How I Got My Job: Fashion Stylist And Mid90s Costume Designer Heidi Bivens

Jonah Hill’s highly-anticipated directorial debut Mid90s finally hits UK cinemas tomorrow! Starring Lucas Hedges, Sunny Suljic (the coolest child actor around) and a group of actual skaters, it tells the story of 13-year-old Stevie who gets taken under the wings of a teenage skateboarding crew. What follows is a wild ride of parties, fist fights and skating stunts against the backdrop of 1990s L.A., complete with a brilliant soundtrack that will take you right back. We spoke to the film’s costume designer and stylist Heidi Bivens to find out what it was like dressing the skateboarding bunch of boys and why you just have to see this film…

How did you first get into the world of styling and costuming films?

After high school, I moved to NYC for university and studied filmmaking and journalism. I interned for magazines and film projects, which helped me gain experience and eventually led to larger opportunities.

Why are you excited to be a part of this project?

Mid90s was a chance for me to explore period costumes, albeit the recent past it is set in. I’d love to work on period costume films in the future, where I’ll have the opportunity to build most of the costumes myself. This was a first step in that direction.

Where did you start your research for the movie?

Well, conveniently I grew up during the same era the film takes place in and have fond memories of that time. I also happen to have kept all my skate mags from 1994 and 1995, so the research part of the job came naturally.

What was your main inspiration?

Making sure all the costumes were authentic to the era and the locale. My main inspiration was most motivated by wanting skaters of that era to watch the film and feel I got the details right.

How did the skateboarding influence your fashion choices?

It actually influences my fashion choice in real life quite a bit. The relaxed silhouette of that time has made a come back in fashion and I appreciate comfort, so I can get behind that. And as far as fashion choices for the film, it was more about trying to keep everything as authentic to the era as possible. That was the filter all my ideas would run through.

The film shows a side of ’90s fashion that isn’t what people stereotypically remember, but feels a lot more real because of it – was that important to you?

Yes definitely. Throughout shooting, it was very important to Jonah that we used restraint in recreating the look of the time in the film. I looked at a lot of photos of real people in Southern California during that time to find inspiration. There was a lot of “norm-core” happening at the time.

Did you have a favourite character to dress?

Probably Stevie, as he has the most arc in how he transforms from the beginning to end of the movie. It started out by him wearing kid-like clothes and cartoon T-shirts, and later it was all about him being inspired by the skate crew and slowly changing his look to try and fit in.

What was the biggest challenge for you working on this?

Finding all the original skate clothing. I had to re-make a lot of it, as most people I contacted for help didn’t keep any archives of skate clothes from that era. eBay and Etsy was of some help and then I contacted all the skate brands from that time and asked them for the original graphic art files. Everyone was very helpful and sent us what we needed.

What was it like working with Jonah Hill on his directorial debut?

He’s very thoughtful and cares about his crew. He treats everyone like equals and is a great collaborator.

Why should people go see this film?

For me it’s a story about chosen family, which I think a lot of people can relate to, and about that seminal time in a person’s life where they are figuring out who they are. Experiencing things like first kiss, first drink, first real crew of friends.

You’ve styled lots of amazing people – who is someone you haven’t worked with yet you’d really love to dress for a movie one day?

I guess I think less about actors or actresses I want to dress, and more about directors I want to work with like Christopher Nolan, Jim Jarmusch or Chloe Zhao to name a few.

What advice would you give to young kids dreaming of being a costume designer or stylist?

Take any opportunity to get on set and experience what that’s like. It’s when you’re on set that you’ll get an idea of how things work and what the job really entails. It can be hard work and long hours, so isn’t always as glamorous as some might think, but if you have a passion and a drive for what you do, you’ll go far!


Mid90s is out in UK cinemas 12th April 2019