Flex, the story of a girls’ high school basketball team in southeast Arkansas, takes place in the late 1990s. The era was significant for Mika Eubanks as she researched her vivid costume designs for this Candrice Jones play. “The timeframe is basically pre-Internet,” Eubanks told me the other day. “So the characters wouldn’t have had access to the same clothing that they would have today.”

All the same, said Eubanks, who was born in New Orleans and grew up in Maryland and Virginia, the Flex characters would have had an awareness of what was fashionable in the culture. “These young women would have been very knowing about what celebrities were wearing, especially musicians.” TLC figures into the play, but Aaliyah is of signature importance. “There are a lot of nods to her,” Eubanks said. “And people forget how various her looks were. She had a tomboy phase, which I thought of because Flex plays a lot with sexuality and gender and identity.”

Eubanks took care not to push the characters and their looks too far, however. “We’re dealing with the South, and a religious time and place. Certain things were known but not talked about. I had to ask myself: how do we show characters in a time period that wasn’t as accepting of certain things as we are today?”

Eubanks has a real-life older sister who, like the play’s characters, attended high school in the late 1990s. “I looked at photographs of what she and her friends wore back then,” the designer said. She added – and I’m sure I’m not the only person who feels ancient hearing this observation – that “the Nineties are vintage now.”

I asked Eubanks to talk about her family more widely. She replied that she came from a family of people who, among other creative endeavors, tell stories and sew. “My aunt and my mother taught me sew when I was six. I had a massive doll collection and some of the first sewing I did was making clothes for my Barbies.” In high school, Eubanks started making clothing for humans, and later would make unique outfits for friends to wear at special events. In college, at Maryland Institute College of Art, Eubanks dreamed up more experimental clothing. “These things were very artsy.” Laughing lightly, she continued: “If you wore them out on the street it might not go too well.”

Eubanks took a six-year break between undergrad and her MFA program in costume design at Yale. “I got more and more interested in how clothing helps to tell stories.” Her favorite costume designer is the protean Geoffrey Holder. “He was a dancer, performer, and painter. He designed the original Wiz on Broadway. His sketches are beautiful.”

A key aspect of Eubanks' work on Flex was the creation of the logo for the girls basketball team, known as Lady Train. In this, she collaborated with the graphic designer Joaquin E. Jutt. “We came up with something that has ladies on the top and trains on the bottom. They are passing each other. Trains passing is a positive force. There are also stars to show brilliance and importance.” A key aspect of 

Throughout much of Flex, the characters are in workout clothing. So I wasn’t surprised that, when I asked Eubanks to name a favorite moment watching the play in performance, she chose a scene that takes place off-the court. “They’re in a car. Lileana and I” – Lileana being the director Lileana Blain-Cruz – “wanted the scene to evoke summertime: to be bold and bright and beautiful.” Eubanks added: “The scene touches on so much from the era. One character is wearing sunglasses, and there’s Fubu, an ultimate late-90s brand. Another character is in a look inspired by my favorite movie – Sister Act 2. When I saw those characters acting that scene for the first time with an audience, I thought: yes! After so much work, I was so happy to see the vibe I was going for onstage.”

Brendan Lemon is a freelance journalist in New York.