LOS ANGELES — The character Beverly Goldberg on ABC’s hit comedy series “The Goldbergs” can elicit laughter before she even speaks, thanks to the over-the-top outfits that are a love letter to the mother of the show’s creator and to 1980s fashion.
“No dialogue necessary,” laughs “Goldbergs” star Wendi McClendon-Covey, who plays the overbearing but lovable Beverly on the show.
The tops always start with the shoulder pads, then the embellishments. Details range from hanging beads, flashy sequins, ribbons, fringe and ruffles, to phrases like “What’s shakin’ bacon?” and “I’m so flappy!”
The wig McClendon-Covey wears — blond bangs and feathered layers that flip out like wings — also helps inform her character, who can be tough and opinionated, smothering and meddling, but also loving.
“I’ve got my armor on, my helmet and my shoulder pads and then I’m good to go. I understand my mood for the day based on what I open my closet and find,” McClendon-Covey told The Associated Press in a recent interview.
Costume designer Keri Smith creates the signature looks for the fictional Beverly, who is inspired by creator Adam Goldberg’s real-life mother, also named Beverly. The character has a wardrobe his mother would have envied back in the day, with a minimum of five costume changes per episode, each a one-of-a-kind work of ‘80s nostalgia.
When the show first started in 2013, the real Beverly shipped boxes of sweaters and accessories she’d saved for decades to Smith. Many have made appearances on the show, which airs its season finale on Wednesday.
“It was amazing and it helped me grasp who she was,” Smith told the AP. “And that was important for Wendi, too ... to know that she was actually legitimately wearing something that Beverly Goldberg wore.”
Smith and her team of costumers also shop at vintage stores and on Ebay and Etsy for Beverly’s sweaters, but most need extra bedazzling for maximum scene stealing.
“If I know that Beverly Goldberg is on a mission and she is trying to do something for her son at the school, she’s going for it. She’s either in full bedazzle or (the sweater) has like lions or tigers on it,” Smith said.
Since fans are often looking out for Bev’s wacky garb, Smith and the writers have had to up their sweater game.
“There was once a sweater that was made up of a bunch of different little teeny sweaters that spelled out ‘sweater.’ Try sourcing that.” McClendon-Covey said.
The “sweater” sweater made Smith proud, but it was a journey to get it right and win Adam Goldberg’s approval. First, she cut out her own idea — sweaters made of cloth — but Goldberg told her to start over and find actual knitted sweaters. With only one day to get it done, Smith found a way.
“This woman knits little tiny sweaters, like as ornaments, on Etsy, and I was able to contact her,” Smith explained. “She FedExed them overnight. We made little hangers out of paperclips. And then you look at it and it’s ... 500 times better than my first one. He’s right. That’s what it was supposed to be — little tiny actual knit sweaters. Genius!”
The outfits have become such a key part of the show that fans regularly mail sweaters to Smith.
“If a fan sends something in, I am using it for sure. And they all have good taste,” Smith said. “And then we let them know when it’s airing. And it’s just wonderful. It’s like everyone gets to feel like they’re involved.”