*Pssst: If you haven't caught up on the first half of "This Is Us," you will definitely find spoilers below.
Thankfully, we didn't have to wait too long for this television season's biggest newbie hit, "This is Us," to return from midseason break. Tuesday night, faithful viewers will find out if, in fact, bad things do happen on Christmas Eve (#savetoby), learn more about Pearson family dynamics and pray that Jack (Milo Ventimiglia) doesn't meet his fate just yet, as a new twist — or twists — always pop up in each Kleenex-worthy episode.
Viewers learned to expect major shockers right from the series premiere, which featured the biggest fake-out of them all: Rebecca (Mandy Moore) and Jack weren't a Brooklyn-y, ironically double-denim-wearing, emo-millennial couple. They're actually in the past! And the costumes by Hala Bahmet, Emmy-nominated for the excellent '90s wardrobe in "The People v. O.J. Simpson: American Crime Story," played a significant role in the successful timeline ruse.
"I'm so glad that everyone was faked out because that was our greatest concern," she tells Fashionista while on break from her intense "This is Us" filming schedule. The couple's backstory and Rebecca's pre-triplets bohemian singing career helped Bahmet and her team devise the Pearsons' introductory wardrobe. "What I tried to do was make Rebecca and Jack look just like cool, interesting, timeless young people and just use classic things," she says.
Bahmet opted for classic Levi’s 501s and heritage work boots for Jack and decade-ambiguous leisure-wear for a pregnant Rebecca. "It was really fun for us to cut loose finally in that hospital scene and put people in their ‘70s polyester leisure suits, embroidered denim ponchos and nurses in their traditional white uniforms," she says of the reveal, which nailed the surprise home with people smoking (!) in the maternity ward.
Although, one of the biggest fake-out factors didn't have to do with clothes at all: Milo Ventimiglia's ultra-jacked biceps, pectorals, quads and gluteals — all exposed in the premiere, save for a tiny hand towel to appease the censors. The Internet has widely discussed the actor's possibly anachronistic physique. Some argue that his just-came-from-CrossFit-looking frame is too swole to squeeze into silhouettes from the '70s and '80s, when the hunky manly man skewed toward a leaner Burt Reynolds or a pre-"Friends" Tom Selleck.
"This has comes up a few times," laughs Bahmet. "Even our show creators have been talking about it." But surprise: Ventimiglia's sculpted frame actually "slips into all the vintage clothing perfectly." Except for a few classic workwear pieces from labels like Filson or Pendleton, Jack's entire wardrobe is packed with authentic vintage. "Milo fits into Levi's like a dream," she adds (#teamjessforever). "I have vintage jeans for him that go back to the '40s."
To dress Moore as Rebecca from young wife to Pearson matriarch (so far), Bahmet also looks to vintage clothing spanning a range of decades. "We [maintain] a through-line to make sure that whenever we see Rebecca, whether it's 1975 or 2016, [she has] some cohesive elements in her wardrobe," she says. So look out for really good hats — like the knit beret Rebecca wears to visit William (Ron Cephas Jones) for the first time, interesting earrings and "lots of really cool boots from the '70s right into when she's a grandmother in 2016."
Even though the shots might not be wide enough to show the entire outfit (or edits might whittle a longer scene down to a few seconds), these efforts help Moore develop her character spanning multiple decades. "We'll see her even younger in upcoming episodes," hints Bahmet.
Since Bahmet and her team receive the scripts very close to the shoot dates, they have to quickly dive into the research archives to check accuracy and then "fan out across the city" to start sourcing. The first stops are costume houses and, of course, eBay and Etsy, and then brick-and-mortar vintage shops in L.A., including Bus Stop, Jet Rag, The Way We Wore, The Paper Bag Princess, Golyester and the local Goodwill. (Plan your next vintage shopping trip in L.A. accordingly.) "We found beautiful '40s pieces for Mandy in the Goodwill," Bahmet says. "We have a mix of expensive pristine pieces, from the high-end vintage stores that are really curated and beautiful, and then mix with something great from a thrift store."
Although, sometimes the team creates custom pieces, especially when the script calls for a specific style, like Jack's "magic" green T-shirt from Daytona Beach that little Kate ends up wearing at the pool (below). "That's a shirt we're going to see again in the future," says Bahmet. "So we basically created all of those and hired an aging artist to come in and really take down the versions that are older and leave the ones for future episodes that are more pristine." Guessing that a scene showing Jack and Rebecca's first meet-cute will happen at some point in the future...
The costume team also builds pieces for characters in the contemporary story line, including personal assistant Kate (Chrissy Metz), who's struggling with her weight and finding herself outside of her twin brother Kevin's shadow. "A lot of inspiration [comes] from Chrissy," Bahmet says of Kate's wardrobe. "Her personal style is funky and she wears red lipstick and big earrings. She's really playful and really fashionable and fun." But the costume designer admits that finding the pieces that she envisions for Kate is a challenge when shopping.
"I'm sort of dismayed at the offerings," she says. So instead of shopping off the rack, Bahmet and her team will often custom-create a piece or build off of an existing store-bought one, like the dress Kate wears to the Hollywood party with Toby. (You know, when Kevin goes off the rails and decides to quite "The Manny.") For Kate's refreshed LBD, Bahmet added loads of sassy fringe and created cutouts on the shoulders.
"My goal with Kate: I don't treat her character really any differently from any other character [on the show]," she explains. "We want her to be bold, but also thoughtful and working through her own issues and demons and things. [We don't want] to make her a wallflower [or] make her wear 'plus-size' women's garments straight off the rack."
With the Thanksgiving episode, "This is Us" gave viewers a snippet of Rebecca and Kate's fraught mother-daughter relationship, which Bahmet would like to explore further with the latter's costume evolution — and, more specifically, with hats. "That's an element that I'm going to bring in to tie Kate in with her mother's character," she says.
As "This Is Us" fans are aware, no decade is ever off limits on the show, which time jumps to various stages of the Pearson family's lives at random, and Bahmet provides some hints as to which eras we'll see next: "So far, we have done scenes from 1914 [Pearson ancestors?], 1952, 1960," she says. "'76, '77, '78, '79, '80, '82, '89, '90, '95, and the contemporary story line."
We all know how good Ventimiglia looks in a '60s bad-boy moto jacket. Just saying.
"This Is Us" midseason premiere airs Tuesday, Jan. 10 at 10 p.m.