Last night I finished Stranger Things, Netflix’s new 1980s-set series about a group of little boys who uncover government conspiracies, diabolical monsters, and telekinetic children while trying to find Winona Ryder’s uncannily adorable son. The season finale, which made me weep and shake my fists at the cold and unforgiving sky, raised a lot of questions: Where the fuck is Eleven? Is Hopper a bad guy now? Is Will going to be burping up slugs at his wedding? But in the hours since, only one question has continued to weigh heavily on my mind: What is Nancy wearing?
What? Is? This bitch? Wearing?
I do not wish to reduce the character of Nancy Wheeler, played by the fabulous Natalia Dyer, to her preference for layering 13,000 shirts on top of each other. Nancy is instrumental to the plot of Stranger Things, even if her character occasionally does very unbelievable things, like fall for the dude who takes surreptitious pictures of her from outside as she loses her virginity. But I would be remiss if I did not address the fact that Nancy’s outfits are insane. If I had to sum up Nancy’s look, it would be as follows: A Toddler’s Fantasy of a Gentle, Chronically Ill Librarian Who, at One Point, Was a Prima Ballerina, But Had to Give It Up Because It Was Too Stressful for Her Immune System.
Nancy’s outfits are Problematic ’80s Virtues™ in fabric form. Nancy’s outfits are Reagan-era politics writ sweater. If Nancy’s outfits could talk, they would say, “Abstinence-only education is smart and wonderful.” Nancy’s outfits could have ended the Cold War by lulling the entire country, including Ronald Reagan, to sleep — not out of boredom, but out of the deep contentment that came with the certainty that their teenage daughters’ hymens would remain intact forever. The irony, of course, is that Nancy gets down and dirty in one of these Daddy’s Perpetual Little Girl outfits, meaning that, in a sense, Nancy is a brilliant, next-level troll.
All of this is to say that I love Nancy and all of her ludicrous outfits and all of the similarly ludicrous scenarios in which she wears them. If you feel the same — if you, too, are dying to sport pilgrim shirts buttoned all the way to your chin, then tied unnecessarily with a ribbon — I’m going to help you find some cheap, vague approximation of these outfits on the internet. Let’s begin.
The outfit: The first time we meet Nancy, she is wearing a matching set of blue linen pajamas with a floral decal buttoned all the way up whilst serving cold bitchface to young Dustin. These are the best pajamas I’ve ever seen, and I understand why wearing them encouraged Nancy to turn down Dustin’s offer of free pizza. To spill marinara sauce on these pajamas would be sacrilegious. Not only are these babies functional — they appear to be gentler, airier doctor’s scrubs — they are also vaguely fashionable, in the sense that, were Nancy to accidentally wear these pajamas to Whole Foods on a Sunday, everyone would assume she had just wandered in from her cult meeting or her nonviolent karate class.
It’s important to note that these pajamas match her phone. Incredible.
These PJs are also appropriate when having a platonic sleepover with your brother’s missing best friend’s brother who just pulled you down from an interdimensional tree and out of the clutches of a bloodthirsty no-face monster.
The outfit: This is the Quintessential Nancy Wheeler Look, in that it is 16 looks piled on top of each other. Nancy is wearing no fewer than five layers in this scene — six if you count her omnipresent ballet-slipper necklace, and seven if you count the deeply underserved but briefly omnipresent Barb. We will unpack each layer on its own. Here is what Nancy is wearing: a crisp blue button down; a delicate button-up pink sweater; a tent-like wool coat; a calf-length wool rug as a skirt; and WHITE TIGHTS. This is the perfect outfit in which to gaslight your best friend, whose entire life (and death) is based on trailing behind you, in that it acts as an impenetrable series of barriers between your human body and hers.
Later, Nancy removes the coat portion of the outfit in order to make out with the guy she just told Barb she wasn’t going to make out with, then made Barb feel crazy for suggesting such a thing. She is still wearing the white tights.
That night, Nancy removes the coat and the sweater AND the necklace to eat dinner with her family. She also appears to have undone one button. Nancy!
A brief look beneath the dinner table reveals that Nancy has swapped out her skirt for a pair of black pants that are somehow both crisp and shapeless, along with gray socks and loafers. These are Nancy’s comfy clothes. This is Nancy, Wound Down. By comparison, I am currently wearing a tank top that is missing a back and athletic shorts from high school.
Where to find it:
• First and foremost, we must address the ballet-slipper necklace: Here is a similarly childlike one from Macy’s for $70.
• L.L. Bean has a $40 blue button-down that is perfect for unbuttoning a single button of and then wearing to your silent, nuclear-family meal.
• The Outlet @ Pine Cone Hill (I have no idea what this is) sells a wool rug that you could absolutely turn into a skirt for $202 (plus the cost of someone making you an entire skirt).
• Bedford Fair (I have no idea what this is) has you covered on the Spiced Coral Crochet Cardigan front for $29.99–$35.99 (?).
• Don’t wear white tights, though.
• These $27.99 straight-leg pants from JCPenney could be crisp-yet-shapeless, if you bought them several sizes too large.
• This $525 gray wool Burberry coat is hooded, just like Nancy’s, which is ideal if you’re trying to hide from a scary monster (or yourself!).
The outfit: This outfit has many facets and iterations, as do all of Nancy’s outfits, minus her streamlined linen pajamas. It begins as a delicate purple sweater with a pilgrim collar. tied. with. a. ribbon. I repeat: Her collar has both ribbon and pilgrim functions. It’s paired with her favorite shapeless black pants, probably 16 undershirts, and a giant, giant tan tote, albeit one that I have a hard time believing fits textbooks. And the ballet-slipper necklace.
