Everything You Need to Know About Stranger Things 3's Colorful Costumes

Costume designer Amy Parris dishes on the origins of Hopper's shirt, Eleven's new look, and more!

By Lauren Piester Jul 11, 2019 12:53 AMTags
Stranger Things Costumes, Season 3Netflix

Raise your hand if you're now working on adding some new '80s prints into your daily life. 

Stranger Things 3 had a lot going on at almost all times, but at moments, we could focus on nothing but the outfits. Those bright colors and bold prints and short shorts and even those sailor hats both perfectly fit in with the scenery and stood out in kind of a perfect way, like this was the ultimate nostalgic summer wardrobe. 

We were so obsessed with the costumes that we have, no joke, bought the Hot Topic version of Hopper's shirt for our very own selves. We also got the costume designer, Amy Parris, on the phone, mostly so we could find out how we could get our hands on things like Hopper's shirt, but also so we could find out exactly what went into crafting this bright, beautiful rainbow of summery fits. 

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Parris says that one of the major directions she got this season, from executive producer Shawn Levy, was no more fall. 

"One of the things he told me was no more brown, no more plaid, because so much of the first few seasons are in the fall, and it was more early '80s, so there's still a lot of late '70s influence," she says. "So we made sure to take away a lot of the brown and a lot of the dusty, rusty colors, and take away the plaid and add brighter tones." 

Color was a huge part of the season in terms of all of the visuals, but it was particularly important in the costumes due to the fact that the season takes place over just a few days, and most of the characters are wearing the same outfits for a long time. 

"When you look at the whole season and know that it's for a few days in the summer...you really want to pack a punch and see as much as you can in those few days," she explains. 

Parris says she would plan out each outfit for each character together as a whole, and make sure that there weren't too many people in the same color or tone, so all of the season's costumes were looked at "as a big picture." 

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The costumes are a mix of vintage finds, new clothes with alterations, and clothes made from scratch, so Parris says she process takes a lot longer than you might expect to get everything together. 

"When it's period, you want it to be so authentic, and so there's always the opportunity to find something that is vintage vs. something that's new, so you always kind of strive to find the right thing as opposed to just going to the mall and finding something that could pass, so the process is time consuming, and it's a lot of hours, but it's so rewarding and I wouldn't change the process for anything," she says. "It's worth it. It's so worth it." 

We went through a few of our favorite pieces from the season with Parris, so see below for the scoop on all the best looks! 

Hopper's Shirt

We make no secret of the fact that Hopper's pink and green patterned shirt is an actual obsession of ours. You can now buy a version of it at Hot Topic, but the one from the show was custom-made. 

"We found the fabric kind of buried in an old fabric shop in Los Angeles called International Silks and Woolens and bought the rest of their yardage, and then made the shirts," Parris says. Another shirt that already fit David Harbour was used as a template, and five different shirts had to be made due to all the various levels of distress Hopper and his shirt go through during the season. 

"There's definitely a moment that we knew we could run out (of fabric), but luckily we didn't," Parris says. 

Out of all the many, many shirt fabric choices the team had, this one was chosen for those bright colors. 

Eleven's Journey

In terms of colorful outfits, Eleven was perhaps the brightest of all after she gave herself a little bit of a style makeover with help from Max. Eleven's new look, a major departure from the hand-me-downs and flannels she was wearing before, carried through the rest of the season, giving us some of the best looks of all. That new style was a collaboration between Parris and Millie Bobby Brown.

"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 I really relied on 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."  

For example, they tried skinny jeans and found that Eleven needed a little bit bigger and bolder silhouette. 

"The shirts really worked to give her those bold patterns, because I think a girl who was used to getting hand-me-downs from Hopper and Mike would want to go in the opposite direction of like the dark blue, brown, plaid colors and go into like, bright shapes and patterns."

The Shopping Montage

The best rejects from those fittings with Millie went into the shopping montage at Starcourt Mall, so we could kind of see the process that went on behind the scenes as they tried to perfect Eleven's look. 

"There were things that I didn't really like in the fitting that we put in the montage, because it would be fun to see [Millie's] reaction if there were things that she didn't like," Parris says. 


