When Jo Katsaras was hired as the costume designer for “No. 1 Ladies’ Detective Agency” on HBO, one of the first things she noticed during a research trip to Botswana where the series based on Alexander McCall Smith’s best-selling novels is set was the importance clothing holds for Africans.
“Poor or rich, they dress up,” said Ms. Katsaras, below, who also incorporated how freewheeling people of Botswana tend to be with patterns. “They’ll mix their stripes with florals and spots, and it looks amazing.” But Ms. Katsaras always keeps the series’s central character, the private investigator Precious Ramotswe (Jill Scott, above), the focus of attention with colorful dresses and head scarves made of shweshwe, the traditional South African fabric known for its pulsating motifs.
Whether the clothing is found in Botswana thrift stores or designed by Ms. Katsaras, most is treated by a special “aging” artist who gives the apparel a lived-in quality. Though it initially seems as if Precious has a lot of costume changes for a thrift-obsessed woman, over the course of the series you start to notice the repeat appearances.
“Precious likes to mix and match,” said Ms. Katsaras, who measures success by whether a viewer forgets that the outfit was devised for a television show. “For me a costume shouldn’t look like a costume, it should look like something that’s part of someone’s wardrobe.”