'Firefly Lane' costume designer dishes on bringing the emotional story of two best friends to life

'Each of the characters have their own story arc, and I do my best to honor that,' says Allisa Swanson

kate and tully in various fashionable scenes from firefly lane on a purple background
(Image credit: Netflix)

Sometimes it feels like we know Kate and Tully personally. 

Now that Firefly Lane season 2 has dropped on Netflix, we're once again enveloped in their decades-long friendship, one that's teeming with ups and downs...and an unfathomable falling out. (Make sure you have tissues at hand before you press 'play.') 

Whether it's their strong connection or the hurdles standing in their way, we can't help but see ourselves in the Firefly Lane girls. 

"The characters are so real in so many ways, not just the way they were written, but the way they were brought to life by our actors that I think it can hit some chords for different people," the show's costume designer, Allisa Swanson, tells My Imperfect Life.

young kate and tully in firefly lane season 2

(Image credit: Diyah Pera/Netflix © 2022)
Meet the expert: Allisa Swanson

With over 20 years in the industry, costume designer Allisa Swanson has brought many characters to life by way of design. She's worked on Netflix's Firefly Lane, ABC's Once Upon a Time and styled Selma Blair, to name just a few accolades. 

To her credit, the fashion is the bow that ties it all together—the very conscious styling decisions are meant to accentuate the characters' development and provide insight into what they're experiencing at a particular moment in time. Given that the show's timeline ranges from the '70s all the way to 2016 in Firefly Lane season 2 part 2, there's plenty for Swanson to work with.

"Each of the characters have their own story arc, and I do my best to honor that," she admits.

We know from the Kristin Hannah bestsellers that Kate (Sarah Chalke) and Tully (Katherine Heigl) are practically inseparable, but perhaps the camaraderie on set is one of the reasons the series feels so authentic and their on-screen bond is so strong. It was not uncommon for three-hour long fittings to take place before various episodes, and at times, both Chalke and Heigl had up to three rolling racks of styles to choose from.

"It felt like we really got to know each other," Swanson says, "And it worked its way into the understanding of the characters because they informed so much of what goes on in front of the camera."

kate and tully in firefly lane netflix

(Image credit: Netflix)

Though we're guilty of binging the new season in one sitting—don't be shy, we know you did, too—Swanson's work took a lot more time. She began the process with thorough research of the time periods in the story and created generic mood boards to inspire each decade's aesthetic.

Then came the thrifting and the creating. That meant fun crochet tops for young Tully—"It looks brand new but it is styled like the halter tops that were crocheted by your mom in the '70s" Swanson says of a number from The Crafty Jackalope—to a fun 2000s fashion staple for Kate, capris, while out on the job. 

She liked to ask, "What would I wear" before tackling a new outfit for each woman (and young girl). But the two leads are not so similar. Tully is bold, chic and unapologetic. Kate is demure and sees herself as the sidekick to Tully's main character, incorrectly so according to Swanson.

"It's Kate story, but she hasn't figured that out," she says. "One of the big tragedies was that Kate so undervalues herself—she doesn’t see the importance of herself, she doesn’t see that she’s beautiful and fashionable and that she can hold her own next to Tully."

kate and tully firefly lane season 2

(Image credit: Diyah Pera/Netflix © 2022)

We know things are going to get even more emotional—if you can believe it—come part 2, and given that we work all the way up to 2016, it's more important than ever to make sure each look works. 

What is Swanson particularly excited to see on screen come 2023? Well, that she can't tell us...yet.

"There's a couple big events that happen in part 2—some you can kind of think about what I'm talking about and others are totally unexpected," she says. "It was busy, it was complicated but it was a lot of fun, and we came up with some really cool outfits. There's three off the top of my head that I can think of that they're going to be fun."

No spoilers here, folks! You'll just have to catch up with Kate and Tully in part 2 next year.

Firefly Lane seasons 1 and 2 part 1 are currently streaming on Netflix. 

Danielle Valente
Digital News Writer

Need a TV show recommendation? Maybe a few decor tips? Danielle, a digital news writer at Future, has you covered. Her work appears throughout the company’s lifestyle brands, including My Imperfect Life, Real Homes, and woman&home. Mainly, her time is spent at My Imperfect Life, where she’s attuned to the latest entertainment trends and dating advice for Gen Z.

Before her time at Future, Danielle was the editor of Time Out New York Kids, where she got to experience the best of the city from the point of view of its littlest residents. Before that, she was a news editor at Elite Daily. Her work has also appeared in Domino, Chowhound, and amNewYork, to name a few. 

When Danielle’s not writing, you can find her testing out a new recipe, reading a book (suggestions always welcome), or rearranging the furniture in her apartment…again.