Cynthia Summers breaks down the most memorable looks for Kristy, Claudia, Stacey, Mary Anne and Dawn in the new series.
Netflix's modern-day reboot of The Baby-Sitters Club introduced beloved characters Kristy Thomas (Sophie Grace), Claudia Kishi (Momona Tamada), Stacey McGill (Shay Rudolph), Mary Anne Spier (Malia Baker) and Dawn Schafer (Xochitl Gomez) to a new generation, and that meant revisiting their distinct styles, which were on full display through costume designer Cynthia Summers' work.
Adapted from Ann M. Martin's popular book series, the latest adaptation follows the middle schoolers as they start their own baby-sitting business while they deal with real-life issues such as divorce, gender identity, health, family hardships, racism and, of course, boys.
For Summers, who worked on Snowpiercer, A Series of Unfortunate Events and UnREAL, translating The Baby-Sitters Club's iconic characters' established styles from page to screen meant taking the key elements from the novels and "marrying" them with fashion trends from the '80s, '90s and today to create fresh, aspirational looks any 13-year-old -- or 33-year-old -- would be inspired by.
"Ann M. Martin really fleshed the characters out in the books, and I think there's a character in the books that somebody relates to. There's somebody for everybody. We have a much more diverse group of girls, as far as ethnicity goes, which is awesome and really important for today," Summers says. "It was important to give the audience a visual connectivity, as far as the fashion goes. And then bring in the fashion of today and how it pertains to each character as we see it."
Whether you're casual-cool like Kristy or a bold fashionista like Claudia, now that The Baby-Sitters Club is out, you've been injected with some major style inspiration. So how did Summers bring the BSC members' classic styles to life? Hear from Summers herself, in her own words, about how she approached each of the five main girls and a few of her favorite looks from the Netflix reboot -- including an homage to an iconic Clueless outfit Alicia Silverstone, who plays Kristy's mom in the new Baby-Sitters Club, wore in the 1995 classic.
The Inspiration Behind Kristy's Style: "Kristy's the most distinctive in that her look translates across decades: the sporty girl, tomboy look. She's athletic and what she looks like is not as important to her. It's more about comfort. She is part of a large family and they don't have lots of money, so she borrowed from her brother's closet. She feels more comfortable in the oversized sweatshirt and a baseball cap because she just wants to put her hair back and not have to worry about it throughout the day.
"There is fashion within athleticism and comfort. I wanted to relate to the book covers and to the way she dressed [there]. And there was a lot of the '90s influence, like the turtleneck or a mock turtleneck underneath a sweatshirt. We pulled that up underneath her overalls, which was really cute. There's so much character behind Kristy. It was really important for her strength and her character to show through it."
A Memorable Look: "My favorite outfit of hers is when she gets to finally wear her overalls. They really held off on having her wear those. I kept pitching it and the producers were like, 'No, not yet.' It's a style moment for Kristy. We rolled the overalls up so you could see her sport socks and her favorite Nike Air Force sneakers, and she had her turtleneck T-shirt underneath. So for me, it was like super iconic. It was a real special moment for me to see her in that."
The Inspiration Behind Claudia's Style: "Claudia is the polar opposite of Kristy in everything I've just described. It's all about what she's wearing because she's not afraid to show how she's feeling that day in her clothing. She's an artist, so she thrifts a lot of her clothes. A lot of reworked vintage or even reworked new pieces. But I would say 90% of what she has is reworked in some way or customized to her. She's the kind of girl that gets up in the morning and asks, 'What do I feel like today? Who do I feel like today?' She's almost like an actress.
"Whether it's a shirt or a shoe or a hair bobble -- she's always got something in her hair -- she picks one thing and that inspires her outfit for the day and she coordinates around it. It's artsy, it's colorful and it's bold. And she's bold. She has a lot of self-confidence because don't we all wish we could just dress like her? Momona [Tamada] brings a real physicality to the character as well. She's a petite little thing, so we layer her and she isn't overwhelmed by the clothes. We had small tricks, like rolling her pants up to cuff level so we saw more of her ankles. She always had jewelry and it was always big, beautiful, bright and unique looking. It was a lot of jewelry from a company called Konplott, and a lot of vintage jewelry that we mixed in with the new. Her look in a nutshell is unique. Momona was a good four inches shorter than the rest of the girls, so we wanted to use the platform sneakers to give her some height -- and she has the big bun for that reason."
A Memorable Look: "You'll notice in her closet, there are a lot of golden yellows and oranges. It's bright, it's very hopeful and it looks beautiful on Momona with her black hair. There is a plaid skirt set she wears that's golden yellow and black, and she wears a graphic tee with a dog underneath. She's got her hair up. That definitely was a nod to Alicia Silverstone's character, Cher, in Clueless. I never told Alicia that -- and I don't even know if Momona was aware of that. It was intentional, but it was accidentally intentional. We were shopping this suit -- and it's oversized for her -- kind of like '90s-style with a long jacket, so we pushed the sleeves up and rolled up the hem. We did the same with the pants and it was like, 'Of course Claudia would do that!'"
