“It's nice to get to fantasise about where we're going in the future, or where we've been in the past. Contemporary fashion and style just aren't as exciting to me because we're living it every day,” says Amy Parris, the costume designer behind the second season of Yellowjackets, a Showtime series that’s partially set in the ‘90s.
This isn’t the first time Parris has been tasked with recreating looks from decades past or way ahead in the future. The creative, who took over from season one costume designer Marie Schley, has worked on hit TV shows like Stranger Things (set in the ‘80s), Westworld (a Wild West era when not in a post-apocalyptic future), and Masters of Sex (‘50s and ‘60s). Nor is this the first time she’s inherited a show either, joining Stranger Things from the third season onwards. “It's exciting to be a fan of a show that you take over,” she says. “You see how it is so beloved by fans that you want to do a good job for them as well. You want them to enjoy what you've been enjoying alongside them.”
She’s responsible for countless Stranger Things cultural moments, including Eddie’s “Hellfire Club” tee (Season 4) and Steve and Robin’s “Scoops Ahoy” uniform (Season 3) which have made for plenty of high street recreations and Halloween costumes, as well as strong fashion looks that include authentic pieces from the era like Nancy’s '80s power dresses.
Whilst this season of Yellowjackets continues to follow the stranded teenage soccer team in the wilderness enduring a harsh winter, they still only have the clothes which they left with. This meant Parris and her team had to get creative. We see Natalie (Sophie Thatcher) wearing the seatbelts from the plane to keep her roughly skinned deer hide in place, Shauna (Sophie Nélisse) using socks as gloves, and Misty (Samantha Hanratty) keeping warm in a sweater-turned-balaclava. However, while the characters look as though they’re freezing, the cabin scenes were filmed on an indoor set. “Ironically, we were not shooting outside as we were in the first season," says Nélisse. "We were in a studio, and it did get really, really warm.” Parris explains she had to pull some costume tricks to ensure the cast was comfortable — such as cutting sleeves off or making neck dickies to give the illusion of wearing multiple layers.
Plane crash survivors Crystal, Melissa, and Jen are new characters, having been upgraded from background to lead this season. This meant that Parris got to put her own stamp on their wardrobes, taking inspiration from '90s magazines and catalogues (which she kept stashed at her parents' house), as well as TV shows from the era such as Friends and Seinfeld. “This was really nice to get to do because so much of what we see of the Yellowjackets [showcased prominently in season one] is already established,” she says.
She admits developing a soft spot for Crystal (Nuha Jes Izman), even though she prefaces that by saying: “That is like picking a favourite child! I don't want to say she's my favourite, but her closet was so fun because I got to make a lot of the clothes.” Parris explains: “She has a love of theatre, so we had a custom ‘Music Man’ graphic tee made for her. Her little denim and corduroy floral jumper was made for her. We even knit sweaters for her, which is so hard to get to do in a TV timeline, because TV moves so fast.”
However, the most impactful looks are yet to come. Parris reveals that some of the breakdown artists (creatives who work behind the scenes to fake all the damage on a character's costume) from HBO’s The Last Of Us worked with her team on Yellowjackets. “They came in for the second half of the season, and you'll really see, near the end, these girls get even more desperate and decrepit in their clothing. The last couple of episodes is where you'll see just how grimy they get.” Nélisse confirms this: “Every morning on set it would be like, ‘There’s no use of even washing on this show anymore.’” However, she says this helped her and her fellow castmates to get into character: “With the dishevelled, worn, torn-out clothes, you just immediately feel like you're not yourself.”
We also get to meet some new characters in the present-day storyline, such as adult Lottie (Simone Kessell) and Van (Lauren Ambrose), as well as citizen detective-slash-unassuming millionaire Walter (Elijah Wood). “The nice thing about getting to do two storylines is really figuring out who these people were in the middle — like what fills the space between somebody that we know in the 1990s, and then somebody of 2022/2023.”
Lottie, after a traumatic stint in a psychiatric hospital as a teenager, is now an “intentional community leader” who promotes spirituality and equality whilst also happening to wear a Rolex, as pointed out by Natalie (Juliette Lewis). Parris explains she was super collaborative in working with Kessell on Lottie’s wardrobe. “She doesn't wear the same colour as her community, which is this very specific, heliotrope purple. We made sure she stood out in these golden, rich yellows and orange colours, to really have her pop on screen because she is their leader.” She laughs before adding, “Lottie would not wear purple. We would always joke about that in our fittings. Lottie would never!”
Parris admits that the show is full of such Easter eggs: “We sprinkle clothing items amongst different cast members throughout the season, to confuse the audience on purpose.” In that case, surely there’s more to the “purple people” than what meets the eye, right? “I don't know if this community is actually more menacing than we are aware of,” Parris says of the cult, whose costumes were inspired by the Netflix documentary Wild Wild Country, which follows a sunset colour-wearing cult from the ‘70s. “That’s something that only the writers know! But what's exciting is just to get to dye a bunch of clothes this gorgeous purple, and then mix them up and give men women's blouses.” Parris explains the colour was chosen for its gender neutrality. “It was nice to see a ruffle here, or a puff sleeve on a dude. It was really just about keeping it feeling equal so they could grab a blouse and a pair of pants from the community closet, wear them, and there's no judgment.”
So, what’s left to come? Parris says she’s most excited for people to see “a very special, wonderful moment between Misty and Walter”. For Nélisse, she’s keen for audiences to see her and her castmates “go feral” (which could explain the distressed clothing), and alludes to “a lot more traumatic scenes,” suggesting viewers “bring a box of tissues.” She adds, “It’s not necessarily going to be a fun watch, but I think it’ll touch a lot of people.”
Whilst the details aren’t yet finalised for season three, Parris confesses: “I'd love to return as long as there aren't scheduling conflicts. I will happily be on a plane to Vancouver in a heartbeat!” This is something echoed by Nélisse: “We love Amy so much… She gave us so much space as actors to find our own creative voices.”