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'The Americans' costume designer on how to incorporate crazy '80s fashion trends

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.


'The Americans' costume designer on Keri Russell's and Matthew Rhys' cool Cold War style

Tonight, FX premieres The Americans (10 p.m. ET), starring Keri Russell and Matthew Rhys as a pair of Russian spies posing as married travel agents living in suburban Virginia in the year 1981.

The Cold War-era series presents an interesting challenge for costume designer Jenny Gering, who joined the show after the pilot episode (where we see Russell wearing a pair of Guess mom jeans).

“Yes, we want to create a sense of place and time and feel like we’re there, but we don’t want to have crazy clichés running around that will take you out of the story,” Gering says. Something that helps: This is the transitional early ’80s. “It’s a completely opposite silhouette to what people consider to be ‘the ’80s.’ In most people’s heads, it’s big and boxy on top and slim on the bottom, and the ’70s are more slim on top and fuller on the bottom. It was just a chance to really show women’s figures and beautiful tailoring. Everything’s very tactual — there’s a lot of leather and suede. And the palette is lovely — there’s very little black and grey, it’s very autumnal.”

Read on to find out how Fast Times at Ridgemont High and vintage Victoria’s Secret catalogs helped Gering establish the show’s early ’80s aesthetic.


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