Since coming back to TV screens for its fifth and penultimate season, FX’s Cold War drama “The Americans” has garnered fresh attention for present-day parallels. For viewers with a fashion eye, parallels extend beyond Russian conspiracy theories.
From wide-leg pants and tailored print shirts to acid wash jeans, the mid-’80s fashions we see Keri Russell don as KGB spy Elizabeth Jennings had us enviously wondering where she gets her wardrobe.
Lucky for New Yorkers, more often than not, it’s right here in NYC, where the show is filmed.
“There are so many fantastic vintage shops in New York that it really just depends on what you’re looking for,” says the show’s costume designer Katie Irish, who’s worked on the series’ costume team since its first season.
“I have two shoppers who work full time, 10 hours a day, five days a week, who go and scour the city and online for all of the stuff that we need,” she says of a team which involves a costume department, wardrobe department, full-time tailors and more.
Irish says most of the clothes on the show are vintage. The exception most often occurs when the team needs multiples of a piece — either for a stunt sequence or a body double.
“In that case, we either shop things that are modern that we then alter to look vintage and look from the period, or we build them outright,” she says.
But let’s get back to vintage shopping. Irish is, unsurprisingly, an expert on where to go for what.
“For men’s suits, we use Rue St. Denis on Avenue B,” she tells us. “They have what’s called ‘dead stock,’ which means that although the suits are from 1984, they’ve never been worn, so the pants are un-hemmed. All the labels are all still on. It’s as though you’re buying a brand new old suit, which is really great for us.”
If you’re keen to reflect Elizabeth’s acid wash jeans look, as seen on her latest alias “Brenda Neill,” head to the West Village — Irish says Star Struck is great for vintage denim. Antoinette in Williamsburg is a favorite for womenswear, and Irish says they “have a lot of luck with all of the L Train Vintage stores,” which are dotted around the city.
Irish, who loves the diversity of working with characters who so often don disguises, says there’s an easy way to figure out when they’re getting the wardrobe right.
“In a fitting, I always know that I’m doing a good job when someone says, ‘Oh my God, I look like my aunt,’ or ‘my grandfather,’ or ‘my uncle.’ As soon as it becomes real to them and they recognize someone in their lives that dressed this way, I know that we’re getting close.”
“The Americans” airs 10 p.m. Tuesdays on FX.