On a typical workday, Jenae Roseen helps make clothes for zombies—and the people who fight them. As the sole wardrobe ager/dyer for The Walking Dead, she’s tasked with taking dozens of modern-day wardrobes and rendering them post-apocalyptic. And with a roster of 30-plus principle actors and hundreds of background actors (the aforementioned zombies), she’s got her work cut out for her.
Roseen’s grandmother first taught her to sew when she was 14. From there, the Peachtree City native started altering clothes she bought in thrift stores, eventually making her way to Savannah College of Art & Design Atlanta, where she majored in fashion design and sculpture. Four years later, with a solid portfolio and just two weeks until graduation, she scored an internship with self-described “post-fetish” leather designer Zana Bayne in New York. “I sent Zana my portfolio on a whim,” Roseen says. “I knew that we were like-minded, and that I could help her and she could help me.” In just a few years, Roseen worked her way up from intern to studio manager to assistant designer, working with lots of leather and metal hardware.
After about three years spent honing her skills at Zana Bayne, Roseen felt like her NYC life had run its course. She made the move back down South in 2016 to transition into film and TV work. A costume designer mentor helped her book a gig with Adult Swim (where she was tasked with fashioning a leather codpiece for Satan), which turned into another gig, which led to stints working on beloved Netflix series Stranger Things, the Academy Award-nominated film Hidden Figures, and now, The Walking Dead.
Each season calls for a solid seven months or so of wardrobe work for Roseen (this is her second TWD season). For the upcoming season of the show, slated to finish filming in November, she and her assistant spend most of their time manually distressing clothes and collaborating with the rest of the costume department. To achieve the zombie-survivor look, they use anything from pumice stones, sandpaper, and airbrushing to serrated knives, sanding blocks, and a special brand of pigment powder Roseen refers to as “movie dirt.”
“Not only are there 30 main actors, but the level that their clothing is aged is more than any other show because it’s a post-apocalyptic society,” Roseen explains. “They’re not kids in high school. Plus everyone has to have multiples of their outfits because there’s a lot of action and they’re out in the elements, sometimes covered in blood.”
Roseen had a full-circle moment while working on the show’s ninth season, which premieres at 9 p.m. Sunday, October 7 on AMC. “This season takes place several years later during a time of peace,” she explains. “They’ve had time away from war, time to work on their civilizations while advancing their protection and armor.” Roseen worked to transform protective sporting gear, including shin guards and football shoulder pads, into zombie-fighting armor by reinforcing the pieces with material like leather, tires, metal. It was a task that allowed her to tap into both her academic and previous work background. “Working on the armor has been cool because some [of what we’re making] are specific pieces from the comic books,” she explains. “I’m reading comic books and making what I see—it’s been really gratifying.”