It’s safe to say that no one on TV or in reality has a sweater collection like Penelope Garcia’s (Kirsten Vangsness) on CBS’ “Criminal Minds,” thanks to the creativity of costume designer BJ Rogers.
“I make a lot of her sweaters,” Rogers tells Zap2it. “I kind of do them theme-oriented, and a lot of times I will make them to go with what she is wearing. … For Dr. Reed’s birthday, I did a theme sweater. I made a cake on the back of it and on the front I made my Yorkie and put a gold frame around it. A lot of time I use earrings as broaches on her sweaters. I have fun with her sweaters. She says people tweet about them all the time asking where she gets them.”
Garcia isn’t your typical FBI agent, and her unique look helps set the show apart from others of its kind.
“She is a little out there, and she was so talented at her hacking that the FBI accepted her as she is,” Rogers says. “She is the happy spot, the bright character no matter what is going on. I do the show in a dark palette and she is always cheery.”
For the Season 8 premiere, “The Silencer,” Rogers made Garcia a T-shirt that said “Keep Calm and Look Busy,” but she originally had a different phrase in mind.
“I was going to make one that said ‘Keep Calm and Call Garcia,’ ” she says. “Then I found out that her fans online said that, so instead I said ‘Keep Calm and Look Busy.’ She has a great fan base, I think I might put ‘Keep Calm and Call Garcia’ on one of her shirts. Sometimes I slip little things in there for them. … Fans send her jewelry and she’ll bring it to me and sometimes it’s really frightening, but sometimes they are OK pieces. Like someone had sent a pink bracelet and so I put it on her. A lot of her pens her fans send. Recently I made her a sweater and put a pocket on it so she could put her pen in it. It’s nice for her character to be able to give them a nod in some way.”
Here are some of Garcia’s one-of-a-kind outfits, which always include one of her many pairs of glasses:
“I put her in this dress that had the British flag on it (for the season premiere, in which Garcia had just returned from Great Britain). She is in love with that dress. I made earrings for her out of poker chips that have the flag. … Her necklace said ‘I Love London.’
“That dress was hysterical. It had a belt woven into the fabric. It was pretty amazing. It was a navy dress that looked as though she was wearing a top and a skirt. I made the pink and purple sweater. That is a huge pin of a fly that I found at Nordstrom. I was shocked, but they have this one section where they get these weird little pieces. I also cut off a lot of rings and sew them into her sweater as brooches.”
“This is a matching dress and jacket by Nanette Lepore. On her lapel is one of the pins I’ve collected from this old French designer Lea Stein. Seasons 1-3 she wore them a lot. They were very popular in the ’30s and ’40s. Even when I buy stuff off the rack for her, I always am changing them in some fashion. Usually the neckline or I’ll add a trim to it. It looks completely different from what it started as.”
“This was an interesting episode. She has a lot of period jewelry. She has another Lea Stein pin on there. This was a crazy fantasy episode so some of the stuff we did for this was amazing. That is a Nanette Lepore dress. The jacket looks like one I made. I like making clothes for her; she’s fun. The bag is something crappy from the props department. Usually I buy her Marni bags, I don’t know what happened that day. … That bag is hideous, and I remember I was livid they had that bag. I’ve made her a couple of bags, too.”
“I call this her Tree of Life outfit. On the front there’s a raised thing the birds are sitting on but on the back there’s a whole branch with various creatures. … The blue glasses are great, they are blue with green on the side. It’s a fine line I think between Kirsten and her character. Her character dresses much more conservatively than her in real life.”
Rogers mixes it up when it comes to Garcia’s jewelry, using pieces from designers such as Marni and Ippolita in addition to vintage.
“A lot of time it’s found pieces she is turning into something because I think that’s what her world is,” she says. “She is able to find all these things in two seconds on the computer.”
Alas, some of the hair stuff is not Rogers’ choice.
“I don’t want the costumes to walk in the room before she does,” she says. “Sometimes that’s how I feel about the hair. … It has the ability to change the vibe of the outfit. She is so gorgeous. I just want them to see her and then have everything be part of what makes her character.”