‘Elvis’ Costume Team Created an Enormous Chart of Elvis Presley’s Jumpsuits to Dress Austin Butler
Austin Butler‘s spot-on portrayal of Elvis Presley in Baz Luhrmann’s Elvis is receiving widespread critical acclaim. The movie’s over-the-top set design, extravagant musical numbers, and true-to-life costumes — including Elvis Presley’s jumpsuits — have also played key roles in Elvis‘ triumph. So what does it take to create outfits fit for The King? The costume team did a lot of research into Elvis’ iconic jumpsuits.
What is ‘Elvis’ about?
Elvis hit theaters on June 24. It follows the story of Elvis Presley’s rise to rock ‘n’ roll superstardom through the lens of his enigmatic manager, Colonel Tom Parker.
Spanning over 20 years, the film details Elvis’ marriage and divorce from Priscilla Presley. And it covers some memorable career moments, including Elvis’ Las Vegas residency and Christmas broadcast.
One key element that sets Elvis apart from other musical biopics is it’s told from the perspective of Colonel Tom Parker. Through this, audiences get a deeper look at how the money-hungry Parker manipulated the singer into staying under his management for decades. And he inadvertently encouraged the drug addiction that was ultimately responsible for Elvis’ demise.
The costume team created a massive chart of Elvis Presley’s jumpsuits
From feather boas to flared leather pants, Elvis’ wardrobe was nothing short of iconic. Elvis costume designer Catherine Martin recently opened up about recreating The King’s signature style for Elvis. And she explained that the costume team used an “enormous chart” as a visual reference for Elvis Presley’s jumpsuits.
“With Elvis, we created an enormous chart of all of Elvis’s jumpsuits that we pasted up on the wall,” Martin told Vanity Fair. “It was a very long chart. And those kinds of things allows you to conceptualize a little bit how you’re gonna deal with that part of Elvis’ costuming history.”
Martin then explained how the costume team recreated the famous black leather outfit from Elvis’ ’68 comeback special.
“I think we worked on three leather versions in different weights of leather because originally his suit was made out of horse leather, and it was a very heavy leather,” Martin said of Elvis’ iconic black suit. “The first suit we made Baz was concerned because the leather wasn’t heavy enough. So we went up a level in thickness and heaviness. And then we weren’t sure. Maybe that was too heavy and was too constrictive in terms of the movement. So then we went somewhere between the two. And then we had to make multiples.”
Along with specific reproductions of outfits, Luhrmann was also intent on capturing Elvis’ rebellious spirit and sexuality, which was then reflected in the costumes.
“Elvis in the mid ’50s wore a lot of lace shirts in different colors. And that kind of connected to what we know as kind of rock star today,” Martin said. “And also that interesting juxtaposition of the feminine and the masculine. Similarly, Elvis’ favorite color combination was black and pink. So finding a way of incorporating that and to be true to the boxy nature of the ’50s look, but at the same time respect the body underneath.”
Austin Butler opens up about his role in ‘Elvis’
In Elvis, Butler stars as Elvis Presley alongside Tom Hanks, who plays Colonel Tom Parker. Other supporting cast members include Olivia DeJonge as Priscilla Presley, Helen Thomson as Gladys Presley, Richard Roxburgh as Vernon Presley, and Kelvin Harrison Jr. as B.B. King.
Butler recently opened up about his audition process for Elvis while appearing on an episode of The Kelly Clarkson Show. He said of Luhrmann: “He put me through the wringer. And I realize now he likes to be very spontaneous on set. He wanted to see if I would lose my mind, so I didn’t think I got it.”
Butler continued: “A week later, I woke up to Baz calling me. He sounded kinda downcast and said, ‘I wanted to be the first one to call you and say, ‘Are you ready to fly, Mr. Presley?’”