The Glamour Studio photoshoot also allowed the team to pull out "the brightest, weirdest, wildest '80s pieces" that wouldn't make sense to use otherwise, since people in Hawkins are not yet the most fashionable, despite the recent arrival of the mall. 

"So the pieces that we knew wouldn't work for the show and for the background became the pieces for the montage and the glamour studio...so you can kind of see what it's really like when they're trying on clothing in the fitting, as well." 

That Gap store was not, however, exactly accurate to a Gap store in 1985. 

"It was a little bit simpler," Parris says of 1985 Gap. "It wasn't as bright and patterned, not as puncy. But to do a montage of Gap clothing back then would have been kind of less exciting." 

Parris says they went "super bold" for Eleven's big end-of-the-season look with a shirt they made from scratch and then had to recreate multiple times. This look is a good example of the bigger silhouette they found worked best for Eleven. 

Scoops Ahoy

Steve got a new job this season, and with that came a uniform that he wore for all but one scene. Parris and her team designed those Scoops Ahoy uniforms from scratch, after Parris did a bit of research on sailor imagery. She said the Duffer brothers were "very serious" about those uniforms. 

"They knew they wanted the outfit to be goofy-looking, but something that was appealing to look at it the whole season," Parris says. "So I think we really did a good job of bridging the gap of like, making him kind of embarrassed in the Ahoy hat, but Steve Harrington makes it look really cool. So it's a good mix of like, sexy and embarrassing." 

Robin's uniform is different mostly so we didn't have to be staring at two people wearing the same outfit for the entire season. 

"I didn't want them to look exactly the same. I didn't want it to be the exact boy vs. girl version, so we gave Steve the red-striped shirt under the blue, Robin gets the vest, her stripes are skinnier and blue instead of red. Her shorts are a little more voluminous and they're also a pleated front, so those little subtle differences make it so you're not bored looking at the same outfit the whole time. And it's just fun to give her the puff sleeve, which was very '80s, very uniform of the time." 

Mrs. Wheeler's Swimsuit

You can now buy this swimsuit from H&M, but this is another piece that was made from scratch. 

"We had a couple of fittings with Karen Wheeler (Carla Buono) and we kept going a little bit higher, a little bit higher with the leg...because in the '80s, they were so high cut and so we'd have a fitting and then we'd go, I think we can go a little bit higher and then we'd have another fitting and then go, I think it can go higher."

Parris says they worked closely with Buono to make sure that she felt comfortable, but also that the suit was the right shape for the time period. 

Nancy's Dress

"Nancy is sort of like a Molly Ringwald, Breakfast Club type, you know," Parris says. "And her and Jonathan are getting into like, new age music and leaning more into the '80s and less of the '70s. So I spent a good two hours combing through Etsy to find that purple dress." 

Parris says she added the teal to the top and bottom of the dress to go with "those great teal shoes." 

And just like everything else, the dress had to be recreated multiple times, since it's the dress in which Nancy fights those evil, possessed newspaper guys. 

"Nancy was fun to get to dress, and it was really nice to see her be a strong kickass girl in a dress," she says. "At one point, I asked, do you want her to be in pants for the fight scene? And they were like, we think it's cooler if she's still in the dress, and I think that was a really good choice. 

The Short Shorts

A few looks this season were bought from current stores, but most had to be altered, like the boys' shorts.

"Some of the boys' shorts are from Target, and then we shortened them so that they feel like they're more from the '80s, so there were times we'd have to rely on purchased items that feel like they could be '80s or made to look more '80s, but ideally you want to use the real thing, and when we can't use the real thing we make it. 

The Fall Returns

The very end of the season takes place a couple of months later, when summer is over. The Byers are moving, and everything's gone a little dark and rusty again. 

"You can tell the leaves are changing and it's a little bit after, and so the boys are back in pants, you can tell it's almost fall," Parris says. "So it's starting to get a little chillier, the clothing is less bright, we kind of knocked it all down a bit more, make the colors more muted, just to make it feel a little more similar to the first two seasons, just to connect it back to what we've been seeing...So it was nice to have a shift change completely in the clothing, and just the feel of the show." 

Stranger Things 3 is now streaming on Netflix.