On Thanksgiving Day, Netflix released She’s Gotta Have It, Spike Lee’s 10-episode series reboot of the 1986 black-and-white film; the one that forever changed the mold on how Black women and their sexuality were explored on film. As John Michael Reefer, the costume designer for the original production, tells Refinery29, at the time, “Nola [Darling’s] character was an example of the male gaze fully realized and eroticized. With few other examples of Black women or women of color at the time of its release, this portrayal was characterized as groundbreaking. Her character set a tone for the objectification of Black women and women of color and has given the broader market of content creators a license to marginalize Black women and women of color up to this day.”
Fast-forward 31 years later, and Lee is bringing the story of Darling’s multiple romantic pursuits back to the spotlight — and he's tasked costume designer Marci Rodgers with modernizing its original look and feel for a modern generation. “I was young when I first saw She’s Gotta Have It, so when I was offered the opportunity, I went back to [revisit] the original movie,” Rodgers says. “That is the foundation.”
She continues: “Nola is very powerful in the sense that she’s an example of fierceness and the tenacity of freedom.” So how does one dress Lee’s latest character amidst Brooklyn’s gentrified backdrop? Hit every vintage shop in the borough, she notes, which has “any and everything. You just have to have the eye” to spot it all. “I literally had the mindset of if I were Nola and grew up in the area, what can I purchase to become a part of my closet?” One store that stands out to her is Worship.
But the Chicago-native makes it clear that Nola “dresses on a spectrum.” There was one scene, in particular, that Rodgers recalls, where Nola is waiting for Mars, one of her dates, to arrive so he can transport her pieces to her art show. Ms. Darling is dressed in a black and white studded leather jacket, short denim deconstructed shorts, patterned tights, and gray Chanel booties. “The devil is in the details with this character,” Rodgers notes.
On the subject of Nola’s lovers and what they wore, Rodgers rattles off a list of Black designers: Defend Brooklyn, Very Black, Ozwald Boateng, and designer Kerby Jean-Raymond of Pyer Moss, who Rodgers says "was so willing and down for the cause.” She pulled Mars’ impressive sneaker collection from Stadium Goods, and Ms. Nola wears a lot of William Okpo. But if there’s one piece Nola’s gotta have, it would be the “Brooklyn” necklace Rodgers found at a pop-up shop inside the Williamsburg mall.
That’s so New York, right?