"Wet Hot American Summer: First Day of Camp"

Photo Credit: Netflix

"Wet Hot American Summer: First Day of Camp"

Photo Credit: Netflix

Photo Credit: Sayeed Adyani/Netflix

"Wet Hot American Summer: First Day of Camp"

Image Courtesy of Leslie Schilling

“Wet Hot American Summer: First Day of Camp”

July 31, 2015

Valli Herman

Time is an elastic concept in movie making, which can be a boon to Costume Designers.

With prequels, sequels and remakes, fashion’s frequent flashbacks and mashups of eras means Costume Designers can sometimes shop off the rack for period clothing.

For the new Netflix series “Wet Hot American Summer: First Day of Camp,” Costume Designer Leslie Schilling channeled the look of teenager camp wear, circa 1981. The eight-episode miniseries is based on the 2001 cult classic, “Wet Hot American Summer,” which takes place on Camp Firewood’s last day.

The Netflix series was created by the film’s original writers, David Wain and Michael Showalter. Their new effort provides the origin stories of the characters, played by well-known actors such as Paul Rudd, Molly Shannon, Janeane Garofalo, David Hyde Pierce, Amy Poehler, Bradley Cooper, Ken Marino and Joe Lo Truglio. Adding to the warped sense of time, they’re now 14 years older and still playing teenagers, though some are in their 40s.

“One of the great things about this show is some of the big names, said Schilling. “They all made this movie before most of them were famous.”

Schilling’s task was to capture the essence of the original movie, but transport viewers back to the summer of 1981. “I’m a big fan of ‘Wet Hot,’ the movie. I was in high school when the movie came out, my senior year,” she said. She got to practically relive the experience.

“The show takes place all in a day. Because of stunts and wear-and-tear, we had to do a lot of purchasing of new things that look vintage,” she said. That took her to Urban Outfitters, American Apparel and to denim manufacturers such as Levi and Jordache’s Dittos. “I was lucky that a lot of that is fashionable now. We got high-waisted pants from ModCloth.”

She didn’t try to exactly recreate the costumes of the original movie, though she included a few staples. “Andy [Paul Rudd] wears a denim jacket and on the left breast there’s an anarchy symbol he’s sewn on himself. In the movie he wore a graphic T-shirt with a very dark motorcycle and flying eagle symbol on it–very cheesy. I had a friend of mine do a graphic for the shirt. It’s an eagle with wolves and a dream catcher behind it. I was making fun of that type of shirt, like you’d find in a Harley-Davidson store.

Her version of the shirt was “like what you’d see in the movie but with some extra cheese added to it,” Schilling said.

Schilling also got to slip in some inside jokes when she recreated parts of the wardrobe. A favorite is a vintage T-shirt from a topless doughnut shop in Colorado with the motto, “Debbie Duz . . . Donuts.” To avoid clearance hassles, she changed up the design by putting a bikini on the nude woman who stands inside an inner tube-sized doughnut and reworded the print to read: “Darla Does . . . Donuts. Zachary, Louisiana.”

Said Schilling: “I put my hometown on it.”

“Wet Hot American Summer: First Day of Camp,” is now available on Netflix.


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