If you’re purchasing this outfit, please note that it is essential to remove the pilgrim sweater in a car if you want to have sex. Replace with a shirt that screams, “I want to have sex with you, high-school boy!!!!” See below.
This is Nancy’s idea of a sex shirt. This is Nancy’s idea of a Slutty Lewk. This shirt is so racy, in Nancy’s estimation, that Nancy could not put it on at home or even at school, but in fact had to change into it under cover of Barb’s car. Later in the series, Nancy tells Jonathan that she spent the previous weekend “shopping for a top that Steve might like. It took me and Barb all weekend.” IS THIS IT, NANCY?! I love you, Nancy.
Here is the last layer of this particular outfit: Nancy’s bra. Nancy’s bra does not fit her; there are massive gaps between the body and the bra, gaps the likes of which I haven’t seen since this. Before Barb is eaten by a demon, she asks Nancy if this bra is new, and Nancy says no. She is lying; the gaps clearly indicate that this is a New High School Bra. Nancy! She then has sex in this bra, Carrie Bradshaw–style. She is still wearing the ballet-slipper necklace.
Where to find it:
• Nobody makes sweaters like this. The best you can do here is to buy a normal purple sweater (here’s an oldie but goodie Anthropology one from Poshmark for $22), then attach this $17 Etsy pilgrim collar with a detachable ribbon bow.
• Honestly, this goddamn red-and-gray striped sex shirt was the most difficult thing to find. Here is something relatively similar from J.Crew for $19.50. Be careful about wearing it in front of high-school boys if you are not yourself in high school; they may receive a message you did not intend to send.
• Etsy has a “vintage” canvas tote for $19.
• Kohl’s has a jarringly similar bra on clearance for $10.20. Be sure the cup is approximately three sizes too big.
The outfit: This is Nancy’s post-post-coital lewk (you’ll recall her post-coital lewk was Steve’s sweatshirt). We’ll call it “I Searched for My Dead-Ass Friend in the Woods and Instead I Saw a Faceless Thing and Now I’m Freaking Out.” It includes what are apparently her only pants, a sweet pink oxford button-down, her poorly sized canvas tote, and a pair of blue Keds. It is the outfit in which she tells Steve, “I have a terrible feeling about this.”
It is the outfit in which the cops grill her about losing her virginity, which is, truly, the most nightmarish scene of this entire series. Note the classic gold studs, which scream, “Help me, I am being slut-shamed by legions of adult male authority figures.”
Where to find it:
• Here is probably that exact same button-up from Vineyard Vines for $88.
• Blue Keds are still a thing!
• Bloomingdale’s has some virtuous-ass studs for $90.
The outfit: This is Nancy’s would-be monster-killing outfit, in which she trains to kill a monster. She has dressed with care for the occasion; imminent and violent death is no reason to abandon years of meticulously crafted style. Her outfit incorporates, as is to be expected, thousands of layers. The top layer: a shearling corduroy jacket. The second layer: a teal sweater. The third layer: another oxford button-down, this time plaid. The fourth layer: probably that gaping Kohl’s bra. The fifth layer: fingerless white gloves. The sixth layer: a weaponized baseball bat.
The seventh layer: unimaginable existential panic.
Insider tip: This type of jacket is perfect for wearing to parallel dimensions, which are colder.
Where to find it:
• This jacket, which I found by searching Google endlessly for a red shearling corduroy jacket, coincidentally purports to “totally look like the jacket that Nancy wears on Stranger Things!” OK! It is $36 on Etsy.
• Burberry’s got a similarly hued scoop-neck sweater for $51.
• If you have not already died of heat exhaustion, here’s your third layer, a plaid boyfriend shirt from American Eagle for $44.95.
• Lastly, some unimaginably long white fingerless gloves for $20 from Etsy; I know Nancy would approve of the extra coverage.
• Oh, and here, your baseball bat.
The outfit: Nancy wears her second-to-last outfit the longest — a knit mock-neck color-fade sweater, a matching purple tweed jacket, and, yes, the ballet-slippers necklace. She wears it in every possible situation; you, too, can wear this anywhere. You can wear it to shop for guns and explosives (see above).
You can wear it to get slut-shamed, yet again, by your peers.
You can wear it to tend to your arrested non-boyfriend. You can wear it to attempt to light a monster on fire. You can wear it to wield this dope handmade weapon covered in nails.
You can wear it to decide whom you want to bone in your cavernous Kohl’s bra ad infinitum.
Where to find it:
• Neither of these items exist in the current natural universe, but here's a similar vintage jacket from Etsy for $16 (!) and a color-fade mohair sweater for $49. Pair with the same black pants that Nancy wears with everything.
• Nails are available at your local hardware store.
The outfit: This is Nancy’s last outfit. It is a gigantic denim skirt and an extremely beautiful camel cashmere sweater. Steve’s sweater is, in contrast, unforgivable. Nancy knows this. Nancy regrets this. Nancy will rectify this in Season 2.
Where to find it:
• L.L. Bean has you covered on the skirt front; here’s one for $19.99.
• This sweater is wildly important to the plot of the show in that it demonstrates Nancy’s vast superiority over Steve. Thus, you must splurge on it for $268 from Equipment.
• Don’t forget to pair all of the above with a tangible sense of suburban ennui, undiscerning taste in boys, and at least four giant barrettes.
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