The Outfits on ‘Yellowjackets’ Are Sickeningly Stylish, All Thanks to Her
Yellowjackets is made up of fragments—secrets that viewers must piece together, one by one. It’s the kind of show you pick through with a fine-toothed comb, searching painstakingly for clues as to what happened in those woods, 25 years ago. Of course, the more you look, the more questions you’re likely to be left with.
Yellowjackets is made up of fragments—secrets that viewers must piece together, one by one. It’s the kind of show you pick through with a fine-toothed comb, searching painstakingly for clues as to what happened in those woods, 25 years ago. Of course, the more you look, the more questions you’re likely to be left with. It makes for addictive, tantalizing television. But it’s also a show that dares to offer up a refreshing version of the female experience that is fierce and flawed and a little deranged all at once.
The first season of Yellowjackets set the aesthetic tone with costumes designed by Marie Schley. It was a grungy, earthy, and, sometimes, downright weird show to look at. What began as a palette of cult-favorite ’90s looks—we are thinking of that iconic blue-and-yellow Yellowjackets team jacket, for one—was soon mixed with feminine pagan influences; a Midsommar-esque antler crown, bedecked with lace and dried flowers and an eerie array of animal skull masks, became a prominent feature. The lesson here is: Do a female Lord of the Flies, and it becomes surprisingly fashionable.
In Season 2, the mystery continues to unravel—and the show’s striking aesthetics continue to play an important role in our obsessive hunt for the truth. This season, Stranger Things costume designer Amy Parris has taken over from Schley, left with the task to work on a more harrowing part of the story: wintertime. In the ’90s timeline, it’s below freezing, and the girls are making do with the clothes that are left over from the crash. This means they’ve adopted a bizarrely apocalyptic look, as they pile on layer after layer of spring clothes. This haggard dress leaves them feeling less civilized than ever. And yet, as Parris tells us, it somehow feels oddly like “high fashion.”
In the contemporary world, the mystery is also heating up. Misty (Christina Ricci) has reunited with Adult Shauna (Melanie Lynskey), Taissa (Tawny Cypress), and Natalie (Juliette Lewis), as the past continues to haunt them. Plus, creepy Antler Queen Lottie (Simone Kessell) reappears as an adult, now a new-age cult leader, complete with devout purple-wearing following, a load of crystals and a secluded commune in the woods.
This season, the clothes of Yellowjackets are just as important to the central mystery as ever. The Daily Beast chatted with Parris about her work on Yellowjackets this season, to find out how she leant into a more authentic ’90s look, how she collaborated with the actors to bring each character to life, and what costume-centric Easter eggs we should be looking out for as the season continues.
You took over the costume designer role this season from Marie Schley. What was it like to inherit the show and its established look in its second season?
This is actually the second time I’ve inherited a show. I started on Season 3 of Stranger Things and continued on with it until Season 5. Knowing that I was coming into something that had already been established, I reached out to Marie Schley, who did a wonderful job on season one, and we spoke a bit about the show.
I really wanted to bring a more authentic ’90s feel to it, which was a tricky thing to do, because I didn’t want to change much about it. In fact, I couldn’t, because so much is already established. They crash and they’re stuck there for 19 months, so they only have whatever they brought with them. It was a tricky balance of wanting to maintain the continuity of the show, but also make it even more ’90s.
I could only really incorporate a little bit more in outerwear, because this season they’re out there in the winter. They crash in the spring or summer—you can imagine they wouldn’t have had a ton of warm clothes with them. So, instead of imagining what their winter coats were, it was a question of, “How many light layers can we get away with?”
How did you manage to make the ’90s looks more genuine?
Once I knew I had the job, I immediately asked my parents if they still had my old box of ’90s magazines I had saved. I knew I wanted to be a costume designer when I was young. Honestly, I was like, I will need this research in the future. So, thank you to my younger self for saving all my Delia’s catalogs. Delia’s was, like, the catalog. I also had some Sassy magazines [and] I had some Seventeen magazines, so that was fun to bring to the office and show the girls during fittings. I also used pop culture references, like Friends and Seinfeld. We look back at them, and they feel so ’90s. But those shows would have been contemporary fashion of the time.
Did you have any favorite ’90s pieces?
The jacket that’s on Jasmine Savoy Brown, who plays Tai, [is one of my favorite pieces]. We found some Levi’s jackets, and we took the sleeves off of them and then added this fabric that just felt super ’90s. For other jackets we added a corduroy collar. We made a lot of little adjustments to contemporary clothes. Sometimes that’s the way to achieve a ’90s vibe. Teen Misty’s (Samantha Hanratty) equipment manager jacket from Season 1 was so iconic. And Teen Lottie (Courtney Eaton) has this fur coat. That actually might have been a Forever 21 fur jacket. It’s sort of patchwork fake fur and feels super ’90s.
As you mentioned, the ’90s timeline is all about layering, as the girls are trying to use their spring clothes to keep warm in the winter. I know it’s practical for them, but I feel like it’s such a striking look, because it’s just so weird and almost apocalyptic. It makes them all look a little !
It’s funny, because in the fittings, we’d be like, “OK, now throw this on. OK, now this.” And the actors were like, “More?” Sometimes you would try to make it look mismatched, but somehow it all coordinated in this weird fashion way. Once you put all of these colors and prints on the body and layered them in the right way, it felt almost like high fashion couture—like it could all go down a runway as a collection. You would never expect it and then you would see it on their bodies and just be like, “Oh, that works.”
It really feels like, despite all the haphazard layering, they’ve all styled their layers on purpose—like they are still teenagers who are aware of what they’re wearing.
