On Red Oaks—the Steven Soderbergh-produced Amazon original coming-of-age comedy series premiering October 9—the storyline follows the unexpected, hilarious experiences of a college student named David who unexpectedly spends his summer working as a tennis pro at New Jersey’s Red Oaks Country Club. And while the series features impressive turns from lead Craig Roberts as well as Jennifer Grey, Paul Reiser, Richard Kind and many others, more often than not the scenes are stolen by the outrageous ’80s fashion.
Here, costume designer Karen Malecki gives DuJour a blast from the past with an inside look at some of her favorite garments, the inspiration behind her designs and which character’s style is the most like her own.
What was the clothing selection process like for each of the characters?
I was pretty specific with each one. I wanted David to look like just kind of a guy who puts on clothes to put on clothes—very simple. It was a lot of t-shirts and jeans. It wasn’t very thought out at all. For [his girlfriend] Karen, I wanted her to feel like the girl next-door, very approachable and pretty. I kept her palette light and colorful. She was just a light, effervescent personality and I wanted her clothes to convey that. I had a lot of fun doing the aerobics stuff for her.
What sort of research did you do to prepare these looks?
I looked at a lot of yearbooks, which was really fun. I got my hands on a lot of old magazines. So, Interview magazines from the ’80s and things like that. I also watched a lot of MTV music videos from the ’80s, which was a really fun way to get a lot of ideas, too.
What are some of your favorite costumes so far?
One of my all-time favorites was in the first episode, I put [the character] Skye in just overalls and that was really fun. It kind of brought me back. I loved all of David’s mother’s costumes; I wanted her to seem like a little out of touch fashion wise, but she was still kind of kicking around late ’70s, early ’80s clothes. I have so many favorites I can’t really just put my finger on one.
What time period of fashion do you find the most inspirational?
Personally, I really love the 1930s and 1940s. I think they were so glamorous.
Which character do you relate in regard to style?
I would probably say Skye. You know, when I was a teenager I shopped at all the thrift stores and I kind of wore a lot of black. I was artsy. I would like to say Karen and say that I walked around in aerobic stuff.
What should viewers expect during this season as far as costumes go?
There are three big events throughout the season—a wedding, a bar mitzvah and a SoHo block party. We had a lot of background to dress, so I really got the opportunity to kind of try everything. It gave me a lot of breath to explore. I’m really excited about the project and I had a great time doing it.