Exclusive Interview: Susanna Puisto, Costume Designer for Body of Proof


Jonny Kahleyn-Dieb

Regular readers and tweeters will be aware that Body of Proof is one of my favorite shows, and I'm super delighted to share with you my interview with Susanna Puisto, Costume Designer for the show!

Susanna has a long established history within the industry, and her journey is a really inspiring one.

How did you begin your career as a costume designer?

By a happy accident: as a model about to expire I looked for a new career and having met stylists at work I begun assisting one of them. I fit in like a fish in water and enjoyed it; to make a long story short!

Was costume design something you always wanted to do?
No, I wanted to be a Bond Girl! Fashion and movies were always something I wanted to be a part of.

Do you think that your training as an actress prepared you for your current role?
Absolutely. I tend to really understand actors and characters from the inside out.

What advice can you offer to women who want to follow a similar path? Is it easy to switch from a radically different career (e.g. politics) to something as creative as your role?
My job is very political; so yes. But it's a long path to success from the start. One must be very passionate and driven. People skills are a must. Good taste is a bonus. Managerial skills feature prominently in this job. One must also be able to collaborate and be flexible while never losing sight of the goal; making a great looking show. We are only as good as our last job.

How did you land your current role as Costume Designer on Body of Proof?
Dana requested me. I had worked with her on a movie called 'The Right Temptation' in 1999 and she had really liked me and remembered my work, and when she was in the right position she asked for me. You never know when your paths will cross in this business, it's a small world.

As a regular viewer of Body of Proof, I can see how Dr Megan Hunt’s style has evolved from Series One. What changes did you want to bring to the character’s sense of fashion and where did you seek inspiration?
For one I wanted to separate the styles of Megan and Kate. I made a very clear division as far as shape and colour. On Megan I gave her a younger, sexier look. The inspiration was European women, like myself, who mix and match; not so done up. Effortless and daring. She takes chances. Her colours a deeply saturated and enhanced with fun prints.

On Kate, I found inspiration from Hitchcock blondes. She is a timeless, classy beauty. Her colours are more subdued. Lots of white, black, pastels, grey. She is very lady like.

Many viewers/fans of the show comment on the shoes that Dana Delany wears in character. How important are they to understanding the personality of Megan Hunt?
Megan's character is based on a real person who wore high heels to crime scenes. All women love shoes and I just took it to the next level, buying her shoes I'd love to wear. Shoes that women would appreciate and be inspired by.

Where do you source the clothes that Dana Delany wears as Megan Hunt?
Beverly Hills: Rodeo Drive, Barneys, Saks, Neimans. But also J.Crew, Forever 21 and even some Target. We are not snobs, we are fashionistas. I also use rentals from ABC to enhance Megan's look. For example, the photo print skirt in the episode Eye for an Eye was a Michael Kors rental from a past season. We also recycle items of clothing on Dana and the other actors. It creates a real closet, and inspires the viewers to restyle their own clothing. There's no need to waste good pieces!

Do the actors bring an idea/opinion of how they would like to be dressed? If so, do you give into them?
Some times they do and I listen. But I also show them a different view of the character as they may not have imagined in reading the script. They mostly like it and use it to become the character.

Do you have a favourite Body of Proof character that you dress?
I love them all. All different challenges, which I enjoy as a costume designer. It's all about the character.

What challenges have you faced whilst working on the show and how have you learned from them?
Body of Proof is in it's recent reincarnation, a huge show. We have little time and many stunts, which means multiple costumes. Casting is always last minute, sometimes we fit guest stars in the morning they work. Because of this I have learned to design in a split second. I call it 'drive-through couture.' It's like doing a Bond movie every 8 days!

How does your work affect your personal style?
Geranimals: no time to think about what to wear when waking up at 4 am and working 16 hours. I try to look cute but feel comfortable. No high heels for me! Luckily my closet is very mix and match and I can style myself in the dark.

Which other costume designers in the industry inspire you?
Arianne Phillips. She is a goddess! And I had the pleasure of assisting her in my early career. There are many more I admire and get inspired by: the ones who do period dramas, sci-fi, etc.

What challenges does working on a medical drama bring in terms of costume design?
We have a lot of scrubs and lab coats: ours are couture. Real doctors should take style tips from Body of Proof!

To find out more about Body of Proof click here. You can follow Susanna on Twitter here. Body of Proof airs Tuesday nights on ABC, 10/9c.

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