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 told ELLE.com prior to season 1.
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 works as a warning beacon for anyone approaching. That trauma motivates her search for victim Tim Kono’s killer throughout the show’s first season and for Bunny’s in the second.
“Her whole concept was basically that her costumes were a type of armor,” Covarrubias said. “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.
In season 1, 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. In season 2, she’s back again with a similar color palette but more adventurous looks as Mabel grows increasingly comfortable in her new stage of life. Drawing upon the color palate of The Hardy Boys books that Mabel grew up reading, bright blues, teals, reds and golds fill Mabel’s wardrobe—many pieces thrifted from Covarrubias’s home borough of Brooklyn.
As a result, Gomez’s fashion is undoubtedly one of the highlights of the wacky Hulu series, both in season 1 and the now-airing season 2. To get a better idea of how the best fits came together—and where one might find decent dupes—ELLE.com asked Covarrubias for a rundown of our favorite ensembles. 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.
Episode 1: The Art Gallery Look
Although it’s not Mabel’s first look of season 2—that title belongs to the blood-stained sweater of last season’s finale—there’s no question this bright orange number is her most show-stopping look of the premiere. Slipping into a sheer trench coat, orange shirt-dress and pointed-toe calf-high boots, Mabel looks perfectly at home amongst both the stylish and the eccentric at Alice’s (Cara Delevingne) art gallery. (She even, dare we say, looks at home next to Alice. Hmm.)
Episode 1: The Fur Cape
Fans got an early preview of this look when paparazzi snapped Gomez on set in December 2021, wearing a cable-knit turtleneck sweater and orange Chelsea boots with black flare jeans and a faux-fur cape. Says Covarrubias, these sorts of looks balance Mabel’s competing needs for comfort and drama. Even when Mabel’s in a more relaxed mode at home in the Arconia, the designer previously told us, “You still want to have her be stylish and cool and young and bring in that hip New York City world.”
Episode 1: The Blue Sweatshirt
We learned last season that Covarrubias loves a good mini skirt. The first of its kind in season 2 pops up at the end of episode 1, when Mabel, Charles and Oliver discover an—ahem—interesting painting in Charles’s apartment. To finish the black-and-white checked mini’s look, Covarrubias added a high-neck royal-blue sweater, sheer black tights, and patent-leather boots.
Episode 2: The Green Blazer
Some of Mabel’s best style moments take place when she eschews oversized knits for tailored workwear, as was the case with season 1’s PVC trench coat and vest-and-trousers set. At the top of season 2’s second episode, Gomez is dressed in a stunning green Maje blazer, paired with a smart satin shirt and, later, a fluffy faux-fur coat in eye-catching ivory. Even next to Bunny’s über-chic mother (Shirley MacLaine), Gomez holds her own.
Episode 2: The Destroyer Look
Right up there with Gomez’s art-gallery look, this season 2 stunner is a triumph of texture and pattern play. Mabel shows up at Alice’s door in a black-and-white collared argyle sweater, looking like a chess piece draped in a delicious yellow overcoat. But it’s the ribbed white lounge pants and mulberry-colored mid-calf crocodile boots that really seal the deal—especially when Gomez has an axe in her hands.
Episode 1: Mabel’s First Look
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.
Episode 1: The Red Coverall
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.”
Episode 2: The Confetti Sweater
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.”
Episode 2: The Suede Mini Skirt
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.
Episode 3: The Red Sweater
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.
Episode 4: The PVC Trench
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.”
Episode 4: The Plaid Flannel
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.
Episode 4: The Sies Marjan Teddy Coat
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.”
Episode 7: The Classic Trench
Photographers captured this 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.”
Episode 10: The Blood-Stained Sweater
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.
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