Fall brings the change of foliage, cooler weather, the familiar scent of pumpkin spice and our personal favorite — fall television premieres. I sat down to chat with Pattern Maker and Fitter* Yuan Hua to talk about her work on Atypical season two, recently premiered on Netflix.
What kind of work did you do for Atypical? In film and television there are two types of projects: the custom-made show where everything is designed and sewn from scratch (think Star Wars), or an alteration show, where you alter clothing from shops to fit the actors.
Atypical was purely alterations, but there were a lot of them! Some of the actors are short, so there were lots of pants, skirt and even shirt hems. The main character Sam’s (Keir Gilchrist) sister and her friends go to a school that requires uniforms, so I worked with our costume designer Mojdeh Daftary to fit all of those to each character’s unique personality. I wore uniforms in school; it was always a challenge to show your own personality through a limited wardrobe. In high school you just want to express yourself, so you alter your uniform to fit just right, roll up your sleeves here, tuck your shirt there…anything to make the look yours!
I did some fun work customizing the clothes the kids wore at home, too. Crop tops and jackets were a thing for one of the characters—but the viewer needed to believe that she was cutting and cropping them herself. This meant I had to get a little messy with my work, cutting things at a slight angle, hemming stuff unevenly and trying hard to fight the urge to make everything look perfect.
Atypical Crew Left to right: Mojdeh “Mo” Daftary — Costume Designer, Brittnay Pask — Supervisor, Alison Carlos — Assistant Costume Designer, Jessica Brock — Set Costumer, Danielle Deluca — Costume PA, Yuan Hua — Cutter/Fitter, Charlese Jones — Shopper, Eddie Gomez — Set Costumer
For those of us that haven’t tuned in, what’s Atypical about?
Atypical is about an autistic high school student named Sam. In season two Sam wants to start dating, so we are following him on this journey of going outside his comfort zone to meet new friends and start romantic relationships. Atypical in general is about family, growing up and navigating a world as someone a bit different from the perceived norm.
It sounds like a special show. Are any of the actors on the spectrum?
Yes, this season had actors with re-occurring roles and background actors with autism. Sam meets with a support group in this season, all the actors in the group are on the spectrum in real life.
I thought the show was respectful. It has influenced people I know. A friend is autistic and the show helped her explain to her mother how a word will sometimes get stuck in her head. She’s stuck on this one word all day and was never able to explain the phenomenon to anyone, until Sam talked about it on the show. It’s not perfect, not everyone with autism is high functioning like the characters on the show but it’s a great way to start dialogue.
What’s your takeaway from working on Atypical?
Treat everyone with dignity and respect. Don’t judge someone by a short interaction you had, you must keep an open mind. Everyone can have a bad day.
Thank you so much for speaking with me, Yuan. Atypical seasons one and two are streaming on Netflix now.
*A Pattern Maker and Fitter makes patterns, cuts, fits costumes from specified designs or sketches, assist in selecting materials and/or supervises this kind of work.