With only one more season of the wildly popular streaming series Stranger Things left, it's time to get nostalgic about a show that's built on nostalgia. The way to capture the feeling of a few years in the lives of the residents of Hawkins, Indiana is with era-specific costumes. Not only do they telegraph what it was like to live in the Mid-West in the United States during the early '80s, but they also broadcast the interests, social standings, and personalities of the show's characters.
Costume designers Kimberly Adams, Malgosia Turzanska, Amy Parris, and others worked diligently with the cast and the Duffer Brothers to weave a textile narrative that followed the supernatural situations Eleven and her friends found themselves in every season. Though the series is considered a contemporary show rather than a period one, there was no less diligence taken when creating the wardrobe that had to grow along with the characters. Here are 10 hidden details about the costumes you didn't notice.
10 THEY'RE A MIXTURE OF HAND-SEWN AND REAL VINTAGE CLOTHES
When interviewed at the 19th Costume Designers Guild Awards, one of the things that Kimberly Adams and her team were keenly aware of was making sure that the costumes the actors wore seemed like clothing they would be pulled out of their own closets. They researched Mid-Western Middle-America in the '80s to find clothing that looked period-specific and accurate.
She raided vintage shops with her team to find specific clothing items by specific brands popular at the time the show takes place, but oftentimes it was necessary to hand-sew a particular item of clothing or outfit to achieve the perfect look. For instance, Mrs. Wheeler's swimsuit in Season 3 was handmade, as was Jim Hopper's pink Hawaiian shirt.
9 THEY TOOK INSPIRATION FROM YEARBOOKS AND FAMILY PHOTOS
The team of costume designers dove deep into film, television, and magazines of the '80s to get inspiration for all of the characters in Hawkins. They created boards for each of the characters, complete with photographic representations and backstories to help them conceive of the necessary costumes.
They also found a wealth of material in old yearbooks and family photos, to the point where viewers who may have grown up in that time period, or had relatives that did, can point to the screen and feel a real affinity with the characters they see. According to Adams, nothing was supposed to be too fashionable given the setting and the fact that Hawkins was behind the times.
8 THE COSTUMES REPRESENT THE STATE OF THE U.S.
In the big urban port areas of the United States, such as California or New York, fashion trends tended to be rapid and forthcoming no matter what era you were in. But in the Mid-West, especially in the early '80s when America was coming out of a recession, families held onto their clothing.
Many costumes that you see in Stranger Things wouldn't have been out of place in the late '70s. By Season 3, since it takes place in the summer when everyone is trying to embrace an economic upswing, the clothing is more bright.
Many of the child characters in Stranger Things have clothing articles that continue to appear throughout a season, because their families would have wanted them to get a lot of use out of them. But there are wealthier families, like Nancy's family, who wouldn't have to worry as much about that.
7 THE COSTUMES ARE SPECIFIC TO EACH CHARACTER
Though the series doesn't give costumes to its characters that are as distinct as some they still do a lot to express the traits of that character. For instance, Mrs. Wheeler can afford to be seen in a different outfit every time she appears, with as many changing hairstyles and lipstick colors.
Joyce on the other hand, who's a single mother and has to pinch her pennies with two sons, is often seen wearing the same pieces of clothing day after day. She may even be seen in some of the clothing from her eldest son's closet because she can't afford to buy things for herself. She modeled her hairstyle off of Meryl Streep's in the '80s classic Silkwood.
6 JIM HOPPER'S CLOTHES WERE BASED OFF OF JAWS
When we first see Chief Jim Hopper, he's clad in the tan uniform of a lawman, which Kimberly Adams based on what Roy Schneider's Chief Martin Brody in both Jaws films. His uniform is tan and khaki with a vintage Stetson Open Road hat. Hopper's hats were made by Worth & Worth out of NYC.
In Season 3, he's long since eschewed his officer's getup, since he's been taking some time away from the force, and favors Hawaiian shirts in the vein of an '80s icon, Magnum P.I. This reflects his transformation from of the law to very firmly outside of it, which is a progression that's been happening the entire series.
5 THE TEENS WERE DRESSED TO REFLECT SPECIFIC TEEN MOVIES
If you're wondering why the teens look like they could be extras on the set of The Breakfast Club, that's because they've been dressed to follow the trends of '80s teen classic films. Every John Hughes film was referenced, along with Making the Grade, and of course Risky Business.
The mood board for Steve "The Hair" Harrington was covered with Tom Cruise photos from that film, as well as All The Right Moves, right down to the leather Nikes. He also frequently wears a navy blue Barrington jacket seen on the coolest of cool guys, Steve McQueen. Later on, when Nancy leaves him for Jonathan, she'll ditch the preppy clothes she's been wearing an adopt a more bold look inspired by the New Wave bands she listens to with her new beau.
4 THERE ARE MULTIPLE FILM REFERENCES
There are several moments, beginning in the very first season, where the kids wear clothing that is reminiscent of costumes worn by other actors in '80s films. Will does this twice, once with a plaid shirt and vest inspired by Henry Thomas in ET, and then again wears a red ski vest very similar to the one worn by Marty McFly in Back to the Future.
If you look at Eleven's clothing in the beginning of the series, her appearance is very much inspired by a young Drew Barrymore in Stephen King's '80s horror movie Firestarter, where a young girl has psychokinetic powers that have dangerous consequences. And in Season 3, the big bad Russian baddie that pursues Hopper and Joyce is definitely based on the T-1000 from Terminator.
3 MANY OF THE STARS WORKED DIRECTLY ON THEIR CHARACTERS' COSTUMES
David Harbour felt that Jim Hopper should wear a hat, and so went to a prominent New York City hat company to try on several until he settled on a C-crown Fedora with an upturned brim, a take on a vintage Stetson Open Road hat. The Duffer Brothers didn't like it at all, but he convinced them it was necessary for his character, an heirloom passed down from his grandfather to his father and so on.
Similarly, Matthew Modine, who played Dr. Brenner, didn't much care for the description of his character's costume being a "plaid shirt and jeans". He decided to model his hairstyle after Robert Shaw Battle of the Bulge and get a suit similar to the pristine one worn by Cary Grant in North by Northwest.
2 ELEVEN'S BIG STYLE CHANGE REFLECTED HER BEING COMFORTABLE WITH HER POWERS
Whereas previous seasons had taken placed when styles from the late '70s were still being worn, Season 3 needed to reflect the bold step into the mid-'80s. Costume designer Amy Parris, therefore, was instructed to no longer use "browns, plaids, and tans" and focus on bold, bright colors.
No one epitomized this change more than Eleven, who gets a makeover by Max in the Starcourt Mall. Parris said that Millie Bobbie Brown was very involved in the process of picking out Eleven's new look, which had previously been comprised of hand-me-downs. They felt a "big silhouette" was important to reflect Eleven being completely comfortable in her powers.
1 THE SCOOPS AHOY UNIFORMS WERE TAKEN SERIOUSLY
The Duffer Brothers were particularly serious about the Scoops Ahoy uniforms, which they based on Fast Times at Ridgemont High's "Captain Hook Fish and Chips" restaurant in the mall, which is where Steve gets a job for the summer (this time it's an ice-cream parlor). Parris and her team were tasked with making gaudy uniforms that would be embarrassing to wear, but also not so abysmal that audiences would get tired of looking at them all season.
Steve's uniform had a red shirt underneath it, while Robin got a vest, and thinner stripes. Her shorts have more volume to them and a pleat in front, as well as that classic '80s puff sleeve silhouette. Their hats were meant to be the most obnoxious part, but they weren't allowed to mess up Steve's amazing hair.