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Break Out the Skorts!
From Swatch phones to scrunchies, a major component of The To Do List is its familiar, yet surprisingly distant time period. Carey explains her rationale for setting Brandy's story twenty years in the past: "A lot changed after the Internet. When I was in high school, the Internet existed but it was nothing like what it is today. You didn't have Google where you could just look up terms and figure them out. You had to talk to your friends about them. You had to experience them and see what they were. It wasn't this instant thing that happened. You had to do your homework and talk to your friends."

Carey sought the help of production designer Ryan Berg and costume designer Trayce Gigi Field to transform present day Los Angeles into '90s-era Idaho.

Carey, who graduated from high school in 1993, made a "look book" of her high school photos for Field and Berg. "I met with Maggie and I think I was hired two hours later," Field recalls. "She had high school yearbooks. She had old photos of her and her friends. She was so prepared on every level."

Indeed, Carey had already worked on much of the production and costume design elements on her own. "I asked my girlfriends from high school, who I'm still very close with, if they had any memorabilia, or clothes or pictures from that time period. They sent me boxes of stuff," Carey says.

Field used JC Penney and Sears catalogues, magazines like Cosmopolitan and Teen Beat, and fashion libraries for research: "I go into every project wanting it to be as real as possible, especially period. You really want to get it right. You want it to be what real people were wearing, and not some glamorized version of. And the '90s were not glamorous," Field jokes.

"Even though it was the '90s, it wasn't parody, and it wasn't supposed to be campy, it was just supposed to be specific," Carey adds.

Field scoured costume rental houses and thrift stores to find clothes from the era. She even tracked down and used wardrobe from hit '90s TV programs like "The Fresh Prince of Bel Air," "Saved By The Bell," and "Beverly Hills, 90210." "If you look at some of the overalls that were worn, those were from 'Fresh Prince.' If you take a close look, you might be able to spot a few things," Field notes.

The actors found that the vintage costumes helped get them into a '90s mindset, too. "One of the best things about my job is when you get into fittings with actors and they say, 'These clothes are really helping me get into character,'" says Field.

Bilson relished the '90s fashion. "She loved everything," Field says. "Rachel could not have been happier with her cute little pumps and her short little shorts."

Glover's wardrobe allowed for some bursts of creativity. "He was one of my favorites. The overalls, the Vanilla Ice printed shirts: Donald embraced it all," Field remembers.

Perhaps the film's best costume moment involves an unusual piece of clothing called a skort. Carey explains: "Skorts are this brilliant invention that girls use when they're not sure if they want to wear shorts or a skirt. It's usually skirt in front, shorts in the back. Trayce found the perfect skorts for the scene. Not only is it this amazing wash of denim, but these skorts had a zipper and a flap. When she showed them to me, I said 'Trayce, you're meant to be costuming this movie.'"

Berg went on his own research trip into the past: "I bought a bunch of interior design magazines off of Ebay from 1989 to 1993 and it was horrible," Berg jokes. "The color palates were really dull and overly neutralized. There were no pops of color."

Berg notes that 1993 was at a peculiar cultural crossroads. "Some things had neon colors, and some things were muted with grunge," Berg says of the '90s intersection between 'Fresh Prince' and Pearl Jam.

Berg also went to Ebay for most of his period finds, including the items showcased in the film's opening sequence. "One wouldn't think it would be that difficult seeing that it doesn't feel like that long ago, but it is," Berg says. "No one is collecting anything from that era quite yet. It's a weird in-between time for collectables. It didn't have a distinct design period."

Instead of breaking the budget on accuracy, Berg opted to "hone in on the areas where we could sell it. Easy things that aren't iconic yet, but are somewhat iconic. It was really hard, but fun."

While scouting, Berg discovered that even the most vintage of homes have updated kitchens. For Brandy's house, Berg covered the granite countertops with a tile veneer, and muted the stainless steel appliances with almond-colored contact paper. "It was a combo of some wizardry and recognizing what worked."

Berg accentuated the differences between Brandy and Amber in their rooms, which are separated by a shared shotgun bathroom. "I wanted them to be sharp contrasts. When you're in Brandy's room, you're in neutral tones. When you go into her sister's room, it's practically 'Miami Vice,'" says Berg.

Berg sought the help of a teenager to add an additional flourish to Brandy's room: her self-portrait. "I had a seventeen year old girl do the painting, and it looked great," Berg says. "It talked about her self-interest, her sense of self-importance and it was also kind of naïve. When you're on a movie of this scale, in terms of dollars, you have to pinpoint where you can get your bang for the buck."

Field agrees, adding that budgetary constraints often make for a more rewarding experience. "It's a labor of love. Everything you're doing, you're doing because you want to be there. Everyone is helping out and pitching in. It's a challenge, but it's a fun challenge," Field says.

Even though The To Do List takes place in the '90s, Plaza believes that "the issues in this movie transcend time and space. I think teens of this generation will enjoy it. Hand jobs are a universal milestone in every girl's life," Plaza jokes.


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