‘UnReal’ Costume Designer Shops This Popular Prom Designer for Contestants’ Dresses

The contestants on 'UnREAL' in their gowns. James Dittiger

Whether or not you think Lifetime's UnReal is anything like an actual dating show, one thing is certain: Both have a dazzling array of gowns for the women vying for love.

To dress the Everlasting contestants, costume designer Cynthia Summers must sort through racks and racks of options. During the series' second season, she went through nearly 100 formal gowns. "And that's not including a few that are here and there," she tells Us Weekly. "These are all the [gowns] that are in the elimination ceremony."

The contestants on 'UnReal' in their gowns before the elimination. Sergei Bachlakov

While Summers could go to haute couture designers for the dresses, she stays true to the characters' roots. Many of her looks hail from La Femme, a prom and special-occasion dress designer available on sites like Promgirl.com for fairly affordable prices (think in the $250 to $350 range).

"[One Everlasting contestant] came to us as a New York–style blogger, so for me that was like, 'Oh, thank God!' Something really interesting," she revealed of Yael's La Femme style. "So the first dress that she wore in the season was quite different from everyone else's — it had a print, it didn't have sequins. It was superlow in the back, superlow in the front."

But the world of glitzy gowns is only one half of UnReal. "Behind the camera it's a working crew, so it's dark. Everybody is in dark, murky, earth-tone colors," Summers says. "You try to be invisible behind the camera."

Contance Zimmer Shiri Appleby UnREAL
Contance Zimmer (left) and Shiri Appleby on 'UnReal.' James Dittiger

It's just as much fun dressing the casual looks of the crew, Summers says, because their clothes are an expression of their states of mind. "When [Rachel, the lead character and an executive producer in the show, played by Shiri Appleby] left last season, she looked like a homeless person, practically. With mental-health issues and everything else, no one is believing her for a minute [at the start of season 2]," Summers says. "She wants to put on something that will help these people follow her, so she's got a clean silhouette."

Even though Rachel's trying to project confidence with her clothing, there's one accessory that she is still hiding behind. "The sunglasses are her armor. Like everybody when you're not having a great day or you're not feeling superconfident, you put the glasses on," she tells Us. "She's still really trying to find the inner strength and belief in herself that she can do this new job and that she's actually earned it.”  

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