We asked Make revenge costume designer Alana Morshead what her favorite teenage movie was growing up, and the answer was no surprise: Ignorantclosely followed by Romy and Michele’s High School Reunion. These visually iconic 90s movies (especially styled by costume designer Mona May) not only established the tone for teen movies of the time, but also marked a new age in on-screen fashion, with vibrant wardrobes, archetypal accessories, and an inherent DIY-ness as critical to the story as the plot.
Now streaming on Netflix, Make revenge is a tribute to classic teen films from the 90s and 00s as well as a sharp social commentary on today’s youth culture. While it combines elements of Wild girls, Jawbreakerand even a touch of Alfred Hitchcock’s Strangers on a train, Make revenge is referential but deliberately modern. “I had a very clear aesthetic and vision for it Make revenge,” shares director and co-writer Jennifer Kaytin Robinson. “I knew I wanted to pull from the ’90s runways for Drea and the ’70s for Eleanor. I wanted to pay homage to the worlds that we were inspired by, but it was also very important to me and the whole team that we were never derivative.” Morshead agrees, noting a shared love of ’90s movies and the need to avoid entering spoof territory: “There are slight nods, but it’s updated to look like today.”
Given the abundance of references throughout, the overall look and feel of the film creates a world that stands out as unique. Morshead worked closely with Robinson to create vintage and retro-inspired ‘fits that reflect iconic characters’ wardrobes. “Alana is an encyclopedia of both fashion in general and fashion in the movies, which was our touchstone in creating the look of Make revenge“, shares Robinson. “In our first conversation, I knew she was the one. She revered the teen film as much as I did, and it was clear that we both wanted to make the same film.” Elevated but never costume-like enough to become distracting, the aesthetics of Make revenge is, as they say, a whole mood.
The film stars Camila Mendes, Maya Hawke and Austin Abrams as students at Rosehill Country Day, an elite private school in Miami, Florida. While the intent of any school uniform is to create uniformity, the mix-and-match nature of the pastel purple-and-green wardrobe at Rosehill lends itself not only to gender-fluid styling, but also, as any dress code-abiding teenager , will attest, requires emphasis on accessories. This attention to detail is where Morshead really shines. “Because there were so many scenes at school, I didn’t want to have this amazing look outside of class and then go to school and be all uniform,” she explains. “We had to find a way that was appropriate to be in school but also keep the fun of the movie going, so the number of socks and earrings and accessories we had was a little surreal.”
Shopping everywhere from eBay to Instagram to small-town flea markets to vintage stores, Morshead and her team approached each look with DIY tactics taken from Drea, the main character played by Mendes. In addition to being one Teen Vogue honored a tennis instructor and aspiring Ivy League student, Drea is a talented seamstress and makes most of the outfits she wears when she’s not at school. For example, the blue dress she wears to the party in the opening scene looks polished, but also like something Drea could have made herself. “Maybe she took the sleeves off, or it was a halter top, or it was knee-length and she shortened it,” muses Morshead. “We didn’t have the budget to just get all designer pieces, and it felt true to Drea’s character to lean into the ’90s supermodel references.” The see-through wrap that Drea is wearing was purchased at a thrift store in Atlanta for $15. Morshead loved the color and how it reflected light, but she had to rework the thin tissue paper design to fit Mendes’ body, eliminating the original voluminous sleeves for a more tailored fit. “It was so delicate that every time we carried it anywhere, it would get damaged. Eventually, if you got too close to it, you could see all the rips and holes in it.” But can you imagine audiences’ first look at Drea without it? As if!
Originally planned to film on the West Coast, Make revenge moved production to Atlanta to accommodate Hawke (who plays Eleanor) as she simultaneously worked on the fourth season of Stranger Things. “The film was originally set in Santa Barbara, but when we moved the production, we changed the setting to Miami as it was a better visual match,” explains Robinson, a Miami preschool graduate. “It was a happy accident, but I think setting the film in Miami allowed us to create a look that doesn’t yet exist in the teenage canon, which was extremely exciting.”
In addition to the really lovely pastel school uniforms, this change of location prompted Morshead and her team to explore Atlanta’s many beauty shops, where they found tons of socks, jewelry, headbands and belts. This proved crucial for both Drea and Eleanor. After the requisite makeover scene, Eleanor sports a distinctly retro, 70s-inspired style that includes bucket hats and dangling earrings.
True to form (and teen-movie canon), the final outfits worn by both characters were one-of-a-kind pieces created precisely for each character’s highlight. At the Admissions Party, an evening of social-media-free debauchery for college-bound seniors, Eleanor wears an electric-orange top made entirely of zippers, and Drea wears another self-designed ’90s dress with chunky, light chains— originally bought two belts for $2 each – as straps. “I wanted something a little tougher for them because it was the climax of the film, so the look has that same industrial flavor,” Morshead recalls.
Whether exploring fashion or farce, the details are of the utmost importance and the world builds Make revenge is truly remarkable when you consider the incredible costumes, perfectly placed needle drops, clever casting and fantastic twists. “I wanted the film to stand alone and find its unique place in the canon,” says Robinson. “And I think we’ve achieved that.”
Of course, there are also Easter eggs galore – see you, pink fluffy Cher pen – but you’ll have to see it for yourself to see how cute Revenge really can be.
Make revenge now streaming on Netflix.