{Costume Design (and Overall Review): The Baby-Sitters Club}

I promise this has not become a BSC fan site, though I will be the first to admit that’s what it looks like.

What happened to sewing, you might ask? Well, it’s still happening, but quite slowly. This remains, at it’s heart, a mostly about sewing blog though I do discuss my small list of interests as stated in the little tagline of the site! I also want to remain fairly relevant and talk about things in a timely fashion, and so I want to tackle the new BSC t.v. show before it’s complete old news. At the time of my writing this, it’s been a week since the show was released and if you haven’t seen it yet, I highly recommend you do!

To sum up: I LOVED IT.

The series creators managed to stay mostly faithful to the book and characters while adding in some upgrades for the current generation. And while I didn’t love every single choice they made, none of the choices were distracting enough to take away from the overall effect of the show.

Let’s begin with the first thing I loved about it: every single person on the show is the correct age for the character they are portraying. I looked up the ages of the BSC members themselves, and they are all 13-15 which is the perfect range. Even the oldest of the bunch, at 15, looks younger so it still works. Alicia Silverstone is perfect as Kristy’s mom, although it makes me feel incredibly old to admit this. Anyone who read my Clueless costuming post a few weeks back knows how I feel about that movie! While we’re on that subject, there were some really fun Clueless references in the first season which I’ll get to in bit.

First, I want to focus on the main cast. The kids were all GREAT, and embodied the characters so well. I’ll use this opportunity to also discuss the brilliant costumes and styling by Cynthia Summers (who also costumed A Series of Unfortunate Events, another favorite).

Sophie Grace as Kristy is the perfect mix of bossy and vulnerable. She is thoroughly her own person, but still haunted by the father who left her family and rarely, if ever, calls or comes for visits. She is also struggling with her mother getting remarried, even though deep down she seems to like Watson, her future stepfather. Kristy, however, does not do well with change, and Grace plays this well.

Summers nailed the Kristy look. Kristy’s signature is turtleneck, sweatshirt and jeans. This can get boring for a costume designer, so Summers mixed it up a little. The turtleneck wasn’t always there (but it was there plenty), but there was nothing Grace didn’t wear that made me think Kristy would never wear that. Even her dress for her mom’s wedding was somehow perfectly simply Kristy (we’ll get to that in a little bit) and I enjoyed the nod to the yellow dress from the books when she went to try on her dress (she swears she looks like a banana and so Watson offers to get her a different dress).

Malia Baker was the quintessential shy Mary Anne, though I will say I feel like they brought her out of her shell a little bit too quickly. It is a good thing that Mary Anne grows to assert herself more, but assuming they are planning further seasons, they took a few leaps with her character that might make growth a little difficult moving forward. However, as they have yet to get into the meaty Logan storyline yet (he appears, but not a ton in the first season), I suppose they have somewhere to go with it!

Again, Mary Anne looks perfect. She describes herself as dressed as “the world’s oldest toddler.” Her strict father monitors what she wears and how she does her hair, and it isn’t until she feels strong enough to have a heart to heart with him that things begin to change. However, Summers doesn’t change her look too drastically. She still keeps Mary Anne in a simple preppy chic look – things that are more her, but things that her father will approve of!

Okay. So Claudia Kishi was not my favorite when I read the books as a kid, but I adore her in the show! This probably has a lot to do with Momona Tamada who is super adorable and charming in the role. She arguably has one of the rougher storylines of the season, with Mimi (her grandmother) having a stroke, and she handles the whole thing with maturity. She is also super sassy which I really appreciated!

Summers makes sure that Claudia lives up to her “most fashionable BSC member” title. Claudia’s outfits are funky and artsy, and go perfectly with her personality.

Shay Rudolph is the perfect Stacey. She is put through the ringer in the first season, first with the story of her diabetes coming out and then getting covered in poison ivy when the baby-sitters go to camp. Rudolph is, out of all the adaptations I’ve seen, the youngest seeming Stacey, but that’s a good thing. She manages to play it with all the boy-crazy vulnerability a thirteen year old needs (i.e. she’s not particularly experienced, as evidenced in Boy-Crazy Stacey when she falls head over heels for a much older lifeguard who doesn’t give her the time of day in Sea City).