I’m glad you’re seeing it that way, too. Because it is just more layers and more layers… but they’re still thinking, “I want to look cute.” But then, of course, near the end, it’s really sad and depraved, and they get really dark. They get dirty, and their clothes have more holes and texture. You really see the transition in this season of how desperate they are.
I was a big fan of teen Natalie’s (Sophie Thatcher) look this season. She’s become very badass, with all the leather and that headband. It feels like she is one of the girls who is really finding ways to express herself through her clothes, despite her situation.
We’ve seen in Season 1 that she is strong—she’s the hunter with Travis. She can aim a gun. She can kill a deer. They’re sent out to hunt this season. So, what we did was we took a fake deer hide and used that as a layer that she can wear over her leather jacket for not only protection, but also warmth. And that’s held on with a series of belts that were ripped out of the airplane. And the headband helps keep her hair down so it covers her ears. Even though they’re struggling to survive, she still wants to look badass while she does it.
That’s very creative, using the plane seat belts!
That was fun. That was one of the first things I designed, because Season 2’s prep was so fast. I knew that that look would be pretty important because it would need to feel like that’s her hunter outfit.
Tell me a bit about your approach to the contemporary timeline. You must have had a little more freedom there?
What’s interesting with the older versions of these characters is you get to think about what’s happened to them in between. What you don’t know as a viewer and what I also don’t know as a designer is what has happened between them being in the wilderness and being rescued. The space between is empty for us. What have they been through? That has been fun to speculate about with the actors.
I thought it was really important to still feel like these are the people we met in the ’90s. I kept thinking about a fact I heard, that new music discovery stops at 33. There are just certain points in your life where you get settled into something and I think what they went through in the ’90s and the trauma of that is going to stay with them more than they realize. So, if a comfort item in the cabin was a really warm sweater, maybe they’re still wearing really warm sweaters as adults. Shauna for example is wearing a lot of plaid and we put her in a shearling collared denim jacket. They just felt like pieces that she couldn’t help but lean towards.
We’ve got Adult Van (Lauren Ambrose) and Adult Lottie (Simone Kessell) new to the show this season. It was fun to collaborate with those actors and build new looks based on what we know about them from when they were younger in the ’90s. They were both super collaborative in making their adult versions of their clothes for Season 2.
I am a little obsessed with Adult Lottie’s look. She’s gone from the creepy Antler Queen in the woods to this Goop-like cult leader. How did this sleek, chic adult look come about?
A Goop guru is a good way of putting it.
She is a leader of a cult that wears all purple, because it’s very gender neutral. It’s a color that they all wear because they have a community dyebath. They get clothes from a thrift store, that they then dye in this very specific heliotrope purple.
Originally, I thought she should be in purple too, because she is the leader, but Simone was very adamant that Lottie would never wear purple. And a lot of cult leaders don’t practice what they preach. So to have her stand out amongst the sea of purple in these goldens and oranges really makes her character feel more impactful on the screen. Cult leaders are often in long angelic white frocks. But I think that Simone brings such a complicated character to life and to have these rich colors that really stand out—I think it adds to her performance.
We made a lot of stuff, which was fun to get to do. I would say about 50 percent of her closet is built from scratch. It was always fun to surprise Simone with new things in the fittings. She was one of the fun ones to get to dress.
Adult Misty (Christina Ricci) is another character who has a really interesting wardrobe. Her costumes are always a surprising mishmash of styles. I noticed her wearing Crocs in one scene, which felt very appropriate.
It’s so fun to get to do that with Christina Ricci, because she has such a specific idea of who adult Misty is. I can stack a rack with a bunch of options and she’ll go, “This, this, and this.” She’ll point at what she wants, she’ll try it on, and it will always work. She describes Misty as a “hunter clown.” She’s definitely a potentially dangerous person having gone through the trauma that she went through in Season 1, but she’s also putting on a show because she never wants to be made fun of. She doesn’t want to bring so much attention to herself that someone’s going to make a comment about her clothes. It’s a mix of camouflage and trying to blend in with the people that she’s surrounding herself with.
What can you tell us about Walter, a new character played by Elijah Wood?
The audience is going to be very excited to see him on screen. I feel like he is the male version of Misty. He and her are the perfect complement to each other, so I took that into account in dressing them. I feel like you’ll see that they’re definitely meant for each other.
A lot of the fun of Yellowjackets is trying to piece together the mystery of what actually happened in the woods and how it’s connected to what is happening in the present-day timeline. In the very first scene of Season 1, we see one of the girls being chased into a pit, while the others stand around her in those eerie animal masks. It sets up the central mystery. Any hints or clues to look out for in the costumes?
There’s the fair isle sweater that we see in Season 1 on the edge of the pit. It had a skunk head on it and was made with a vintage fabric. This season, I had somebody re-weave it, so that we could have multiples and introduce it a bit throughout the season. You’ll see it pop up on different actors throughout the season, because they’re all sharing warm clothes. We were very specific and strategic about that outfit. We also see those pink Converse at the edge of the pit and the “Naked Co-ed” shirt. Those pieces are sprinkled out among many characters this season, just so the audience can still speculate about who’s at the edge of the pit [and who’s in the pit].
And those creepy masks are very pagan-based. It’s something that I think we’re going to track throughout every season, because we definitely see them at the edge of the pit. And during the ceremony [at Adult Lottie’s cult in Season 2], they’re wearing them. I think that our showrunners are hinting at how we cover our identity or don’t want to see things that we don’t want to do. I don’t want to give away too much, but I will just say that the masks lean into something that’s revealed throughout the season.