The “L Word: Gen Q” Stylist on Reinventing the Lesbian Power Suit

"I wanted it to be about color. I wanted it to be about life."

It’s hard to imagine The L Word: Generation Q without Alice’s fierce, funky power suits or Finley’s easy, breezy, soft-butch button-downs, but these iconic looks almost failed to make it to the small screen—at least the specific ’fits viewers saw. As it turns out, costume designer Deirdra Govan, the mind behind those sartorial masterstrokes, nearly turned down the project.

When Generation Q showrunner Marja Lewis-Ryan first approached her, Govan, a huge fan of Showtime’s original run of The L Word, had to say “no” due to a conflicting project. That project fell through, though, and Govan found herself back in the running to be Gen Q’s resident style maven. After five rounds of interviews and one “mega-presentation,” the gig was officially hers.

“I was a huge fan—still am!—and it was an amazing opportunity,” Govan tells NewNowNext. “I’m so glad I had a chance to do it.”

Here, the designer walks us through some of the show’s most memorable fashion.

What do you think gave you a competitive edge when interviewing for your gig on Gen Q?

They were looking for something very specific to tie together the new and the old generation. It was just about timing—being at the right place at the right time, and having the right narrative. I wasn’t coached at all; since I knew the show intimately and was a fan, I was very clear once I got the overview of what they were trying to do. I pretty much knew from the onset how I was going to approach it.

As an OG fan, what are your thoughts on the costuming for the original series?

What [original stylist] Cynthia Summers did was iconic. You couldn’t have asked for a better way to bring in the 2000s. At the time, there was nothing else like [The L Word], especially showing women who were LGBTQIA. It was just very important. I never set out to replicate what Cynthia had created because you can’t. It was 10 years ago, a different time, and a different place. She did something that will live on indefinitely and has a very strong place in my heart. It was an honor to follow in her footsteps and create something new 10-plus years later.

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Hello Again! INDEED! Just look at the guy hanging the sign and waving! #helloagain The countdown is on! In a little bit shy of a week, “The L Word Generation Q” will air on @showtime. * Having been a dedicated viewer and a fan of the original #thelword from the moment it aired, the pressure on me to get it right was immense!! Trying to recreate the past is a risky endeavor, but as I’ve said in my Variety article, “Instead of looking back to what was, I wanted to push these characters {costumes} forward and beyond”. I chose to not only change and take risk, but to challenge the perceptions of what LGBTQ style is now. I wanted to infuse these actors with an all knowing sense of grounded glamour and the gravitas to inhabit and build from who their characters are now and where they are headed in the seasons to come. * I’m in complete and utter gratitude that these legendary women @thejenniferbeals @leishahailey @kateomoennig saw my talent and forward thinking vision and not only awarded me the job as their costume designer, but trusted me with their legacy. My creative heart was made even more complete with the addition of our lovable new generation @arienne_mandi @rosannyzayas @ileosheng @jtoboni @sepidehmoafi @stephanieallynne @latarsharose who allowed me to create their costume narrative that articulates who their characters are and will become in the return of this series. I’m so blessed, honored and proud to have been apart of this ground breaking and iconic show. Lastly, my gratitude would not be complete if I didn’t that the creative show running minds that brought me here. @marjalewisryan @IleneChaiken thank you for this life changing opportunity. I’m so thankful to have been apart of this (new) incredible and historic journey. Get ready to get down from the “L to the Q” and everything in-between. Be sure to check back with me after each new episode as I break down some of our characters key looks for each episode. The L Word Generation Q airs December 8th on Showtime!! #thisisasign @sho_thelword @thelword_official @showtime @thelwordonline #lwordgerationq #groundedandglamourous #iconic #legendary #lwordgenerationqcoatumedesigner #deirdragovan

A post shared by Deirdra Govan (@thereeldesign) on

Did you feel any pressure, especially with some of the original characters returning for Gen Q?

