If you're longing for the days of "Gossip Girl" and "The O.C." — or are sad to watch "Pretty Little Liars" finish out its seven-season run this April — you're in luck: The CW is bringing the teen drama back with "Riverdale," premiering on Thurs., Jan. 26. The soapier, steamier update on the original "Archie" comic book series would send Mike Pence into a full fit — complete with female empowerment (courtesy of Betty, Veronica and Barb), racial awareness (as a clueless Archie gets schooled by Josie of Josie and the Pussycats) and open attitudes toward homosexuality. Plus, there's murder, possible incest and a reverse Fitz and Aria situation on deck between Archie and a hot, much younger Miss Grundy.
Considering the fusion of time-honored characters with new perspectives (even the progressive attitudes of the series filmed before the election feel, in a way, part of a not-so-distant past), it's fitting that the costume aesthetic also fuses historical with contemporary. "[The costumes] mix and match period with modern," says the show's costume designer Rebekka Sorensen-Kjelstrup, who chatted with Fashionista from the set in Vancouver. "It has a bit of a retro feel at times and on some characters more than others."
The throwback costume elements take direct inspiration from the entire archive of "Archie Comics," which debuted in 1942. Hala Bahmet, who's currently dressing Mandy Moore and Milo Ventimiglia in vintage on "This Is Us," designed the "Riverdale" pilot and worked closely with show creator and Chief Creative Officer of "Archie Comics" Roberto Aguirre-Sacasa to establish his specific vision and desired color palette for each of the characters on the small screen. So, Bahmet enjoyed access to 75 years worth of "Archie" imagery to pull inspiration from, but she didn't have to stay married to a specific era. "Every character is based on either a composite or a decade of the actual 'Archie' comics, but reinterpreted in our new modern way," she explains. "So nobody is head-to-toe running around in '70s or '40s [looks]."
Wholesome (sort of) girl-next-door Betty (Lili Reinhart) sticks to her signature pink from the comics with a hopeful postwar-era influence. "A little bit more naive, a little bit more Americana, but still with modern twists," Bahmet says. "An innocent '50s was a starting point for Betty and Archie (K.J. Apa)." Sorensen-Kjelstrup also infused Betty's overbearing mother's influence into the teenager's outfits with "very well put-together, clean, simple silhouettes," like cardigan knits, collared shirts, skirts and jeans.
Veronica (Camila Mendes) and her mother Hermione (Marisol Nichols) return to hometown Riverdale when her disgraced, Madoff-esque father goes on trial. "I gave them sort of a noir, '40s, elegant, glamorous look," says Bahmet, who introduced the big city transplant in a mysterious cape, thereby catching Archie's eye (and interrupting a moment with Betty in the pilot). "Veronica is more upscale — she comes from money, a New Yorker," says Sorensen-Kjelstrup. "You'll see her wearing a bit more high-end, more fashionable pieces as compared to Betty. She's more in dresses and short skirts and she has a jewel-toned, darker color palette, whereas, Betty is the more pastel-y palette of colors."
For each of the characters, Sorensen-Kjelstrup uses a mix of contemporary pieces, shopped mostly from Vancouver staples like Nordstrom and Simons, with vintage from various eras sourced on Etsy and boutiques on the city's Main Street. She also rebuilds existing pieces tailored to each character's individual aesthetic, story line and the planned camera angles, especially for close-up shots. "Either (adding) Veronica's pearls or detail of the collar," she says. "I make sure the upper-half is really good, so that we can feature their style and their look. I love, love bling."
Sorensen-Kjelstrup mixes vintage from the '20s to the '60s with contemporary pieces for Riverdale's head mean girl Cheryl Blossom (Madelaine Petsch), whose twin brother Jason's death opens the series. "She stands out," the costume designer says. "It always feels like she's going to an event, even though it might not be an event." Visual clues also pop out of Cheryl's costumes, whether it's through bold reds — like the gloves and shoes she wears when Jason goes missing in the premiere — or her symbolic collection of spider pins that you might not even notice. "[Cheryl] has a bit of a creepy feel to her, uncertain," explains Sorensen-Kjelstrup. "You never know what she's going to say or do."
Both Bahmet and Sorensen-Kjelstrup also dropped clues honoring the original comics via costume, like understated feline references on feminist girl band Josie (Ashleigh Murray) and the Pussycats (Asha Bromfield as Melody and Irie Hayleau as Val.) "You always see a little bit of animal print with all of them," says Sorenson-Kjelstrup. "It's something we tried to bring in, even if it's just in a bracelet, boots or their belts and especially when they are performing. We created and invented their iconic catsuits, as well, which was fun, for one of their performances."
Bahmet chose the delicate kitty-ear headband headwear for the band, as opposed to more obvious fuzzy cat ears. Plus, the now youthful Miss Grundy (Sarah Gabel) sports polka dots referencing back to the original white-haired (and non-sex-offending) version of the teacher from the books.
Of course, there's one costume element that's integral to the Archie story, no matter the decade, but that looked a bit out of place in 2017: the Jughead Hat. The crown-shaped topper is officially known as a whoopee cap, which was popular with youngsters in the '20s and '30s. It's essentially a fedora past its prime, which is then turned out, cut-up with jagged scalloped edges and sometimes accented with politically minded pins. For the pilot, Bahmet ordered authentic whoopee caps from the Depression era to try out on actor Cole Sprouse, who plays the aspiring writer who narrates the show.
"[Jughead] is a slightly dark truth teller; he's hip and cool and handsome and amazing. He wouldn't wear that cap. We tried it and it looked a little bit silly. We thought, well, what would a young, cool guy wear?" she explains. "Well, he would probably wear a knit beanie."
Bahmet worked with an experienced knitter — who also created young Kate's itchy sweater that spawned a Pearson family Thanksgiving tradition on "This Is Us" — to create a beanie with the perfect size and with subtle-enough points that references a whoopee cap, but that doesn't distract and take viewers out of the story.
"We all really liked and loved the nod to the original, in terms of its pointed shape and the pins," she adds. "It was really just making something totally unique that has not been done before and that was really important to us." Just like "Riverdale" is Archie like we've never seen before.
'Riverdale' premieres at 9 p.m. on Thursday, Jan. 26 on The CW.
Homepage photo: The CW