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How does an aerobics queen preen?
Rose Byrne had to look the part for her new Apple TV show “Physical,” in which she stars as Sheila, an unhappy 1980s housewife who transforms into an aerobics maven and lifestyle guru — long before influencers made that a regular thing.
Premiering Friday, June 18, the series takes place over the span of many years, opening in 1986 with a scene of Sheila in a dressing room rocking a bedazzled leotard at the peak of her success, before jumping back in time to her unsatisfying life with her husband in 1981 San Diego.
The show’s costume designer, Kameron Lennox, said she found a number of inspirations for Sheila’s look, ranging from the obvious — Jane Fonda — to the less expected.
“I pulled images of Marisa Berenson. She was a socialite and model at the time and had this very strong, unique, glamorous air to her. Her hair was amazing and she had this amazing sense of style,” Lennox told The Post.
Although Sheila looks “glamorous and put together” on the surface, her inner thoughts (which Byrne delivers in voiceover) are a toxic stew of self-hate.
“The idea is that she fools people on the outside,” said Lennox. “She walks in and she looks like the most beautiful person in a room, but it’s a facade. The voices in her head are really so damaging.”
That early 1980s timeframe is why “Physical” doesn’t include some of the typical flashy, graphic style that comes to mind with the world of ’80s aerobics. Despite the title, she shied away from the famous Olivia Newton-John look and embraced a slightly more toned down aesthetic.
“In our show, you’ll never really see that crazy neon thing that you think about when you think about ’80s aerobics. That whole explosion for the look of it didn’t actually happen until later,” said Lennox.
Instead, she focused on dancewear styles that were more authentic to the era.
“I did a deep dive … [Jane Fonda] was teaching these classes in Beverly Hills — and in looking into those, I saw that a lot of people were wearing what they wore to ballet classes. The basic leotards and tights. I also had memories of being a kid and going to aerobics classes with my mom, and [the look] was very subtle.”
Lennox focused on a color palette for Sheila that used “fall tones,” muted reds and pinks to complement Byrne’s rosy skin tone.
“Her palate is pretty much set in the ’70s,” she said. “1981 isn’t quite ’80s yet. Part of everyone’s look is still in the ’70s. It was before fast fashion; before people were constantly buying things, so a lot of those [color] tones speak to the ’70s. Those warm colors bring you down to sunny Southern California and bring that Berkeley ’60s and ’70s vibe.”
Lennox said that she did seek out some vintage clothing, but for practical reasons, the workout get-ups had to be made for the show.
“Because it’s 1981, if you even were to find leotards [from that time], the spandex and the materials that they use would have corroded by now. It’s really hard to find a vintage leotard in good condition.”
Lennox, who is also the costume designer on buzzy upcoming Hulu show “Pam & Tommy,” said that even though the gear is new, she tried to stick to materials that she thought Sheila would buy for herself.
“It’s a lot of spandex, of course. There’s some cotton in there, too, and silks … I imagine she’s somebody that would buy nice things for herself to try to make herself feel better.”
But there’s one vintage-friendly material that Lennox would not touch.
“I stayed away from polyester,” she said. “I think it’s cliche to think of the ’80s and think of polyester and all these gross things — I say ‘gross’ because they make you sweat.”
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