The show I’m on recently had a flashback to the 70s. (Don’t ask me why. As far as I’m concerned, the only good things to come out of the 1970s were Star Wars, Jaws, and my wife.)
Seeing a rack of bell bottoms and wide-collared shirts, I struck up a conversation with the set costumer.
“Must be pretty easy, the 70s? Just go to any thrift store and buy some old clothes, right?”
“Oh, no,” he said. “Period clothing from the recent past is the biggest pain in the ass. A lot of the audience was alive then, and they remember what the clothes should look like. They know [clothing X] didn’t come out until 1978, and this episode is supposed to be 1976.”
He actually mentioned a specific brand of clothing, but I don’t remember what it was, mostly because I don’t care. Still, it’s pretty cool that this guy gets paid to care a lot.
He went on to explain that, in the 1500s or 1600s, fashions didn’t change as fast as they do now. For one, most people couldn’t afford to buy new clothes every year, much less every season. Royalty and nobility could, but, much the same way fads move from the coasts to the middle of the country today, fashion had to travel from one population center to another, and travel back then was much, much slower.
Speaking of being behind the times, I asked him about the fact that none of our characters had clothes from the 1960s, or early 70s. After all, I’m wearing a T-shirt I’ve had since college.
He shrugged. “Well, the show is only forty minutes. The clothes are really just a visual cue to help place the audience in the right time frame. Sometimes ‘realism’ is more distracting than the heightened fiction we create.”
I have to say, I usually don’t think much of the wardrobe department, but I found new respect for them after hearing the nuances of thought and care put into every little article of clothing.