For Hulu's murder-mystery comedy Only Murders in the Building, costume designer Dana Covarrubias was gifted an arguably impossible task: Make an audience forget Selena Gomez is Selena Gomez. The pop icon, who had not appeared as a series regular on a television show since her time on Disney's Wizards of Waverly Place almost a decade ago, would be playing Mabel, a young, vaguely unknowable woman with a biting wit and a penchant for true crime. She would, of course, be Gomez, but she couldn't look like Gomez, lest viewers be pulled from the show's universe.
Most importantly, Mabel would need to mesh well with her troupe of amateur criminologists, rounded out by two older white men: The affable Steve Martin (playing veteran actor Charles Haden-Savage) and kooky Martin Short (playing theater director Oliver Putman). “The main concern when looking at the costumes would be, ‘How do we bring Selena Gomez, this icon, into this world and have her physically standing next to Steve and Marty and not look super weird?’” Covarrubias says.
The solution might have seemed straightforward: Ease back on Gomez's signature style, perhaps drape her in dull hues or pedestrian basics. Slap her in a baseball cap and a tote bag and call it good. But such an approach wouldn't have been true to Mabel, either. The character shoulders a heavy burden, a sense of secrecy that screams for anyone approaching to watch out. That trauma motivates her search for victim Tim Kono's killer throughout the season.
“Her whole concept was basically that her costumes were a type of armor,” Covarrubias says. “So she's using these really bright colors in the same way as an animal with a brightly colored coat: ‘Beware. Danger. Leave me alone. Back off.’” Balancing these two competing motivations—settling Gomez in reality, while elevating Mabel's own mien—gave the designer an intriguing challenge. She decided Mabel's style would be immediately eye-catching, enough that it would draw a double-take on the streets of Manhattan, but not so dramatic that it'd invite further inquiry. This way, the character could be both intriguing and safely anonymous.
Covarrubias achieved this look with a parade of flashy colors imbued in soft textures: yellow faux fur, paint-splattered denim, rainbow knits, pink feathers, crimson vinyl, and white shearling. She frequently drew upon the color palate of The Hardy Boys books that Mabel grew up reading, keeping an eye out for bright blues, teals, reds and golds as she thrifted in her home borough of Brooklyn.
As a result, Gomez's fashion is undoubtedly one of the highlights of the wacky Hulu series. To get a better idea of how each fit came together—and where one might find decent dupes—ELLE.com asked Covarrubias for a rundown of each ensemble. As new episodes drop in the coming weeks, we'll update this post with more inspiration from the designer's (and, of course, Mabel's) closet.
For Gomez's first appearance in episode 1, Covarrubias wanted to make a quick and powerful impression: “We wanted the first thought to be, Who is she?” The designer, who has previously worked on shows including Ramy and Master of None, dressed Gomez in the yellow faux fur jacket, matching sweater and plaid pants that immediately lured paparazzi while the actress was on set in December 2020.
Covarrubias chose the bold yellow as a symbolic nod to the Mexican heritage she shares with Gomez. “Marigolds are very important in Mexican iconography and culture,” she explains. “They can represent grief and resurrection, passion and creativity. So it just fit very perfectly for [Mabel's] character, because she's held back by this thing that happened in her past, and she's also an artist. So we knew we wanted to use those color tones, the reds and the golds and yellows, for her character a lot.” The sweater and pants were both thrifted, while the coat is Michael Kors and the boots Kurt Geiger.
For a more relaxed look during Mabel's downtime, Covarrubias selected a black camisole, sweatpants and a beige cardigan. It was essential that Gomez never looked too overdressed, especially when she was spending time alone in her apartment sketching portraits or researching her old friend Tim Kono.
“My background is mostly doing comedies,” Covarrubias says. “And I think why I have continued to work in that world is because the best thing to do in comedy is to not go too over the top with costumes. You want to keep it grounded in reality—because that can make the comedy really pop.”
For Gomez's third look in the first episode, she donned a pair of vibrant coveralls, chunky Chelsea boots, and a shearling coat. The heavy shoes are a recurring staple in Mabel's wardrobe, Covarrubias says, as a way to accentuate her spiky exterior.
