'Survivor' Contestants' Wardrobes Don't Always Seem "Fitting" for the Adventure of a Lifetime

Survivor is no longer in the days of skimpy bikinis and three-piece suits — the clothing now is just about showing off your authentic self.

Jamie Lerner - Author

Mar. 13 2024, Published 1:03 p.m. ET

Soda Thompson, Hunter McKnight, Tevin Davis, Liz Wilcox, Randen Montalvo, and Venus Vafa in Episode 1 of 'Survivor 46'
Source: CBS

After being on air for almost 24 years, Survivor is one of the longest-running reality television shows of all time, and there are no signs of it slowing down. Host Jeff Probst has only become more active and involved in the show’s creation over the years, transitioning from host to executive producer and showrunner in the mid-aughts. But another thing that has also changed in Survivor’s lifetime is the clothes contestants wear.

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In Season 46, players have a few stand-out clothing items, such as Ben Katzman’s rocker vest and Tevin Davis’s sunflower button-up shirt. While these look great on the screen, we can’t help but notice that the clothing might not always be the ideal outdoor gear, so how do Survivor contestants choose their clothes?

Moriah Gaynor, Tim Spicer, Maria Gonzalez, Charlie Davis, Jem Hussain-Adams, and Ben Katzman in Episode 1 of 'Survivor 46'
Source: CBS
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‘Survivor’ contestants choose their clothes, but they have to get approved by producers.

No matter which season the Survivor contestants play in, their clothing must be approved by producers. While Survivors were allowed to wear more outdoor-focused clothing in the earlier seasons, all of that changed in Survivor: Pearl Islands (Season 7), which is also considered one of the best seasons of all time.

In Pearl Islands, producers were a little sneaky when they told contestants to wear their press shoot clothing, but instead of doing a press shoot, they just sent them out to play the game. While this practice has changed, the idea behind picking the wardrobe has stayed the same. The producers want the castaways to wear something that shows off who they are.

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Cochran wearing his red sweater vest and holding a coconut in 'Survivor: South Pacific'
Source: CBS

“The idea is, what if you were shipwrecked with a group of strangers?” Jeff told The New York Times. “A lawyer’s clothing should look very different from a nurse, who looks different from a pizza maker.” Casting producer Caitlin Moore added, “We are very much in a collaborative process, working together to come up with what really feels like a reflection of their own personality yet also meets the needs of production.”

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Over the years, there are classic examples of this choice, from Nick Wilson’s suit in David vs. Goliath (Season 37) to Cochran’s red sweater vest in South Pacific (Season 23). Of course, if certain players were instructed to wear tank tops and dresses while others get to wear jeans and a jacket, the former are at a disadvantage. So in the New Era, the rules changed once again.

"Boston Rob" Mariano in his iconic Boston Red Sox hat in 'Survivor: Redemption Island'
Source: CBS
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‘Survivor’ contestants are given a few different outfits to wear in Fiji.

After a sexual harrassment scandal in Season 39 of Survivor, producers realized every player should be able to at least have enough clothing to keep them warm. In fact, players are no longer allowed to cuddle and must sleep with six inches between each other, so warm clothing is a must for Fiji’s coldest nights. Sadly, however, this means that there are no more iconic moments like the tribal council in which Angelina asked for Natalie’s jacket on David vs. Goliath.

"We always work with the player to make sure they're happy with the choices, and we always endeavor to make sure that each player has the same amount of coverage and warmth," producers told People in 2023. "So if someone wanted to wear shorts instead of jeans, we would also make sure they had some kind of sweatshirt for warmth at night."

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Yam Yam Arocho in a purple flower sweater and glasses in 'Survivor 44'
Source: CBS

Even still, producers get the final say. For the beginning of the season, they give contestants a color scheme based on which tribe they’ll be on and ask the contestants for options. They’ll either approve what the contestant pulls or suggest something different. In fact, certain clothes, such as bathing suits, have been phased out of the game altogether.

Luckily, however, as fans notice inequities in wardrobe, the producers have seemed to relax a bit more in the New Era on what contestants wear. Season 44 winner Yam Yam told us that they’re allowed to have multiple outfits on the island now. Survivor is no longer in the days of skimpy bikinis and three-piece suits — the clothing now is just about showing off your authentic self in a memorable and unique way.

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