The teen Yellowjackets stand in the snow in Yellowjackets season 2

‘Yellowjackets’ Costume Designer Reveals Hidden Messages in the Characters’ Clothes

The clothes are more than just cool.

There are a ton of compelling reasons to keep viewers coming back again and again to peep every episode of Showtime’s hit thriller series Yellowjackets. On a show like this, the acting performances are naturally going to garner a lot of attention—after all, this show is giving us Christina Ricci as a whimsically unhinged killer looking for acceptance from old friends and Melanie Lynskey as an occasionally bloodthirsty minivan mom. But there are so many elements that go into making this show what it is.

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With a big chunk of the show taking place during the ’90s, when the members of the champion girls’ soccer team were in their high school years, we’ve also got a killer throwback soundtrack going on and, according to season 2 costume designer Amy Parris, a bit of secret messaging happening in the cast’s cool vintage clothes. “We sprinkle clothing items amongst different cast members throughout the season to confuse the audience on purpose,” according to Parris.

After previously doing period costume design work on shows like Stranger Things, Westworld, and Masters of Sex, Parris recently spoke to Refinery 29 about some of the challenges and fun of designing costumes for a show that takes place in two separate time periods, one of which is a stranded scenario. For instance, the costume designer had to rely on a lot of imagination and inspiration to pull an entire season’s wardrobe from what the stranded teens already had in season one, since they haven’t magically received a new infusion of clothes since their plane crash. 

The audience will notice a number of clothing items appearing and then re-appearing somewhere else in another form later in the season, and one of the most blaring secret messages she’s sending audiences through costuming is that these stranded girls are on a path to descend into insanity and go absolutely “feral.” For instance, at one point we see one of the girls wearing a balaklava-style mask with a suspiciously cutesy knit pattern that appears to match up with a cardigan Misty was wearing in another episode. 

Parris also uses “breakdown artists” to make the stranded girls’ clothes look more filthy and damaged as the season progresses. “You’ll really see, near the end, these girls get even more desperate and decrepit in their clothing,” Parris told the outlet. It’s a detail that Sophie Nélisse, who plays young Shauna, says actually helped with the acting process, saying, “With the disheveled, worn, torn-out clothes, you just immediately feel like you’re not yourself.”  

I’m a superfan of the show, but that doesn’t mean I can’t be a bit cynical. I’ve been stressing about winter costuming since, let’s remember, the teens packed their suitcases for a short trip during warm weather. They have their letterman jackets, which makes sense, but where the heck did all these random sweater layers we see in season two come from? And am I crazy, but did anyone else see a couple of pairs of actual boots make it into winter snow scenes?

Could some players have packed their stylish ’90s Doc Martens for the big game, even during summer weather? I suppose so. I was happy about the realistic detail of some girls wearing Converse even in the snow. Plus, some of the players who were background characters last season have been moved up into bigger storylines, so Parris was able to introduce new clothing items via what they must have packed. And while I was initially incredulous that it looked like most of the girls were wearing leg warmers in the snow, after what Parris said about throwing in items to confuse the audience, I looked again and they could definitely be cut-off sweater sleeves. But again, where did all the sweaters come from if the suitcases were packed for a summer trip? Gah!

As it turns out, there are so many redeeming touches in the costuming that I’m happy to suspend my disbelief, as Parris and her team were definitely creative with what the Yellowjackets would have realistically had with them. For instance, a few characters use seatbelts from the downed airplane to keep their clothes tight, since they are slowly starving. And young Natalie, played by Sophie Thatcher, wears one to keep a skinned deer hide around herself for warmth. Nate seems to be wearing a pack made out of airplane parts. 

And for my favorite realistic winter clothing detail, young Shauna wears socks on her hands as gloves, and as my three-year-old loves to do this, so I can confirm socks work just as well as mittens.

(featured image: Showtime)

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Cammy Pedroja
Author and independent journalist since 2015. Frequent contributor of news and commentary on social justice, politics, culture, and lifestyle to publications including The Mary Sue, Newsweek, Business Insider, Slate, Women, USA Today, and Huffington Post. Lover of forests, poetry, books, champagne, and trashy TV.