These subtle but important choices helped Gomez get into character every time she tried a new outfit. “In the very first [fitting], after one or two looks she tried on, [Gomez] was already like, ‘Oh yeah, I get it. I get who she is. I feel it,’” Covarrubias says. “It's not a silhouette that you see her personally wearing all the time. It was able to push her into the character, I feel like.”
Out of Mabel's extensive sweater collection, it's this colorful confetti sweater that earned a spot as Covarrubias's favorite. She found the piece while poking around Brooklyn for vintage clothes; she makes regular trips to Beacon's Closet, a beloved NYC thrift shop, and also frequents luxury resale site TheRealReal.com for inexpensive costuming treasures (“It's amazing for film because we're on a tight budget.”)
Throughout the series, Mabel often wears thick wool while Martin and Short opt for silk, satin or cotton. “Her character is a knitter,” Covarrubias explains. “So we wanted to find some really wonderful chunky, loose knits that looked like she could have made them.”
Later in the episode, Mabel changes into a slightly darker ensemble—a black turtleneck and taupe mini skirt combo—as she eases into investigative mode. It's one of her more subdued looks throughout the show, which Covarrubias says was a counterintuitive choice to make.
“The thing that you really want to do with someone like Selena, because she has such amazing style herself, is to up the style, up up up up up,” she says. “Do it super fashionable. But that's just not true to the script, and it's not true to Mabel.
In a particularly important flashback scene during Mabel's Hardy Boys days, she's at a party, where she shimmers in a sequin dress and zebra-print coat—arguably Gomez's most arresting look of the season so far. The coat was a gorgeous set piece, but it was also a practical choice: “It was really freezing outside when we were shooting,” Covarrubias says, laughing. “So we were also looking for something that would keep our actors really cozy and warm.”
When Mabel is out sleuthing with her podcast team, which includes Martin's Charles and Short's Oliver, it's easy to forget she's also a talented artist, currently in the process of remodeling the apartment she's staying in. To point audiences back to this key personality trait, Covarrubias dressed Gomez in quintessential artist's garb, including this paint-splattered denim jumpsuit. Finding an exact replica will be tricky, but it's easy enough to create your own with some fabric paints and a trusty pair of coveralls.
Although Covarrubias often attempted to separate Mabel's style from Gomez's own, there were certain staples from the pop superstar's wardrobe that she couldn't bear to part with, including Gomez's favorite hoop earrings. “That actually is one of the things that I saw Selena doing in her personal style that I love on her. Every time I see her in a photo, and she has those big hoops on, I just love it,” she says.
Mabel wears hoops of all shapes in sizes throughout the show, most of them from jeweler Jennifer Fisher, but for this particular outfit she dons a pair of big gold tubes. For a slightly less expensive dupe, try the recommendations below.
For Mabel's more relaxed moments at home, Covarrubias often opted to drape Gomez in cozy tees or cardigans, such as this red geometric-patterned duster, paired with a simple black v-neck.
Even when Mabel's lounging, the designer says, “You still want to have her be stylish and cool and young and bring in that hip New York City world.”
If Covarrubias had to pick, this fit, which pairs a PVC trench coat with a beige tailored vest and a smooth ivory turtleneck, might be her favorite of all the outfits she assembled for Gomez.
“That [trench] was really perfect,” she says. “Because of the PVC and the shine, it has that very current, Y2K, early 2000s vibe. But then, at the same time, the silhouette is very classic trench. It's bringing in that [sense of the] detective world at the same time that it's bringing in the fashion world.”
There are several blink-and-you'll-miss-it fashion moments for Gomez throughout the series; she swaps outfits so often it's a wonder Mabel has enough space in her apartment to hold the clothes. Quick wardrobe changes like these gave Covarrubias the chance to play with riskier looks—like this plaid flannel and orange pants combo—in a way that wouldn't distract from what was happening in the scene.
The designer also made use of a pair of Rellery necklaces that Gomez wore with multiple looks throughout the first season, as an homage to her heritage. “The [necklaces] have two little tiny engraved marigolds on them,” Covarrubias says.
Paparazzi first snapped this photo of Gomez on set in February 2021. In episode 4, it's the last look she wears as she heads out from the Arconia, pursued by the mysterious Tie Dye Guy.