The Inspiration Behind Stacey's Style: "Stacey is our New Yorker and we really had to show that she was a character who was new to Stoneybrook, and we needed her to stand out. We needed her to look like she didn't belong in the beginning. She dresses a little more mature than the rest of the girls, and we kept her colors black, white and a dusty rose pink -- a very French, very New York color. Her look is a little more moneyed because her family is affluent. She has a change in her wardrobe, but it's mainly about her insulin pump for her diabetes. She bedazzles it and it becomes an accessory for her as opposed to something she has to hide.
"After that episode, we didn't have to layer her and have bigger, flowy pieces to cover it up. That gave the character somewhere else to go with her look. But Stacey stayed true to her style. After the insulin pump became an accessory, she stayed within the same color palette, which was a bit of a struggle but fun. She begins to wear blouses that are a little more sheer. A lot of jewelry from Konplott, and I could find pieces that really spoke to Stacey and Claudia. But we found great micro leopard prints, black-and-white skinny jeans. It added a little more fun, which brought her closer to the rest of the group in tone, but still captured the uniqueness in her look and kept her a little edgier from the rest of the girls."
A Memorable Look: "Her two-piece pink denim outfit -- a pink miniskirt with a matching denim jacket. I had an inspiration photo; I don't remember the influencer that was wearing it or the designer, but I loved the color. I found a set that was similar and then we over-dyed it, so we made it pink. It was bright and Shay [Rudolph]'s got fair skin with her blonde hair, but she has this beautiful pink in her cheeks and her lips. It was beautiful."
MARY ANNE SPIER
The Inspiration Behind Mary Anne's Style: "She's the one character we get to see have a progression in her style. In the beginning, she's stuck in this prepubescent look that her dad can't move beyond, and it's because of her late mom and her respect for her father. But there's a point where it's time to move on, so she starts off with a private school look -- pinafores, slacks and loafers, but nothing is stylish. Everything's a little old-age looking, almost like granny shoes as opposed to cool loafers. And her hair is in constant braids. Everything is baby pink, baby blue and plaid. Even her rolly backpack is for someone in the primary grades.
"When we moved into her new, more mature look, we wanted to be careful that it wasn't a Mary Anne 2.0 kind of thing. She's really discovering who she is and not as confident as Kristy or Claudia in putting herself out there. We took her pinafores away and we gave her skirts, blouses and pants that were more fitted. She still had loafers and sneakers, but they were current and cool as opposed to dowdy. Also, everyone is very accessorized, but she is not. That's one thing that kept her look grounded when she had her transition. For the most part, it was cleaning up her silhouette and making her colors a little bit brighter. Then, of course, her hair is everything. Once her hair comes out of the braids, it's a barometer for how she's feeling with her self-confidence, which comes and goes. I also think that it speaks to her ethnicity, which is important because she's an African American girl in our show."
A Memorable Look: "There is a book cover where one of the characters is wearing an '80s or '90s-inspired ski jacket and we actually bought her one. I got to pair her not-so-cool jeans with a not-so-cool Peter Pan-collared button-up blouse with a sweater over and this ski jacket. We found something new you could buy now that actually was '90s-inspired and also reflected the book cover. But another favorite for me -- and I think it's the first look she wore -- she's wearing a shorter blue skirt and it's fitted. She's wearing a fitted sweater on top, colored tights and her new loafers. She just looked really smart in a New England preppy kind of way. But it's really cute and really fresh."
The Inspiration Behind Dawn's Style: "Dawn is the one that is probably the farthest from the books. She is Latinx, which is different than in the books. She is a transplant from California and her mom is very spiritual and very hippie, so she has that influence on her daughter. In the books, I believe Dawn is a little more athletic, and we wanted to stay away from her blending in any kind of way with Kristy. So we decided to go down the skater girl route because that says 'Cali girl.' We were able to live in that world of skater clothes mixed with California casual and also bring in some of her ocean-driven, political T-shirts.
"Xochitl [Gomez] really embodied Dawn -- bright, checkered skinny skater jeans and tops, lots of bands. Actually, she has the best sneaker collection, and unfortunately we don't see them. I think she had a new pair for almost every outfit, but whenever they're at Claudia's house, all the girls had their shoes off [as is typical Asian custom]."
A Memorable Look: "For Dawn, there is a plaid outfit I loved for the Thanksgiving episode. I loved all the wedding outfits because it's a moment where you really want to have the characters show their individuality. When she tries the dress on, it's perfect for her and has her mom's influence with the hippie thing. And I love how she wore her beautiful wire headpiece, a headband, instead of on her hair. Because Dawn isn't as she was written, Xochitl was asking, 'Who am I? I know who I am, but how are we putting this together?' At the beginning, it was a question mark. How are we going to facilitate the look of this character because it is different from the book? They wanted to do it right and have fun with it -- and I think they did great."
Editor's note: The interview was edited for length and clarity.
The Baby-Sitters Club is streaming now on Netflix.
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