The Vast of Night recently premiered at Slamdance and won the Grand Jury Prize for Best Narrative feature. Set in 1950s New Mexico, the filmfollows two teens as they uncover a secret frequency that reveals an otherworldly presence in their small town. You can read my review of it here.
I had the pleasure of interviewing Jamie Reed, the costume supervisor for The Vast of Night. I love how she curated a wardrobe that was authentic to the era and visually appealing to modern audiences. I hope you enjoy learning about her work and how she styled the actors in the film!
Raquel Stecher: Tell me a bit about your background in fashion.
Stecher: Congrats on The Vast of Night which recently premiered at Slamdance. How did you come to be involved with the film?
Reed: I’ve known Andrew [Patterson], the director, since college and have worked with him on several other projects over the years. When he approached me about this film he assured me it would be a small project, but by the time shooting began it had definitely grown! It ended up being a really great project and one of the most creatively fulfilling experiences I’ve had in my career.
Stecher: With the 1950s setting, what did kind of research did you do before curating/designing the wardrobe?
Reed: I spent a couple of months just researching 1950s fashion before purchasing anything. My goal was to be as accurate as possible and I had definite guidelines for what I did and didn’t want. I pulled yearbooks and browsed old photos online. I wanted this to be a realistic depiction of small town dress at this time. Andrew had a few ideas for some characters and I would show him photos to get a feel for what he had in mind. We’ve worked together enough now that I typically know what he likes and when I do need to push him in a direction he trusts my instincts and usually gives me my way.
Stecher: Were the clothes used in the film vintage, new or a mix of both?
Reed: It was a mix. The lead characters played by Sierra [McCormick] and Jake [Horowitz] wore all new clothing. We needed multiples of their clothing so vintage wasn’t really an option. Piecing together 1950s looks with new clothing was a fun challenge. For other featured characters and extras it was a mix of vintage and new. I did a LOT of thrift store shopping, buying vintage pieces on Etsy, and my assistant on the movie, Michelle [Harvey], actually had a collection of vintage clothes that she shared with us. Many of the featured extras are in great pieces she owned.
Stecher: Did you find inspiration from any films from the era?
Reed: I can’t remember if what watched any films or not, I mostly stuck to finding yearbook photos and newspapers. I was wanting to approach the look of the movie from a small-town “regular people” perspective. I’m from a small town and I know that the fashion trends tend to make their way to town a little slower.
Stecher: The basketball game scene at the high school is really where we get to see the wide array of 1950s fashion in the film. How did you approach dressing the cast and extras for that scene?
Reed: Pulling off this scene was quite an organizational feat and I had several helpers who kept things running smoothly!
I started shopping for this scene months before shooting. I probably visited every Goodwill store in the Dallas/Fort Worth area at least once. Knowing we could have hundreds of extras to dress I needed to be prepared with lots of basics. For women I knew pencil skirts and cardigans were a safe bet so I grabbed as many as I could get my hands on. I also collected dozens and dozens of men’s dress pants and suit jackets.
Luckily the boys basketball uniforms were manufactured by an outside company so I really only needed to worry about cheerleading and band uniforms when it came to the specialty clothing.
While we alerted extras of dress suggestions, we still had hundreds who showed up needing clothing. With the time constraints to dress people we had eventually we had to stop pulling clothing and then I worked to place people in the stands so we could make sure to get the best overall image. We did the best we could with the time we had and I think it was executed well.
Stecher: Tell me about dressing the two leads. Sierra McCormick has a great ensemble and I love Jake Horowitz’s look especially with the cardigan.
Reed: I got lucky in the fact that the movie all takes place over one night, so just one outfit for each! Andrew [Patterson] had some ideas in mind and I worked to find a variety of items to try. Once Jake and Sierra arrived we had some try-on sessions before settling on the chosen outfits.
Once they were set I purchased multiples of all items, in case of wear and tear over the entire shoot.
Sierra’s look consisted of a full skirt with ribbon hem, a blouse (ordered from a school uniform company), and tied ribbon. The outfit was completed with ankle socks and classic oxford shoes.
For Jake, Andrew had an old photo of a 1950s DJ he was inspired by. Many months after shooting I realized the final outfit we chose was spot on to the photograph, down to the stripes on the cardigan! I’m pretty sure I found that cardigan at a Gap outlet store near where we were shooting in Texas.
Stecher: My favorite element of the costume design is those vintage eyeglasses McCormick, Horowitz and other members of the cast wear. How did you decide on that look?
Reed: The eyewear was actually part of the art department’s doing! We initially tried to order frames for some cast members but the vintage pairs the art department secured ending up looking the best. This was great for me because I didn’t need to keep up with any glasses during the shoot! All someone else’s responsibility!