The sci-fi things in Stranger Things, like the Mind Flayer, make the Netflix show a must-watch, but the 1980s things are equally entertaining - especially the outfits, from a decade much mocked for its eclectic fashion. The show attempts to accurately portray the 1980s, and the Stranger Things Season 3 wardrobe choices really showcase the era's big, bold, colorful styles. But the outfits worn by each character also serve a purpose, representing an aspect of each individual's personality or storyline.
The characters all undergo changes in style as they age and grow, especially Eleven, whose Stranger Things wardrobe is perhaps the most noticeable. Eleven starts out in nothing more than a hospital gown in Season 1, then sports a bold new style by the end of Season 3. For each episode, costume designers, along with the show's other creators and cast members, make fascinating behind-the-scenes decisions about the characters' wardrobes.
The Rejects From Eleven’s Season 3 Style Transformation Were Used In The Shopping Montage
Eleven's character has grown a lot since Season 1, so it makes sense her style would as well. When creating a new style for Eleven in Season 3, Millie Bobby Brown and costume designer Amy Parris weren't sure what they wanted it to look like. According to Parris, deciding on a look took a lot of trial and error:
I really relied on Millie's opinion for that, because we both didn't know what [Eleven's new style] would be, you know? And she has lived the character for two seasons already, so I really relied on her input and... her telling me how she feels, so if it felt like Eleven, we'd continue on with that style or that shape, and if it didn't feel like Eleven, we'd move on.
As Brown tried on different outfits for her character, they didn't trash the ones that didn't work. Instead, the rejects made it on screen for the shopping montage at the mall. When Max and Eleven are looking for the perfect new style, many of Eleven's discarded outfits make an appearance before she settles on a colorful dress.
The Wardrobe Department Aged Each Character's Clothing Based On Two Factors
The kids in Stranger Things come from different socioeconomic backgrounds, which the creators wanted to be apparent in as many ways as possible. Costume designer Kimberly Adams, for example, had to consider where or how the characters obtained their clothes. The costume crew then aged the clothes to add more to each character's story. Adams said:
It was important to make all the clothing look like it was not brand-new, so we aged things according to how long we felt they had had it. So Will’s clothes, being more "hand-me-down" clothes, were aged more than Mike’s, whose clothing would have been something Mom got him new for the school year.
Also, they had to age certain outfits based on how long the characters wore them on the show. Eleven's pink dress from Season 1, for example, goes through a lot. It starts out in fairly good condition, but the longer she wears it, the more aged it needs to appear. So, Adams had to make the dress look old and worn after Eleven had been wearing it for a long time.
The Kids Helped Develop Their Characters' Wardrobes
When the series begins, because Will, Dustin, Mike, and Lucas are the same age and have similar interests, it was potentially difficult to find unique looks for four boys who spend all their time together. So for Season 1, costume designer Adams said she encouraged the actors to share input on their wardrobes to help make each boy look unique:
I have great memories of each of the kids and their reactions in the mirror when they saw their character coming to life! As the actors merged with the characters, the closets evolved and became unique to each. They were all cast so perfectly, the evolution was natural!
Adams wanted input from all the actors in the series. In addition to Eleven, Nancy, Hopper, and the other major characters, she also focused on the outfits of such minor characters as Barb and even some of the extras.
The Costume Designer Made Mood Boards For Each Character
When Adams developed the styles for Season 1, she wanted the characters to look like real people from the '80s. So she created mood boards for the main characters as well as many of the minor ones. The boards, she said, included sketches of the characters along with collages of clothing from the time period:
I had to figure out who could handle which type of patterns and colors and combinations, so that they could each have their own looks. Just trying to really feed into the reality of these kids' characters and have that reflect through their closets was really important.
The characters have changed styles throughout each season, and the mood boards helped the creators find the ideal outfits for each one.