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Lipstick can’t make you hit a home run or pitch a curveball. Still, the women playing in the newly formed All-American Girls Professional Baseball League have impeccably high standards to maintain. While Babe Ruth didn’t have to concern himself with such trifling matters, the newly formed Rockford Peaches in Amazon Prime’s A League of Their Own are not so fortunate.
Based loosely on the hit 1992 Penny Marshall film of the same name (which itself was based on the real-life All-American Girls Professional Baseball League), the eight-part series from Abbi Jacobson and Will Graham nods to the original movie with scenes depicting mandatory charm and beauty school. Cosmetic maven Vivienne Hughes (Nancy Lenehan) is tasked with making this group of women “palatable to an audience,” which is met with equal parts resistance and delight. On this team, personal style covers the spectrum from Greta’s (D’Arcy Carden) ultra-glam to au naturel Jess (Kelly McCormack)—with everything in-between.
Behind the scenes, A League of Their Own makeup department head Debra Schrey and hair department head Mary Ann Valdes-Poole transformed the large cast from their 21st century selves to period accurate ball players. Town & Country spoke with Schrey and Valdes-Poole about how they approached designing the ’40s aesthetic, weather challenges, collaboration on this dream job, and the characters excluded from the league.
Laying the Foundation
Collaboration between hair, makeup, and costume departments is vital to deliver a cohesive look within the main cast, day players, and background performers. “Together, we create the character, which makes the actor feel more comfortable in that character,” notes Valdes-Poole. It isn’t all that different from a baseball team in that communication is essential in achieving success. On the busier days, “15 to 20 people are doing makeup,” so Schrey has to ensure everyone is on the same page. “All makeup team members were briefed with the vision of the show, makeup charts, photo inspiration boards,” she explains. Each artist had a 1940s makeup kit that “included four shades of red lips, eye shadow choices, blush, and brow products.” Using the same palette meant “all the cast and background would maintain a uniform look.”
Anachronistic highlights, tattoos, or even eyebrow shapes can pull focus, and it’s down to Schrey and Valdes-Poole to prevent a beauty equivalent of the Game of Thrones coffee cup blooper. Hats are one solution to period inaccurate hair. Subtle tweaks to the brows are another. “Pretty much every single person that came through our trailers had to have some sort of eyebrow enhancement to achieve the look of 1940s,” says Schrey. And costume designer Trayce Gigi Field’s team sent out wardrobe books for each character, ensuring Schrey “knew what type of makeup was needed and if you needed to cover any tattoos.”
“Are we getting makeovers?” asks an excited Maybelle (Molly Ephraim) in the second episode. However, Valdes-Poole “didn’t have to do a lot to” Greta and Maybelle during the tutorials. The Peaches who don’t play to ultra-feminine standards are the target of the beauty lessons. “Our point was to make their characters feel as uncomfortable as they possibly could,” says Valdes-Poole. “Instead of Jess wearing her signature braid, we curled her hair very tight, and put waves and curls in Lupe’s hair (Roberta Colindrez) and in Jo’s (Melanie Field),” she describes.
In the first episode, Carson gets a one-on-one “farm girl” image overhaul courtesy of Greta—yes, Carson repeatedly notes she is not actually from a farm. Cutting real hair isn’t practical as it doesn’t offer much room for error or multiple takes. So extensions were cut over and over again for the scene that took several hours to film. The hair department head was told she would need around ten additional pieces. “I made 20, and we used almost all of them,” she recalls. “I don’t want to shorthand the director’s creativity and the actors if they want to do something again,” Valdes-Poole says, noting how having extras on hand gives more freedom—it is best to have all the bases covered!
“It was a bonus to have the co-creator in your chair every day [so] you could ask away while doing her makeup,” Schrey says of Jacobson and the vision she had for her character. “Carson had to be a more natural, athletic type.”
Rockford Peach Red
Patriotic duty during WWII came in many forms, including a shade of lip color. “In the 1940s, bold red lips were commonly used as a tool to boost morale of the public; it gave the soldiers incentive and lifted their spirits,” Schrey tells Town & Country.
While some members of the team (rightly) think they shouldn’t have to wear lipstick to play baseball, it is a part of the Rockford Peach uniform, so it’s rather fortuitous that Schrey found a shade bearing the team’s name. Someone from the National Women’s Baseball League reached out to Schrey and sent the Rockford Peach Red for her to explore as a lipstick option. “It looks great on everybody, so that was wonderful,” she says. Almost all the main Peaches cast wore this shade, which “kept in the spirit of the show.” The two exceptions are Greta and Maybelle “who had different red lips and lashes so they would stand out.” Greta wore the Rockford Peaches Rubenstein Red and it was the Rouge Dior in Satin Red for Maybelle.
In 2022 there is an abundance of choice of lipstick shades and brands, but Schrey’s four-color red lipstick palette assured uniformity within the background actors to match the era’s limited stock.
