The Baby-Sitters Club Leans Into ‘90s Fashion — With A Gen Z Twist

Irina Grechko

The Baby-Sitters Club is back in business, thanks to a new adaptation of the beloved series by Ann M. Martin. Set in present-day Stoneybrook, a fictional suburban town in Connecticut, Netflix’s The Baby-Sitters Club 10-episode series follows a now-diverse cast of seventh-graders who start a babysitting business to make extra money.

In a move that will delight the (grown-up) fans of both the books and ‘90s TV series (and movie!), the girls still hold the meetings in Claudia’s room because she is the only one who has an “olden times phone” — aka a landline, which Claudia makes a point to say her family got as part of an ultra-high-speed internet package. Naturally, super-stylish Claudia bought the physical phone on Etsy instead of any big-box retailer. In another old-school nod, they spread the word about BSC using flyers rather than social media. Of course, as 12-year-olds, they are also too young to have Instagram, a problem the girls are willing to work around before Claudia’s sister suggests an analog way to promote the business; in the same way that the BSC’s Gen X would-be clients will love the nostalgic appeal of landlines, there’s no doubt that they’ll also take to flyers-as-advertising, too.  

Similarly, the inspiration for Netflix’s The Baby-Sitters Club fashion feels delightfully retro, and also comes from the original source. “[I was] definitely inspired by the books. Ann M. Martin wrote the characters so clearly, which is always a gift to a costume designer when taking a book to screen,” says costume designer Cynthia Summers, whose past work includes shows like A Series of Unfortunate Events and Girlfriends’ Guide to Divorce. “I was also inspired by blending fashion of the ‘90s with current Gen Z fashion.” 

From the first episode, the girls’ unique personalities come through in the clothes they wear. Just like in the books, the club’s president and founder, Kristy (Sophie Grace), has, what Summers calls, a “tomboy/athletic-meets-comfort-meets-I borrow from my brothers’ closet” aesthetic. This translates into turtlenecks worn underneath sweatshirts, baseball caps, jeans, and sneakers; in one episode, Kristy’s style is described, in true Gen Z fashion, as “normcore.” 

At the beginning of the series, Mary Anne (Malia Baker), the shyest member of the group, “is stuck in a pre-pubescent nightmare when it comes to fashion.” Her closet is filled with cutesy pajamas, animal slippers, and skirt-overalls that were no doubt picked out by her overprotective widower father. After convincing her dad to allow her to do a makeover midway through the season, Mary Anne’s style turns “New England prep with pops of color and print,” with a lot of button-down shirts and knits. 

Quirky, creative Claudia (Momona Tamada) wears clothes that are “art house-inspired all the way,” according to Summers. Her wardrobe is the most exciting and eclectic of the group, and features bold prints (with lots of leopard!), loud colors, oversized knits, fashion-forward overalls, and statement accessories that range from cherry-shaped sunglasses to various headbands and printed socks. “Claudia’s style is whatever inspires her in the moment,” says Summers. “If she can’t purchase or repurpose it, she creates it.”

Stacey (Shay Rudolph), a recent transplant from New York City, has the most fashion-forward wardrobe, which includes sheer blouses with oversized sleeves, a sequin bomber jacket, and lots of stylish coats that are in stark contrast to what the other girls wear. “Stacey needed to appear as an ‘outsider’ when she arrived in Stoneybrook for our story. She also has a personal story she is trying to hide, so her facade is strong and sophisticated,” Summers says. “She is more mature than the other girls in some ways, and we wanted her to visually stand out, and her more sophisticated big city New York look helped us tell that story.” Meanwhile, Dawn (Xochitl Gomez), who joins the group a few episodes in, is the ultimate “Cali girl,” according to Summers, with a penchant for ‘80s fashion like flannel shirts, acid wash denim, and creepers. 

To keep the looks authentic, Summers opted to shop at popular modern stores with relatively accessible price points. “Most of the characters’ [looks] were purchased from places these girls would shop in real life: Zara, H&M, American Eagle, Gap, Urban Outfitters, Aritzia, Topshop, Kate Spade, Alice + Olivia, Anthropologie, Nordstrom,” says Summers. “Because we shot in Canada, 80 percent of everyone’s fashion was purchased at Simons in Vancouver. Also lots and lots of vintage shopping and upcycling.”

But just because the looks came from mall-mainstays doesn’t mean that the fashion is boring. Claudia’s earrings alone deserve their own show (or at least their own Instagram account), with styles ranging from single statement pieces to intricate fruit-shaped baubles. “The fruit earrings are a nod to the books,” says Summers, who pulled most of Claudia’s accessories from jewelers like Konplott and Claire’s, as well as vintage stores. “When we couldn’t find what we needed, we created pieces that looked like something Claudia would make for herself. Like, the ‘pineapple earrings’ are actually from key chains we deconstructed and made into earrings.”

In a cyclical fashion loop, Claudia also embraces trends from the time of the first television adaptation of the series — ones that have made a comeback in recent years. Think: yellow plaid (which, with Clueless’ Alicia Silverstone playing Kristy’s mom, is especially apt), barrettes, and scrunchies. “I love being able to work past decades’ fashion into current trends… some fit and some do not,” Summers says. “Scrunchies, maybe because they are also practical, seem to have made the recurring fashion trend… again!”

While the show explores familiar middle school topics like having a period for the first time and developing a crush, it also delves into political and social issues. In one episode, Mary Anne stands up for a trans girl, whom doctors continuously misgender. In another, through the experience of her beloved grandmother, Claudia learns about Manzanar, a World War II internment camp where Japanese-Americans were forced to live after being classified as enemy aliens by the U.S following the attack on Pearl Harbor.

It’s these kinds of important storylines that inspired the most exciting fashion on the show. In one episode, Claudia dons a “Stay Angry” T-shirt designed by artist Irene Koh for the Angry Asian Man — famously worn by Randall Park in Always Be My Maybe. “We decided, as Claudia is an outspoken, bit of a rebel artist that she would at some point, address her ethnicity within America,” says Summers. “This was a great way for us to understatedly have Claudia be a part of, or be aware of, a current movement of Asian American visibility, through art. It was a perfect choice for our character’s purposes.” 

Another scene where each girl’s unique aesthetic is on display is at Kristy’s mom’s wedding, for which Kristy trades her jeans and sweatshirts for a simple blue silk gown. Meanwhile, Claudia appears in a Rotate by Birger Christensen mutton sleeve mini dress, a custom fascinator, and platform booties; Mary Anne in a vintage navy blue taffeta floor-length gown by Alfred Sung; and Dawn in a boho-esque Ulla Johnson maxi. And Stacey? Summers says, “I wanted [a] black-and-white [look] but could not find what I wanted so we purchased two dresses — one white, one black — used the top of one and the skirt of the other, and added a custom black-and-white fascinator and amazing Jeffrey Campbell rhinestone-encrusted shoes.”

It is this blend of vintage pieces with popular fashion brands of today that make The Baby-Sitters Club a fun watch for both fans of the first TV show and movie (who may have kids old enough to read the books now) and new viewers. Like yellow plaid, being a member of BSC never goes out of style.

The Baby-Sitters Club will be available on Netflix on July 3. 

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