'Hot Tub Time Machine' costume designer totally takes us back
Probably one of the best parts about the time-traveling buddy flick “Hot Tub Time Machine,” (HTTM) is that while it could have probably satisfied the lowest common denominator by merely mining the one-note title gag (a la “Snakes On a Plane”), it managed to deliver a lot more than that.
Surprisingly, at least for an ‘80s period piece, the same can be said for the movie’s costume design.
HTTM, which follows the shenanigans of friends Adam, Lou, Nick and Jacob (John Cusack, Rob Corddry, Craig Robinson and Clark Duke) after they find themselves transported, via the titular tub, back in time to Winterfest 1986 for a kind of cosmic mulligan -- amid an assortment of leg warmers, “Miami Vice” T-shirts, popped collars, catsuits and acid-washed jeans that is guaranteed to induce a one-hour and 40-minute foray back in time for anyone who remembers the first time they cranked a “Safety Dance” cassette on their Sony Walkman.
In fact, the wardrobe was so spot on, we were compelled to track down the film’s costume designer, Dayna Pink, and find out how she did it. And, according to the Michigan-raised 40-something (whose most recent pre-“Tub” gig just so happened to be the remake of the leg-warmer-loving linchpin of ‘80s pop culture “Fame”), she didn’t have to go far beyond her own experiences.
Dayna Pink: No, no relation at all. But during the filming, when people came up and asked, I’d just say, “I don’t like to talk about it.”
ATR: So you could get special treatment on the set like cutting in line at craft services?
DP: Totally (Pink laughs).
ATR: What were you wearing in the ‘80s?
DP: I was wearing exactly the kind of clothes you saw in the movie: big earrings, over-the-knee socks, grosgrain shoes or little spectator shoes. I had a hat like [John Cusack’s love interest] April and had a catsuit like the one Jennie’s wearing at the beginning -- mine was Byblos and in a really cool paisley fabric, but for Jennie it needed to be full leopard.
ATR: It sounds like you were intimately familiar with the period. Did you have to do any research?
DP: It wasn’t like doing a ‘40s period piece where we had to go to the library. I lived this. We did some research for colors and a little bit of inspiration, but most of it was in my head. I was excited to do it. The ‘80s were an awesome time for fashion.
ATR: Really? Why do you say that?
DP: The shoulder pads, the hair, everything. It was cuckoo and fun. It was excess and there were no apologies. Compared to how somber the costumes in a ‘40s or ‘50s period piece are you can’t help but look at the ‘80s and laugh. Everything was bad, but we didn’t know it was bad yet.
ATR: Was it difficult to source ‘80s wear?
DP: Since it was a period piece, we couldn’t ask extras to just show up in their own clothes. We had to find wardrobe and do fittings for 3,500 people.
ATR: Where do you go to find 3,500 outfits from 1986?
DP: The Paper Bag Princess [on Olympic Boulevard], and Meow in Long Beach were really good. But we ended up hitting every Salvation Army and every vintage store we could find since most places would only have five or 10 ‘80s pieces tops.
I ended up with a little bit of an EBay addiction after the film was done too. I’d go searching for Maud Frizon shoes and then that would remind me of Stephen Sprouse and then I’d think of Norma Kamali. It was all these names of designers coming back to me. They felt like old friends.
Then there was this warehouse near Long Beach, — I wish I could remember the name of it — we just called it “the moist place” because everything in the place was damp. There were mountains of acid washed jeans. We bought stuff by the pound.
ATR: How many pounds of clothes did you end up buying?
DP: Probably thousands of pounds. We had our own trucks going over there. We ended up shipping something like 70 E [shipping] containers – those are 29 by 30 by 60 -- about half the size of a refrigerator crate – of just ski stuff to Vancouver where we shot the movie.
ATR: What was your favorite wardrobe piece in the whole movie?
DP: You could barely see it in the movie at all, but the woman who ends up with Nick in the hot tub, the jacket she wore into the bar had these two unicorns, one on each shoulder, with the mane running down each sleeve. It was just absurd.
ATR: The movie came out in the midst of a kind of resurgence in ‘80s style. How do you feel about that?
DP: I actually don’t know, I sort of feel it worked [then] because it was this certain period in time. Do I think mixing ‘80s pieces in works today? Well, you’re not going to see me in my acid-washed jeans, but I would like to personally be responsible for the comeback of the fanny pack. (Pink laughs).
ATR: If you were to hop into a hot tub time machine and end up styling another era, what other period would you like to do costume design for?
DP: Definitely the '70s -- hippes, free love, suede, beads -- and those great glasses.
Can you just Imagine the “Hot Tub” quartet kickin’ it in the “Me Decade”? Break out the bell bottoms and pull up a bean bag chair. We’d be on board for a sequel faster than you could say “Groovy baby!”
-- Adam Tschorn
Top photo: Film extras in '80s garb in a scene from "Hot Tub Time Machine." Credit: Rob McEwan / MGM
Middle photo: Aliu Oyofu in neon and acid-washed denim. Credit: Rob McEwan / MGM
Bottom photo: Megan Holmes in a T-shirt bearing one of the most memorable ad slogans of the '80s. Credit: Rob McEwan / MGM