Do you remember how bold you were in your choices of clothes when you are in high school? I know that I was personally mortified by anything I wore, but the young characters in HBO Max’s Genera+ion don clothes that speak to who they are and who they want to be. Costume designer Shirley Kurata makes bold choices in the first part of the first season of Zelda and Daniel Barnz’s comedy series, and every choice speaks volumes.
The group of high schoolers come from many different walks of life and their costumes speak to that. Naomi and Nathan might wear clothes only their mother buys and they lean into more of a preppy, affluent style while Riley takes matters into her own hands and wears cropped baby tees and is heavily influenced by the 90s. And then there’s Justice Smith’s Chester, a character that plays with masculinity and femininity and color with ease.
Kurata was very open to collaborate with the cast, and there is such a vibrancy to what everyone is wearing. We could watch Genera+ion on mute and know so much by the clothes these characters decided to wear that day. This is bold, vivacious costuming.
Awards Daily: How much input did the young cast have with their costumes?
Shirley Kurata: It was definitely a collaboration between directors and actors or creators like me with the actors. I want to get those opinions. Some actors are more vocal than others but definitely there were recommendations from them.
AD: In terms of some trends, I know the 90s are coming back a lot. Chester wears a choker in episode two that’s orange and black. Were you looking to incorporate those trends?
SK: Riley is into photographer and she’s kind of a Chloe Sevigny world. It’s about baby tees with vintage pants and she’s in that 90s world. Chester is a mix of everything but definitely some 90s elements in his clothes. dELiA’s was big in the 90s and their Dolls Kill line was something I pulled some costumes for Chester there. Also, I love Depop because a lot of young kids are selling on it. The way they style the outfits is so good. It’s 90s and a Y2K thing there but I haven’t done the lowcut with the whale tale sticking out yet. That was helpful for getting inspiration.
AD: The first look Chester wears is so iconic. It’s playing with masculinity and femininity and the overalls are great. I am obsessed with those quarter-moon sunglasses. Everything Justice [Smith] wears this season informs so much of the character. Talk to me about that look.
SK: In the script, the Barnzes had Chester wearing a red tube top.
SK: He’s not shy about taking risks and showing who he is. I experimented with tube tops but then I found the rainbow overalls and that felt stronger to me. I also study people out in the world and I saw someone in a vintage store who was wearing a lot of jewelry. That felt very Chester to me so I added a lot of rings and kids are really into statement glasses. I wanted him to have some sunglasses that also showed his face.
AD: Does Arianna wear pink in every outfit?
AD: She is one of the most vocal people on the show–she reads her dads a lot–but I was curious about maybe her tie to her personal femininity?
SK: It’s a little bit of both. Zelda had a classmate that had a lot of pink so she had written Arianna kind of inspired by her. Pink is a dominant color but it does play on her personality. Arianna does still embrace her feminine side of herself but she is still tough.
AD: I was really drawn to Greta and she doesn’t dress like anyone else. I was wondering what her closet would look like. She is shyer and she has her aunt help her with her clothes. What was your influence with her?
SK: In the beginning, she is wearing skinny jeans and a top that’s pretty straightforward. She is starting to think about her sexuality and her identity. As she befriends Chester and Riley, I think she is kind of embracing a little bit of a masculine vibe. I started putting her in a higher-waisted, bagger pair of jeans and a cropped flannel. Cropped is very popular right now. Greta is exploring still and I wanted to show the subtle progression with her. There are different elements to her culture, but I didn’t want to do stereotypical Chola style but there is a lot elements to that fashion that I think is really cool. I wanted a nod to it but I didn’t want it to be a caricature or a stereotype.
AD: Her clothes reminded me of the girls I went to high school with who wore a lot of flannel.
AD: Yeah. Not to go back to Chester, but I think his Pussy Power look is really strong. Tell me about that.
SK: Justice loved that outfit. Chester lives with his grandmother and those pearl necklaces are from JCPenney, I think. He would love Harry Styles’ style. I do love how Harry incorporates feminine pieces into his wardrobe–it’s very Chester.
AD: If you could steal something of your own designs to put in your closet, what would it be? Chester wears these white pants in episode two or three that I love. It looks like they have black, painted details. What would you take?
SK: That pussy bow look is something I’d steal. There is something else that Chester wears that looks like something a grandmother crotched.