Nostalgia is on the rise.
It is no longer a noun attached to negative connotations, to wallowing, to old and musky, to way-too-tight-corduroys. I have always had a soft spot for nostalgia. I am the perfect definition of a nostalgic: I do wallow in the past, whether it is my own or generally speaking. I have seen more movies dated before my birth than after, especially if they are from the last century. I sigh in front of decadent architecture and let my imagination run wild to its greatest splendour; I picture citizens running in and out of doors into the streets, busily attending their daily business, dressed accordingly: from Victorian widows in London to flappers in Paris to WWII nurses in Dresden and 1950s elegant newlyweds in Madrid. My nostalgia might commence in front of a building in ruins but it often ends with people and their clothes.
Vintage is also on the rise, and it is not only limited to the 50s any longer although we do have them and good television to thank for it. In came 2007 and Mad Men with its striking waistlines, full skirts, tweed jackets and an array of accessories from cat eye glasses to Chanel two tones which sent every woman running to their nearest charity shop and vintage boutique. Nostalgia invaded not only our dress codes but also advertising and photography, bringing back illustration as a way of advertisement and unburying talents like Norman Parkinson and Cartier-Bresson. Interior decor soon followed, bringing back the straight lines and functionality of the 1950s and 60s. And it was all due to a TV show.
Since then, our daily life and aesthetics have let themselves be influenced and moulded by the small and silver screen. This is not only because of our recent tendencies to reminisce in the past with nostalgia and appreciation but also due to the rise in aesthetic and narrative quality on TV shows. Often neglected in bias of dramatic storylines and never ending twists, cinematography, storytelling and aesthetics including production design and costumes were deemed as less important and were, as a result, unnoticeable and unremarkable. Mad Men brought a swift change to the game, bringing back attention towards the details and soon other shows followed such as Game of Thrones, Fargo, The Get Down, Masters of Sex, The Crown and the aforementioned Stranger Things.
If I had asked my mother a year ago whether she thought her adolescent clothes would not only make a come back but do so as cult garments, she would have laughed out loud. Ranging from high waisted Levis jeans to denim and shearling jackets, corduroy, frilled and collared blouses and cropped jumpers. Stranger Things has not only managed to recreate the routine, wholesomeness and even boredom of a mid western American town but intertwine a dark, sinister and surreal tale to lift the fabric of a seemingly peaceful community and shake us out of the cliche and into a whirlwind of bicycle rides through the woods and teenage house parties.
A complex script and perfect casting choices (hello Winona) are an important part of the show´s success but it is the attention to detail and meticulous cinematography, production design and costume design that push it further. They immerse us into the universes of Stranger Things, from its façade as an all American 1980s town through the series of events which unravel a darkness, both surreal and imaginative in the shape of a monster and an alternate reality but also human darkness, our worst traits embodied in the Department of Energy and its workers.
Costume Designer Kimberly Adams stresses the importance of making the characters “feel real and not caricatures of the 80s“. Her research included TV shows and films from the decade as well as magazines, catalogs, family albums and especially year books from Midwestern states from 1983. True and original period pieces were gathered for all principal characters and then fitted and made doubles accordingly. Depending on their income and social status, the different families were costumed accordingly. The Wheelers are upper-middle class and Nancy is the a smart and sweet, always-do-good girl and her wardrobe reflects that: peter pan collars, dusty pinks and pastel colours, checked skirts and side parting. Her beau Steve is the embodiment of the preppy and popular guy at school and his wardrobe is full of polo shirts, Levis, khakis and Brooks Brothers. And the attitude, of course.
The Byers are a humbler household with Joyce as a single working mother struggling to make it to the end of the month and her wardrobe reflects that. The brothers Will and Jonathan don´t look as crisp and put together as the rest of their school mates; their clothes are worn with slightly faded colours and an aged look.
Eleven has also become an iconic image from the show, either in her hospital gown and shaved head or with a blonde wig and baby pink beehive dress. Thorough period research was put into both pieces, the hospital gown becoming a clue to be later discovered and the dress found almost by chance at the Wheeler´s attic. As Adams says, the dress had to be something left behind by Nancy but special enough to have been kept. I searched for various 70s dresses and tried them on Millie to find the right shape“
Badass Sheriff Jim Hopper is also a personal favourite, managing to exude vulnerability and strength all packed into one tight khaki uniform. The designer`s inspiration for his slightly dated and worn look is Brody from the cult film Jaws in the fact that Brody wears his own personal version of his uniform, and so does Hopper.
Stranger Things may be labeled as a sci-fi show, appropriately you might say since it sports appearances of a parallel reality where monsters cozily live but there is so much more to it that that. Stranger Things deals with human nature, it delves into our connections and relationships, our basic instincts and intellects and how these surface depending on the situation. It attempts to decipher our choices, actions and their consequences. And it does all this with a signature aesthetic and a superb soundtrack. Are you convinced yet? If so, go buy a pack of waffles, slip into your dad`s basketball sweatshirt. and start binge watching.
Extracts taken from an interview with Kimberly Adams at Tyranny of Style