The luxurious teddy coat Mabel wears is by Sies Marjan, one of Covarrubias's favorite designers. “The coat originally came with a built-in underlayer lining that was a trench coat fabric,” she says. “And the only issue was, when we tried it on during the fitting, we realized it was super noisy. So we actually removed that lining, did some swatching and customized it to fit our needs. And it just popped on camera so well.”
For most of the show's fifth episode, Mabel sports the teddy coat and turtleneck she wore in the fourth, neither of which hinder her as she wheels on Tie Dye Guy and jabs a knitting needle at his eye. But, later, there's a seconds-long cutaway scene, during which Charles recalls a conversation he had with Mabel about the importance of said Tie Dye Guy to their case.
In the brief but essential chat, Mabel sports a cream cap-sleeve top with her signature hoops. Below, a couple dupes at different price points, as well as those Gomez-approved earrings.
Episode 6 unfortunately didn't include any new looks—Mabel spent the whole chapter in her black pants, black sweater and teddy coat look from episode 5—so we're skipping straight to episode 7 to enjoy these belted paperbag pants. Gomez will wear these trousers paired with a couple different tops in the final episodes of season 1, and the cinched-waist is a wonderful complement to Mabel's collection of chunky sweaters. Here's how to recreate her sleuthing look; no rubber gloves included.
Photographers captured Mabel's next fit when Gomez was on set back in March 2021. The all-black button-down blouse and pants, paired with another trench and heeled booties, made for ideal detective garb as Mabel and Oliver unveiled the truth behind the Dimas family enterprise.
“I really wanted to get the costumes involved in the mystery itself,” Covarrubias says. “So for each of the characters, we decided, okay, this is how this character is using their costume. [The costume] is creating its own mystery.”
A few minutes into episode 8, “Fan Fiction,” Martin's Charles goes full Brazzos during a riverside meeting with Detective Williams (Da'Vine Joy Randolph). For her part, Mabel stays true to herself; she dons a fetching navy and black checked Marni trench to keep warm as the winds roll in. Gomez was first spotted in the coat in April 2021, while filming in the Bronx.
You can find the exact garment at The Outnet below, or try one of these cheaper (but no less chic) dupes.
Later, as the trio brainstorms how to snag the Dimases, Mabel sheds the trench to reveal yet another oversized knit—this time in midnight blue—paired with those belted paperbag pants from last episode. She also opts for a pair of heeled lace-up booties. The overall effect is that of a woman on a mission, but with Mabel's well-established proclivity for comfort.
It would seem Mabel only brings out the prints in her wardrobe when she's ready to party. By the end of the episode, the Dimases are in custody, the murder mystery is (supposedly) solved, and the final chapter of the Only Murders podcast is airing before an adoring audience of Superfans. To fit the occasion, Mabel sports a pair of striking red tie-dye pants with a black turtleneck and—what else?—hoop earrings.
We're nearing the season finale, and as each episode passes, Mabel is sticking increasingly to a darker color palette. She waltzes into episode 9 considerably more at ease than when we first met her in episode 1, and her wardrobe reflects it. Instead of sporting those beautiful but ostentatious yellows and reds, she's dressed in nearly all-black: in this case, a smooth velour top and grey sweater, paired with an on-trend faux leather miniskirt.
A few of Covarrubias's marigold hues creep back into this next fit, which Mabel wears as she and Oliver uncover some startling news: Jan, Charles's new girlfriend, is a murder suspect. Mabel pairs the bumblebee-colored pleated plaid skirt with (another!) cable knit sweater, finishing the look off with a pair of white Chelsea boots.
Episode 10 — Finale
Gomez's last fit of the season is also the only new look in the finale, in which we learn Charles's girlfriend, Jan, killed Tim Kono—oh, and also, Mabel is caught huddled in front of Bunny's corpse. Back in April 2021, photographers near the set of Only Murders caught a few snapshots of Gomez in a blood-stained sweater, leading some to speculate she'd be Tim's murderer. But it appears Miss Mora's been wrangled into a whole other homicide case for season 2. Her final look, a white turtleneck paired with a plaid miniskirt and combat boots, might not be the coziest ensemble for a stint in jail, but she'll sure look good during police interrogations. Here's hoping season 2 starts filming ASAP; we can't wait to get back on the phone with Covarrubias.
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