‘The Marvelous Mrs. Maisel’ Made an ‘Allusion to Joan Rivers’ Fans Might’ve Missed

The Marvelous Mrs. Maisel made a subtle nod to the late comedian Joan Rivers so discreet many viewers probably missed it. Ahead, discover how the Golden Globe and Emmy Award-winning series from Amazon Prime channeled Rivers.

What is ‘The Marvelous Mrs. Maisel’ about?

Miriam “Midge” Maisel (Rachel Brosnahan) is a housewife who stumbles upon a career in stand-up comedy after her husband, Joel (Michael Zegen), leaves her for his secretary in late 1950s and early 1960s New York City when there were few women comedians.

Season 3 of the series premiered on Amazon Prime in Dec. 2019 and continued the story of Midge and her manager Susie Myerson (Alex Borstein) as they navigated the comedy scene and making it in the business. 

Midge’s black dress and pearls is an ‘allusion to Joan Rivers’

While there have been questions about whether or not The Marvelous Mrs. Maisel is based upon Rivers and her own comedy career, the show’s creator Amy Sherman-Palladino (who also gave us Gilmore Girls) has never addressed the notion directly. 

In a 2017 interview with Vanity Fair, Sherman-Palladino opened up about her admiration for Rivers, who passed away in 2014, but didn’t say one or another if The Marvelous Mrs. Maisel had been inspired by her life. While there are similarities between the real comedian and fictional Midge, we know for sure one particular outfit belonging to the character came from Rivers. 

In a Jan. 2020 interview with NPR, Donna Zakowska, the costume designer for the Amazon series who has won two Emmys for her work on the show, explained how Midge’s stage outfit is a nod to Rivers. 

Rachel Brosnahan as Midge in Season 1 of 'The Marvelous Mrs. Maisel
Rachel Brosnahan as Midge in Season 1 of ‘The Marvelous Mrs. Maisel | Amazon

Midge is known for being perfectly coiffed wearing bright colors when she’s running around New York City but onstage is when she wears black. It’s a stark contrast to the rest of her life planned by Zakowska. The inspiration? Rivers. The late comedian often sported a black dress and a pearl necklace. 

“There was the allusion to Joan Rivers in the black dress with the pearls,” Zakowska told NPR. “The whole first season, I never used black on anyone — unless it was a beatnik — and built to that final black dress.”

Midge wore a black dress with bow accents on the shoulders, black gloves — remember it’s set in the 1950s — and a strand of pearls for her first big gig at the end of Season 1. Since then Zakowska continued the same outfit for Midge in Seasons 2 and 3. 

Rachel Brosnahan had a ‘corset-related injury’ 

Not every costume Brosnahan wears as Midge is the epitome of comfort. During an appearance on The Late Late Show, the 29-year-old actress told host James Corden she sustained a “corset-related injury” while filming the show, according to Today

Rachel Brosnahan seen on set of 'The Marvelous Mrs. Maisel' on Sept. 4, 2019
Rachel Brosnahan seen on set of ‘The Marvelous Mrs. Maisel’ on Sept. 4, 2019 | Jose Perez/Bauer-Griffin/GC Images

“We talk so fast on the show that to get all the words out you can’t really take very many breaths,” she said. “And I think I wasn’t breathing a lot and I was a little bit constrained and apparently some of my ribs are sort of fused together a little bit and I can’t take super deep breaths anymore.”

Brosnahan assured Corden and the audience she’s OK calling it “champagne problems.”