Although FX’s spy drama The Americans is set in 1981, you probably noticed the show’s lack of big hair and neon. That’s partly because costume designer Jenny Gering (pictured here) looked to 1979 for inspiration — and because of where the show is set.
“The show is not set in New York City. It’s set in Washington, D.C. and suburban Virginia. So this is definitely not the cutting edge place to find what would be the latest look.” But with the series inevitably delving further into the decade — season two is already in the works — EW asked the costume designer how she plans to tackle some of those popular (and awesomely over-the-top) trends from the ’80s they finally make their way to the suburbs. See what she had to say about shoulder pads, Miami Vice, and more below.
Shoulder pads: “Giant shoulder pads really started coming into mainstream America because of Dynasty, and that started in ’81, but it had not made its mark yet,” Gering says about why we haven’t seen them on The Americans yet. “Now if we, going forward, make it to 1982 or 1983, it will certainly be an issue.” At that point, Gering says fans might see shoulder pads on guest stars who pop in for an episode, but not Elizabeth (Keri Russell) or Phillip (Matthew Rhys). “[Big shoulder pads] would look cartoonish or be too distracting [on them],” she adds. “We have to maintain the integrity of the character.”
Big hair: Don’t expect to see Elizabeth sporting a big bouffant anytime soon. Though Gering is open to incorporating the trend, she says she’d do it with subtlety. “We would certainly do something like bangs or having the hair scooped up in the front with a clip,” she says. “It doesn’t have to be horrible perms — it could just be a lot more height and volume and maybe layers. There are ways to do it without looking scary.”
The Miami Vice look: “That is one of the top things that people automatically assume they will see,” says Gering, “But I don’t even think that show was on the air until like ’84.” That said, Gering thinks Phillip could wear the look…but only as a disguise when he goes undercover.
Acid-Wash Denim: “I can see throwing, like, a denim vest under a jacket on Paige,” says the costume designer of the daughter character played by Holly Taylor. “But again, that’s not something Elizabeth is going to be wearing to work.”
Neon: Like acid-wash denim, Gering is open to putting brighter colors on kids Paige and Henry (Keidrich Sellati), but their parents’ wardrobes will likely continue to reflect the series’ earthy palette.
Fore more on The Americans, pick up the current issue of Entertainment Weekly, on newsstands March 7.
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