Mackenzie Davis gives character Cameron Howe a military edge in "Halt and Catch Fire." Photo credit: Tina Rowden/AMC.

“Halt and Catch Fire”

June 6, 2014

Set in the early 1980s in Texas’ Silicon Prairie, AMC’s “Halt and Catch Fire” dramatizes the start of the personal computing boom and stars Lee Pace, Scoot McNairy and Mackenzie Davis.

The series’ title is a reference to an early computer command that sent the machine into a race condition, forcing all instructions to compete for superiority at once. Control of the computer could not be regained. The show’s clever tagline, “The Battle for CTRL Begins,” also hints at the intense corporate jousting that keeps the characters in a full burn.

The heat may be most intense around Davis’ character Cameron Howe, a smart, pretty and outspoken college student and computer prodigy. Costume Designer Kimberly Adams scoured the shelves of vintage, thrift and costume shops to create a wardrobe that gives Howe her military edge and outcast personality.

Howe’s backstory comes through in her clothes. Adams sought items that would illustrate her connection to her absent father, a Vietnam veteran, and her addict mother, but she didn’t just pin up an inspiration board.

“I was method shopping her character,” said “Adams. “I went out and gathered things she would gather from thrift stores and vintage stores and surplus stores, trying to think like she would think in terms of her shopping.” They collaborated during fittings, rolling up cuffs, doodling on the insides of boots and even twisting a jumpsuit to be worn backward.

“She made things her own, and they really ended up working,” said Adams.

In a quest for authenticity, Adams shipped in a family heirloom–her brother-in-law’s Vietnam-era duffle bag.

“We had it in our attic forever, and props was scrambling to find something since we were in Atlanta. That ended up being her bag and she carried it the whole season,” Adams said.

The character’s warrior spirit and tender connection to her father also shows up in the circa 1967 Saigon tour jacket — a satiny, cropped jacket embroidered with Asian symbols that troops popularly bought as souvenirs.

“It was in the boys’ section. I was digging around knowing that I wanted to find a jacket for her. I looked at leather, but it felt too obvious. We dug all over the place,” Adams said. The folded-back sleeves personalized the look, which was completed by ‘80s-appropriate high-waist camouflage men’s pants Adams found in size 27 at the Surplus Value Center military supply store in the Silver Lake neighborhood of Los Angeles.

“They just went on her; they couldn’t fit her more perfectly,” she said. Virtually everything Davis’ character wears is from the men’s or boy’s section, a subtle nod that her character can definitely wear the pants in a male-dominated field–and look good doing it.

“Halt and Catch Fire” airs Sunday at 10 p.m./ 9 Central on AMC.

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