Marc Bain at The Quartz:
The wardrobes on The Americans are the result of exhaustive research by the show’s costume designer, Katie Irish, and her team, who obsessively dig through any documentation they can find from that period—the current season is set in 1984—to create the looks for the cast. “I look through everything from magazines like Vogue, Cosmo, or GQ, Better Homes and Gardens sometimes,” Irish says. “I look at Sears catalogs. I look at J.C. Penney. I look at old school yearbooks. I look at movies and music videos that came out at that point. Anything where there might be photos of people in real life or the aspirations that people wanted to achieve.”
Irish and her team also put together research boards that help them nail down a character’s look. Renee, one of this season’s new additions, played by Laurie Holden, is introduced at the gym, and her board is appropriately covered in brightly colored spandex and leg warmers. Tuan, another new character, played by Ivan Mok, mimics the now endearingly quaint model of cool American teenage guys in 1984.
Authenticity is crucial. Irish is always telling the cast to pull their high-waisted pants up even higher, because that’s how people wore them before the era of low waists.