Ugly Betty’s costume designer, Patricia Field, used the characters as inspiration to craft the iconic looks which were showcased on the show.
Ugly Betty’s costumes have always been one of the most memorable parts of the show and it certainly captured the Mode that we know and love today.
The talented costume designer behind the looks for the main characters of Ugly Betty is Patricia Field, who worked on the show for its entire four seasons.
All about Ugly Betty
Costuming and set-design are often simply thought of as background details. But these elements are oh-so important when it comes to making viewers feel like the narrative they are following is tangible and real.
These background elements become even more important in a satirical dramady like ABC’s early 2000s hit, Ugly Betty, in which the high-fashion world of Mode is at the heart of the story.
All about the Ugly Betty costume designer
This included bold, bright red horn-rimmed glasses, blue-tinted braces, chunky “B” necklace and intricate mish-mash of colors and patterns, which looked just the right amount of “all wrong”.
The costume designer who is behind all of Ugly Betty’s iconic fashion moments, which includes hits like the “Guadalajara” poncho from the very first episode of the series, the Blythe Doll tote bag, which became the character’s go-to work bag.
And the various real pieces of designer clothing that were snuck onto all of the other cast members who roamed the halls of the Mode offices, is the celebrated costumer, designer and stylist, Patricia Field.
Outside of her work on Ugly Betty, where the idea was to showcase the most outrageous and over-the-top parts of the stereotypical New York fashion elite, Field has also worked on other influential fashions films and television shows, such as The Devil Wears Prada, Sex and the City (and more recently, the film’s reboot, And Just Like That…), and the Netflix series, Emily in Paris.
Field worked on Ugly Betty for the entirety of the show’s four seasons (including the pilot episode).
But by the time that the show’s cancellation was eventually confirmed in 2010, she admitted that she was relieved that she would have less on her plate, explaining, “I’m trying to ease up a little on that everyday go-to-work thing with movies and TV shows.”
The origin of Betty’s red glasses
Field and her associate, Molly Rogers, reportedly spent most of their spare time during the filming of Ugly Betty hunting down unique pieces in showrooms, boutiques, and other retail spaces across New York.
However, the decision to put Betty in the thick red-rimmed glasses, which have now become so synonymous with the character after all these years, was initially a fluke.
Field explained in a 2009 ‘The Art and Design of ‘Ugly Betty'‘ -panel that they just did not have any luck finding glasses that fit into the Ugly Betty aesthetic by the time that the pilot was about to be filmed.
And it was ultimately the show’s star, America Ferrera, who jokingly asked to try on Field’s own red glasses (which she had placed on her head while working on the costumes), who filled in this missing piece.
What inspired the rest of Ugly Betty’s looks?
The costumes on Ugly Betty ranged from Betty’s bold and colorful mismatched and thrown-together outfits to Wilhelmina’s tailored-to-perfection designer looks.
It is difficult to imagine that the inspiration for all of these costumes came from a singular costume team.
But Field revealed at a 2009 Paley event that she felt like “character was the most important thing” and she let the characters, and the actors portraying them, guide them in all of the important costuming decisions.
What Patricia Field is up to now
Field may be most well-known for her costuming contributions in the worlds of television and film. But this two-time Primetime Emmy Award winning costume designer has recently started branching out into other fields.
Field recently released a memoir called Pat in the City: My Life of Fashion, Style, and Breaking All the Rules, which was written by Rebecca Paley.
This book details Field’s most memorable moments and fashion escapades, reaching back to her youth in 1960s New York.
Field has also been working on her documentary film Happy Clothes: A Film About Patricia Field, which premiered at the 2023 Tribeca Film Festival.
Field also acts as the curator of the ‘ARTFASHION’ Gallery, which showcases a variety of unique, made-to-order garments from artists who Field considers “creative visionaries”.