Yes! [Laughs] I think in our body of work as designers, there’s always pressure. People have a very false notion of what costume design is. I approach it from a very strong, academic standpoint, and I also have 25-plus years in this business. When you really get down to it—look at these characters, understand them, look at where they were and where they’d be going—it was a lot of pressure to meet that demand. I worked closely with Jennifer Beals [who plays Bette Porter], Leisha Hailey [Alice Pieszecki], and Kate Moennig [Shane McCutcheon]. It was unlike any other experience I’ve had because they were so intuitive. They know their characters so well because they’d lived them for so many seasons. It was a big ask, but I was ready. I had a clear vision, but I was open to their ideas because it is a completely collaborative process.

Whom you were most excited to style?

Oh, don’t ask me that! That’s not fair! [Laughs] I would say all of them? I mean, it’s so hard—who doesn’t love Shane? Who doesn’t love Alice? Who doesn’t love Bette? There’s a little piece of me in all of them. Trying to choose is like making Sophie’s choice, and I couldn’t do that.

I imagine it’s like choosing your favorite child.

Exactly! [Laughs] You get it!

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Well, speaking of children, which Gen Q newbie were you most excited to outfit?

I think there was a lot of “figuring it out along the way.” I really, truly began to understand who these new characters were toward the middle and the end [of shooting.] For me, I had to go on a journey of discovery. I didn’t want to compare Finley to the new Shane—although everybody has already done that. She’s her own person, and I wanted to give her an identity so people could be like, “Oh my God. Okay.” But when [Jacqueline Toboni, who plays Finley] walked in, she just was Finley. She embraced it in every stretch of the imagination. When I look back, I would say she was the easiest character to fall into because it was so clear who she was on the page.

How else did you craft the characters through their costumes?

Rosanny [Zayas, who plays Sophie]—she was an open book. To mold her character, I think, was an interesting challenge. We were trying to figure out the whole dynamic between a butch lesbian and a softer butch, or is it just androgyny? What about Sophie draws the viewer in? She’s that friend that you want. She’s the woman in your corner who’s rooting for you. I mean, she’s the best friend that you ultimately fall in love with! [Laughs]

Showtime
Leisha Hailey as Alice.

Now, the question on everybody’s minds: What about Alice’s fabulous suits? I need to know more!

I don’t have a favorite character, but Alice was so intuitive within me because she radiates joy. I live my life in a joyous way, and Leisha is that person. When I created her look I wanted it to be about color. I wanted it to be about life. I wanted it to be about reinvention. She has a talk show now. She has a very clear identity. She has a style that has evolved—all of them do, but for her, it’s very important. It’s sort of the way Ellen DeGeneres reinvented herself. I wanted to bring back the power suit in a way that nobody had ever seen it before. I didn’t want to do the typical “lesbian power suit.” It’s expected, and I wanted to shake it up.

What about her killer eyewear?

Yes! We had an incredible props team that came to me. I picked out what I loved from their [glasses] kit, and then Leisha and I set it out and assigned eyewear to her looks, deciding when it was appropriate to wear it. The eyewear is very crucial. It’s treated as an accessory, but also as an extension of her style and her identity.

And what about Shane?

Oh my God. Where do I go with Kate?! It was very, very clear who Shane was style-wise… I loved her burgundy velvet blazer. One of the things I wanted to do with this project was to bring Shane into the world of color, and out of the world of blacks and grays. I was successful in getting Kate into a red Saint Laurent blouse, which was beautiful on her. I choose to highlight this look because it was one of those winning moments for me.

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Quiara has this incredible sequined romper moment, too.

I have to tell you—[actress Lex Scott Davis] and I have the same friends. We know a lot of the same people. She walked through the door, and I was like, “Yes. Yes!” Quiara’s inspiration for me was FKA Twigs, so I really wanted to bring the pop star element too. Sometimes I had to tone it down, which was not always what I wanted to do. I wanted to push it. That was my ethos, really, for the whole season: I wanted to push it.

Brooklyn-based writer and editor. Probably drinking iced coffee or getting tattooed.
@_sammanzella