The Baby-Sitters Club Costume Designer Cynthia Summers Dishes Out Details on Season 1 Style
I grew up reading every Baby-Sitters Club book I could get my hands on at my school's library. I absolutely wanted to be "Cool Claudia" but eventually I came to terms with the idea that I was probably more of a Mary Anne with some rare Kristy moments. The only way that I could really envision the characters or their style was from the series's illustrations by Hodges Soileau, so I relied on my imagination to fill in the blanks. Flash forward a decade (or two), and somehow costume designer Cynthia Summers perfectly illustrates my 13-year-old dreams, only better for the new Netflix series.
"The best part of a fitting was just being creative in the moment and [the] excitement of girls."
I chatted with Cynthia for an exclusive POPSUGAR interview because I just had to know more about her process bringing the club's looks to life. She walked me through every step, from research to shopping to fittings with a cast of 12-, 13-, and 14-year-old girls. "The best part of a fitting was just being creative in the moment and [the] excitement of girls," she recalled. "They were very trusting. And I think that shows."
"They were all amazing, and they were all supercollaborative," she continued. Cynthia would read their body language to see how the actresses felt about their costumes and assess whether changes needed to be made. "I'd either talk them through it or I would figure out what's making them uncomfortable in this moment in this outfit. And then, we'd adjust from there."
Although each actress is different from her character, Cynthia noticed their real-life style changed after wearing costumes for the show. And could you blame them? "It's like having a personal shopper," Cynthia joked.
Read on to find out how she styled each character — including what went on their mood boards — and get a glimpse at never-before-seen, behind-the scenes photos. You'll love these whether you're a Dawn or a Stacey, I promise. Fingers crossed we hear about a season two soon, because the club deserves more iconic style moments.
Kristy's Style — Played by Sophie Grace
"Kristy is the one character that I tried to pull silhouette inspiration from the book art. And I think we really achieved that. Her palette remains in the blue world, because of course, fashion is really not a thing for her. She's more about comfort and athleticism. And she borrows from her brother's closet, for instance, so that's why a lot of her sweatshirts are a little bit oversize.
It really translated for us, that we could kind of work a current look into her closet that reflected the '90s flavor of the book, which was really fun. We also gave her turtlenecks, which, I don't really know anyone who wears turtlenecks the way that Kristy does underneath a sweatshirt these days. But we were able to pull it off for her."
"We just tried to do things like do this, do the roll at the hem of her jeans. And she has athletic socks [with] stripes that we always kind of saw, and her hat and her jean jacket. She was always wearing her Nike Airs and things like that, so we just tried to give her points of interest for her fashion."
"Her color wheel definitely stayed in the blue, and grays and whites and then butter yellow in there at some point. But really kind of a noncommitted color wheel. Really 'real,' I guess, because blue is in the world, the color that people wear the most."
Claudia's Style — Played by Momona Tamada
"Claudia is obviously all over the place. But if you look at Claudia, she needed a grounding color. And for me, that was like a sunshine butter yellow. It's a bright color, it's a color that's great with her skin and her hair, and it's a really good base color for everything else that just sort of built on top of that. After that, it's just an explosion of color and prints and stripes and plaids and anything you can think of.
And I wouldn't say that mood wise throughout the series we went in any [real] direction with her colors. It just was always color and always print, which was superfun.
"With someone like Claudia, you've got to be careful that you're not overdoing it . . . You have to find that balance of new and different and unique, because we're not actually dressing mainstream, we're dressing a character who is super self-confident in a really great way and secure in being able to portray her inner self.
Claudia really is able to do that. The sort of thing for me [was] to hold back a little bit and keep her real — to keep her somewhat grounded . . . a character like her can start looking unattainable or unreal or inaccessible. I was really happy with how it all came together with her, and I really think that Momona really did everything about that character justice."
"Her overalls were something that she painted and appliquéd on and wrote on throughout the series, so that you can sort of see a progression of her doodling on her overalls."
"She was one character that was really, obviously, worked on from top to bottom. In every fitting photo, we put her hair up, we've done the earrings and scrunchies and the barrettes and all the rings, the jewelry. We adorned her more than anyone else."
"You see it in one episode where she writes on her sneakers a note. We kind tried to translate that on to her clothes because that's who she is. She's always doodling and painting and creating, and she's her own canvas in a way. That was really fun for her."
"Claudia's got this great jean jacket that she wears . . . it kind of fits her like a '90s vibe because it's oversize for her. We painted this lightning bolt on the back, but you never see it because on camera, we never see the back of it."
Mary Anne's Style — Played by Malia Baker
"[With] Mary Anne I tried to reflect the book art to some degree. And there's one great photo on one of the book covers that has her 1990s ski jacket with sort of long looking jeans and loafers. And so, that really was just a great inspiration for me for Mary Anne's sad look that she wore before she had her makeover."
"The makeover wasn't huge, and that was on purpose because we didn't want it to be overt. Her dad wouldn't approve of that, so we just cleaned up her silhouette and gave her skirts and tops and sort of lost the Peter Pan collars and gave her more color. And even though she's still wearing loafers, they're 'cool loafers.' Her sneakers were now 'cool sneakers.' And her jeans became tighter and things like that, just small touches."
Stacey's Style — Played by Shay Rudolph
I think Stacey speaks for herself. She's got this New York chic/French girl style going on . . . We needed to have her look like an outsider when she first got to Stoneybrook. I think her palette remained the same throughout: it was basically black, off-white, or white and pink and gray.
"As she sort of got a little more integrated within the group, we introduced print like a polka dot and leopard-print pants, but we really stayed within [the same] colorway."
"She always remained more on the chic side. I think that was good. It helped retain her character."
Dawn's Style — Played by Xochitl Gomez
"Dawn, who came in later, was different from the character in the book. She was politically motivated, and a little Boho Cali chic came with her. But we kind of changed that when Xochitl was cast for this — and I'm so glad she was."
Because it was Xochitl, we'd bring a little like skater streak to her look. That's what she helped me bring to camera when she first got here."
"I think [Dawn's] got a lot of color, but it's more subdued then say, Claudia . . . Dawn's is one feel, I think, as far as color and checks and skater prints.
"She has the best Vans closet you've ever seen in the world!"