“The beautiful starlet Greta. She was always made up and always looked impeccable,” explains Schrey. “That created a shield so no one could see how vulnerable she was.” Adhering to beauty magazine standards of the era makes Greta feel protected, and she leans into this glamorous aesthetic.
Schrey breaks down the different stages to obtain the Greta look. To begin, LANEIGE Lip Sleeping mask, Joanna Vargas Daily Serum, Supergoop! Vitamin C + SPF 40 sunscreen, and Augustinus Bader The Eye Cream and The Cream. Next, Christian Dior Airflash foundation with a beauty blender, Clé de Peau concealer, followed by Besame Crimson for her cheeks. Moving onto Greta’s eyes, Makeup by Mario Master Mattes eyeshadow palette, Tarte Clay Paint Liner, Charlotte Tilbury Pillow Talk Push Up Lashes, and the ‘40s brow is achieved with the Brow Pencil by Jones Road and Urban Decay Inked Brow. Then, use Rockford Peaches Rubenstein Red and Urban Decay liner for the all-important signature lip color. To set this look, Schrey uses Coola Makeup Setting Spray sunscreen.
Valdes-Pool was aware that they should differentiate from Janet’s dark brown locks on Carden’s breakout role on the NBC sitcom The Good Place. “We decided to glamour up; we should make her a redhead,” she recalls. They tried out several wigs before finding the perfect shade. “I sent it away to be customized for her. I also changed the hairline a little so we can change her face up a little bit,” she adds. “I had them make the hair with body in it, so that I could get that ’40s look and that it would stay.”
Blonde Bombshell Maybelle
Greta is not the only character paying attention to trends; Maybelle’s platinum blonde curls also stand out. Valdes-Poole discussed dying Ephraim’s hair with the actress, but the last time she had gone blonde, it had damaged her naturally dark brown hair. “I think you should wear a wig,” Valdes-Poole suggested. “She was all for it.”
Every wig-wearer in the series had at least two (“while one was working, we could work on the next one to get it ready for the next day”), and, as Ephriam was pregnant during filming, they also had to consider wigs for her photo double and her stunt double.
The look was so convincing, it even earned high praise from Maybelle Blair, an original member of the All-American Girls Professional Baseball League. “Did you bleach her hair?” Blair asked about the character sharing her first name. “I said, ‘No, it’s a wig.’ She goes, ‘No, it’s not!’ I said, ‘Yes, it is.’ She’s just the sweetest,” Valdes-Poole said, noting that they met after filming the pilot.
Keeping It on the Field
Not only did Schrey and Valdes-Poole have to conceive era-appropriate styles, but they also had to consider the physical activity—and the weather. “There was lots of sweat and dirt on the baseball field. One advantage filming in Pittsburgh outside in the heat of summer is the humidity,” says Schrey. “It was no problem for the actor to naturally look sweaty.” At the start of the day, they would apply “sweat” (a product called Gator that is also a sunblock), and the application plus the humidity “was a perfect storm.” Other challenges included making sure no one got sunburnt, and trying to keep the makeup from melting—not to mention finding cover from daily lightning storms!
Valdes-Poole originally hails from Miami and has previously worked in heat and humidity, so she “had an idea of what needed to be done to try to preserve the hairstyles.” To reduce styles falling in the humidity, actors with naturally straight hair, was often styled that way. “The ones that had a little bit more body, we could play with that.” Setting the hair so it could move while playing ball, rather than stay rigid, was essential. All their lipstick might look uniform, but it was important to “maintain a different look for each character, so they’re recognizable in the ball field while playing.”
From the Salon to the Factory
Max (Chanté Adams) dreams of playing on a team like the Rockford Peaches, but the segregated league won’t make an exception, and this series isn’t ignoring the racist reality of this era. In the show, Max works at her mother Toni’s (Saidah Arrika Ekulona) hair salon before getting a job at the local factory. Having been a salon owner herself, Valdes-Poole relished the opportunity to showcase one on screen.
In the second episode, Max’s best friend Clance (Gbemisola Ikumelo) comes to the salon clutching a photo of trailblazer Lena Horne in Stormy Weather (props worked closely with Valdes-Poole to create this image). She wants to recreate this look for a big party she is hosting. “We designed the one wig in her pristine look as Lena Horne, and she loved it—everybody loved it—so it was approved,” says Valdes-Poole about the start of this process. We spoil too much here, but let’s just say she didn’t arrive at the party with the style intact.
Later on in the season, Clance’s newlywed vision is shattered when her husband receives a draft notice, and she joins her best friend in working at the factory. At work, Max wears Burt’s Bees Red Dahlia and for a bolder shade, Schrey used YSL x Zoë Kravitz Rouge Per Couture in the now sold-out “Topanga Sunset.” Schrey cites Rosie the Riveter as the inspiration: “Hair pulled back was for safety so their hair wouldn’t get caught in any machine. Bright, bold red lips were a symbol of patriotism.” Whether on the field or factory, lipstick is turned into a symbol feminine strength—but not wearing it is also a sign of resistance for this team.
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