The ‘Stranger Things’ costume designer showed us how to rock the ’80s style
Amy Parris reveals what she looks for when shopping for vintage clothes for the cast, including her one rule for ’80s jeans.
80s style doesn’t always get the credit it deserves. After all, it was the decade that locked in the classics that are now seeing a sartorial resurgence like Levi’s jeans, great leather or bomber jackets and Reebok sneakers. stranger things season 4, set in the mid-1980s between the beloved fictional towns of Hawkins, Indiana, and Lenora Hills, California, has sparked a revival of the era’s aesthetic thanks to the incredible costume designer of series, Amy Paris.
Here, Parris discusses her approach to character building through costumes, her favorite vintage item that made it onto the screen, and her tips and takeaways you can apply when shopping for your own authentic styles. .
Men’s Health: Incredible costumes for stranger things season 4 comes from different sources! You’ve custom-made many iconic pieces like the boys’ “Hellfire Club” t-shirts, Eleven’s milkshake dress, and Dustin’s scantron shirt. What was your process for sourcing vintage pieces for Season 4?
stranger things costume designer Amy Parris: I usually start in Los Angeles at some of the big warehouses known as rag houses who sell wholesale vintage. I’m lucky to have had some really good relationships with vintage dealers all over the country and even overseas, so I give them a list of what we’re looking for and they’ll ship it to Atlanta where we’ll shoot the spectacle. When I need something specific, I look online and when I can’t find the perfect thing, we make it! Ideally, when we redo something, we hope to use vintage fabric and vintage notions or at least the closest to it.
Read more: Better stranger things Outfits to buy online
What are your favorite vintage items that made the show?
A favorite would be Eddie’s Levi’s Blanket Lined Trucker Jacket turned vest because when we got it it was so worn and aged perfectly after many years of wear. We had to find many multiples for stunts etc, so pairing them up was difficult but rewarding.
Those who didn’t?!
What we haven’t gotten to see yet are some of the things we have for Steve. Hopefully we can put him in more costumes next season because he has a pretty amazing closet waiting for him.
You talked about watching California and Midwestern movies and yearbooks from 1984 to 1986 to accurately capture the trends of the time. How would you describe the style of this period?
It depends on what part of the country you are in. California was a little more fashion-forward, while the Midwest was a good five or more years behind in trends. Fashion moved more slowly back then without everyone being digitally connected. Thus, stone/acid wash trends that would have barely started in 1986 on the West Coast would not reach the Midwest until many years later.
We see a ton of Reebok, Converse, and Levi’s as integral parts of the main characters’ costumes throughout the series. What were the clothes that defined this specific part of the 80s?
Along with those classics that are still around, the brands to covet would have been Sergio Valente jeans and Bally sneakers were huge! Esprit, Sasson, Camp Beverly Hills, Details and Shah Safari are just a few fun fashion brands from the era. Brands like Jordache and Ellesse are still around and making a comeback. The silhouettes (clothes) of the 80s were bulkier.
What qualities or markers were you looking for in the vintage pieces you finally chose for the show?
We are looking for it to be in very good condition with little need for repair or modification. I love a piece that is super unique and screams the character’s name when you first look at it. It is important to reflect a unique closet for each person, so we try to make each outfit very different from each other.
Authenticity is a term that surfaces when referring to both costume design and the vintage market. We’d love to hear more about what you think makes something authentic and how the everyday shopper can apply these concepts when shopping for authentic 80s pieces themselves.
I find looking at a tag on the garment helps validate its age. Branding and care labels on clothing were made with a higher quality and often made of fabric compared to the cheaper paper and plastic labels we see today. Care instructions were woven onto a label, unlike today where they are often printed onto a label, which is cheaper and faster for the speed of contemporary fast fashion. Contemporary clothing from at least the last 10-15 years mixes a lot of elastic, mostly for comfort, into the fabric. Denim is now often mixed with stretch, which was extremely rare and non-existent in men’s denim in the 80s, so we have a rule: no men’s jeans with stretch!
If in doubt, we google it. If a brand name is familiar but we are unsure of the date, we will check online to see when the brand was created. I have a running list of 80s brands for me and my buyer to watch out for.
You talked about the amount of work it takes to “age” and “wear” clothes on the show to feel like they’ve actually been worn over time. Is this also a marker you are looking for in vintage items?
It’s something I look for when it makes sense for the story. If a character is blue collar, it makes more sense to do a thorough search online for that piece that has been worn by someone for many years and has genuine wear marks. If that person was a painter, you’ll have all the signs of past projects in the way the paint is organically placed on the clothes, which is possible to replicate but may be quicker to find the real thing.
What other advice would you give to the average Joe looking for authentic vintage clothing?
With all the resources available online, it can be really difficult to start looking for vintage. I would recommend starting by looking for something specific, whether it’s a particular brand you’ve noticed or a specific part. Visit your local vintage or thrift store and try on different pieces to see which silhouettes look best on you. So when you find something online, you’ll have an idea of how it will fit. Also, take a risk, try something you’ve never worn before or think you don’t like. You’d be surprised how much better a garment can look on a body than a hanger.
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