Amy Parris reveals what she looks for when she goes vintage shopping for the cast — including her one rule for ’80s jeans.
’80s style doesn’t always get the recognition it deserves. After all, it’s the decade that has captured classics that are now enjoying a fashion resurgence, like Levi’s jeans, great leather or bomber jackets and Reebok sneakers. stranger things Season 4, set between the popular fictional towns of Hawkins, Indiana and Lenora Hills, California in the mid-1980s, has sparked a revival of the aesthetic of that era, thanks to the show’s incredible costume designer. amy paris.
Here, Parris talks about her approach to character building through costume, her favorite vintage item that made it to the silver screen, and her tips and insights you can use when shopping for your own authentic styles.
Men Health: The incredible costumes for stranger things Season 4 come from a number of different sources! They’ve tailored so 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 out in Los Angeles at some of the big warehouses known as raghouses who sell wholesale vintage in bulk. I’m fortunate to have developed some really great relationships with vintage dealers across the country and even internationally, so I’ll give them a list of what we’re looking for and they’ll ship it to Atlanta where we’re shooting the show. When I need something specific I look online and if I can’t find the perfect one we make it! Ideally, when we redesign something, we hope to use vintage fabrics and vintage notions, or at least what comes closest to it.
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What were your favorite vintage items that made it to the show?
A favorite would be the Eddie’s Levi’s blanket lined trucker jacket made into a vest because when we got it it was so shrunk and aged perfectly from many years of wear. We had to find a lot of multiples of that for stunts etc, so putting it together was difficult but rewarding.
Those who don’t?!
What we haven’t seen yet is some of the stuff we have for Steve. I hope we can put him in more costumes next season because he has quite an incredible wardrobe waiting for him.
You talked about looking at California and Midwest movies and yearbooks from 1984-1986 to get an accurate grasp of the trends of the time. How would you describe the style of that time?
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 years or more behind the trends. Fashion moved more slowly back then without everyone being digitally connected. The stonewashed/acid wash trends that would have barely started on the West Coast in 1986 would not reach the Midwest many years later.
We see a lot of Reebok, Converse and Levi’s as integral parts of the main characters’ costumes throughout the series. What were the clothes that defined this particular part of the 80s?
In addition to the classics that still exist, Sergio Valente jeans and Bally sneakers were the most coveted brands! Esprit, Sasson, Camp Beverly Hills, Details and Shah Safari are just some of the fun fashion labels of the time. Brands like Jordache and Ellesse are still around and making a comeback. (Clothing) silhouettes of the 80s were more voluminous.
What qualities or characteristics were you looking for in the vintage pieces you ultimately chose for the show?
We make sure it is in excellent condition with little need for repair or alteration. I love a piece that is super unique and screams the character’s name when you first see it. It’s important to reflect a unique wardrobe for each person, so we try to clearly differentiate each outfit.
authenticity is a term that crops up in relation to both costume design and the vintage market. We’d love to hear more about what you think constitutes authenticity and how the everyday shopper can apply these concepts when searching for authentic ’80s pieces themselves.
I find that looking at a tag on the garment helps confirm its age. Brand and care labels on clothing were made with a higher quality, and often fabric, than the cheaper paper and plastic labels we see today. The care instructions were woven onto a label, as opposed to today where they are often printed onto a label, which is cheaper and faster for the speed of modern fast fashion. Contemporary clothing of the last 10 to 15 years mixes a lot of elastic, essentially for comfort, into fabric. Denim is now often mixed with stretch, which was extremely rare and nonexistent in men’s denim in the 80’s, so we have a rule – no men’s jeans with stretch!
If in doubt, we google it. If a brand name is known but we don’t know the date, we check online when the brand was founded. I have a running list of 80’s brands that I and my buyers should be on the lookout for.
You’ve talked about the amount of work that goes into “aging” and “wearing” clothes on the show to make it appear that it’s actually been worn over time. Is that also a marker you look for in vintage items?
It’s something I look for if it makes sense to the story. If a character is a worker, it makes more sense to do a thorough online search for that part that has been worn by someone for many years and shows real signs of wear. If this person was a painter, you will have all the marks of previous projects in the way the paint is applied organically on the clothes, which can be imitated, but is faster to find the original.
What other advice would you give to the average person looking for authentic vintage clothing?
With all the resources available online, looking for vintage can be very overwhelming. I’d recommend looking for something specific first, whether it’s from a specific brand you’ve noticed or a specific piece. Visit your local vintage or thrift store and try on different pieces to see which silhouettes flatter you the most. So when you find something online you have an idea of how it will suit you. Take a chance too, try something you’ve never worn or thought you wouldn’t like. You will be surprised how much better clothes can look on a body than a hanger.
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