots, Barnard brought them together for an inspiring conversation at the wildly colorful Mrs. Maisel costume workspace, located at Steiner Studios in Brooklyn. 

While Zakowska kept the lid shut on any Season 3 plotlines, she did confess that Midge would be the perfect Barnard student on every level. “The thing about Barnard is it’s about being independent,” said Zakowska. “It’s about really having your own mind, making your own judgment.”

One look around the studio shows the amount of research Zakowska puts into bringing the boldly Barnard-like Midge to life through the series’ period pieces — from the wool coats, dresses, and bathing suits carefully hung in protective plastic to exotic hats in boxes stacked floor to ceiling. “My mother was a crazy person with the ’60s hats,” Zakowska said in a New York Times feature about her, published shortly after her Emmy win. 

To learn more about how Zakowska creates the vibrant landscape of Mrs. Maisel’s world via costume design and the creative connection she shares with Babbit, watch the video below. And make sure to read more about their story, and other alumnae workplace collaborations, in Barnard Magazine’s upcoming Winter 2020 issue.

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