Hailing from New York City, Stacey is meant to be just as fashionable as Claudia, but in a different way. Stacey is a bit more “runway fashionable” whereas Claudia is a tad more on the quirky side. Good call not giving her a perm, however!

So… here’s where I was uncertain going into the series. Dawn was my favorite baby-sitter as a kid for completely superficial reasons: she looked like me. She had blonde hair and blue eyes and apparently that was enough. Stacey also looked like me but for whatever reason I gravitated towards Dawn… who’s really kind of a hippie vegan, which is SO not me so I honestly have no idea why. I think a lot of it had to do with my childhood friend and I always playing Baby-Sitters Club and she was Mary Anne, so I wanted to be Dawn.

Anyway, it doesn’t matter. Xochitl Gomez did a great job as Dawn, even if she made me realize that Dawn would 100 not be the character I relate to now (honestly, I’ve been kind of getting that from my reading of the books as well but she still holds a special place in my heart anyway!). I don’t know if her style exactly matches the “California cool” Dawn I always pictured, but she kind of created her own thing here and it works really well.

The series also briefly introduces Mallory Pike and Jessi Ramsey who will no doubt come in to play more in the second season as we are just about at the point where they join the club in the books. I can’t speak much to the costuming of either girl as they don’t really have enough screen time to really see them enough, but I am looking forward to seeing more of them in the next season! This is the first Mallory who hasn’t annoyed me so I hope that continues once we’re seeing more of her. Jessi is only introduced in the season finale so she has even less screen time than Mallory so it’ll be fun to have her story explored more as well.

Before moving on, I just wanted to focus a little bit more on costumes by looking at this image from Kristy’s mom’s wedding. Every single girl is dressed PERFECTLY for their character. I love it when characters embody their costumes so well they just become part of the story, and this definitely happened here. From Dawn’s flowy dress to Kristy’s simple but fancy bridesmaid dress, it all works so incredibly well.

Costumes aside, the show got just about everything else right. Rather than setting the show back in the late 80’s/early 90’s, it takes place in modern day, and as such needed some updates to various details. Some were included seamlessly and without much mention. For example, Charlotte Johansen is Asian and adopted by a lesbian couple. One of the Mrs. Johansens is a doctor, much like in the books, who stands up for Stacey when her diabetes comes to light. In another plot detail, Jenny Prezzioso is swapped out for a young girl named Bailey, who Mary Anne soon realizes is trans, and must stand up for her at the doctor’s office when everyone refers to her as a boy. In minor changes, characters have cell phones and various other modern technology that make slight differences to the action in the stories.

Some plot lines are changed entirely from the book. For example, Kristy’s Big Day is completely different from the book, which I was a tad disappointed by as it was one of my favorites, but I also really loved what they did with the episode. It continues – and concludes, I would imagine – Kristy’s struggle with her mother getting remarried. The final episodes of the season also somewhat diverge from the book they are based on, but still get to the heart of the various issues.

Earlier I mentioned a few Clueless references in the first season. With Silverstone on board, I suppose they couldn’t resist a few. First off, this gem from the pilot episode:

Some of the other references came with Claudia’s outfits, actually. In the second episode, she put on her “special smart outfit” to take an important math test (in Clueless Cher needs her “most capable” outfit to take her driving test). Later on, Claudia sports these plaid yellow pants which HAVE to be an homage to Cher’s iconic plaid suit.

Now that I’ve seen the first season, I am eagerly waiting to hear if a second season is happening. And if so, I hope it has more episodes because I want this show to go on for a long time… but real people don’t stay in 8th grade for twelve years so they’ll need to speed up the filming so the actresses don’t get too old to play their parts!

In the meantime, I’ll just have to binge watch the first season twenty more times!

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