‘Selena: The Series’ costume designer Adela Cortaza explains how she turned Christian Serratos into Selena Quintanilla.
Christian Serratos began preparing for the role of Selena Quintanilla Perez ahead of the auditioning process with a haircut.
Serratos may have set off a chain of events that led to her being cast, as she snipped bangs into her own mane just as Selena often did. A year after her makeover, she landed the coveted lead in Netflix’s Selena: The Series which is currently available to stream on Netflix.
The drama’s costume designer Adela Cortazar, was one of Serratos’ biggest allies on set as she and her team worked diligently to transform The Walking Deadstar into the Queen of Tejano music.
“Adela is our costume designer and she was incredible! Not only is she passionate about what she does, but also Selena and her story,” Serratos tells EW. “Everything we wore in the series was custom made. She and her team made sure everything was done to absolute perfection and identical to the originals or they procured items that were truly vintage. I worked very closely with Adela every day, she was my homie!”
Cortazar had access to a super archive collected for the writers room of photos, interviews, and dates that helped her and her team figure out timing and form for the costumes. Her investigation into decades of photos and documents led her to understand Selena’s style and aesthetic, as well as that of her group Los Dinos.
She tells EW that her favorite part of the journey was playing in various decades like the ’80s and ’90s because of the nostalgia factor.
“What I love most about my job is dressing across time,” Cortazar tells EW in Spanish from her home in Mexico City. “The challenge working on the series was finding Selena y Los Dinos in fashion magazines to become familiar with their style and what trends they followed, both individually and as a whole. This went beyond their clothing and into jewelry and accessories, too. All of which we either handmade ourselves or procured from vintage shops. The hope is that through our work, we are able to transport viewers to the past and remind those who grew up back then of those times.”
Aside from the time that went into researching her subjects, Cortazar and her team invested love and care into the final product knowing dedicated Selena fans will be looking at the details.
“Every piece was created in a workshop made especially for this series, which I refer to as the place where all my dreams came true,” she explains. “I had around 20 people working on this project while dancing and singing to Selena’s songs. They included talent, seamstresses, and tailors, the latter two of whom contributed with illustrations, cutting, sewing, and embroidery, through laughter and tears. We worked late into the night and morning on many occasions. After all was said and done, we had created around 600 accessories, and made all the costumes for every member of the cast from sun up to sundown. We were all very dedicated and passionate about bringing Selena’s story to life.”
Cortazar did face some challenges along the way, specifically when re-creating Selena’s famous white ensemble from her performance at the Houston Astrodome in 1994.
“That white costume really made me suffer,” she says. “It was going to be one of our first days filming and the outfit was white. Honest to God, white adds pounds and I have no idea why?! Selena often wore black, why did we start shooting with an all white look? Christian and I had just started working together and it took a little time for me to learn how the clothes would fit. I wasn’t very confident that our first prototype of the pants were going to work but they did and I feel it’s one of the pieces that fit her the best. The bra top we bought online from a place in the U.K. because when you’re working with past eras, undergarments are of the utmost importance because they’re not made the same today. To get the boots perfect, it required a lot of customization that wasn’t successful at first. But when the director called ‘Action!,’ my Selena looked impeccable. The outfit looks simple but it was a challenge to recreate.”
Cortazar teases fans have a lot to look forward to with the release of the show’s second part, which was shot simultaneously as the first, which dives into more of Selena’s most iconic looks. “All I can say is viewers can expect a lot of surprise,” she added.