Michael Corleone at His Son’s Communion

Al Pacino as Michael Corleone in The Godfather, Part II.

Vitals

Al Pacino as Michael Corleone, powerful Mafia boss

Lake Tahoe, Winter 1958

Background

The Godfather is an American cultural phenomenon that needs no explanation. (For all the people secretly bummed out that I won’t give an explanation, here: It’s an epic three film journey following the rise of a Mafia family in the United States from 1901 to 1979).

There are differing opinions as to whether the first or the second part was the best. No one ever says it’s the third one. As this is primarily a sartorial blog, I can state that – sartorially – the third film was a failure. No one in that movie looked like 1979.

In the first two films especially, costumes were a large indicator of the story. Much credit for this should be given to costume designer Theadora Van Runkle. When Michael is a proud Marine, he wears his uniform. When he is a college man looking for work, he wears a simple odd jacket, tie, and trousers. As he grows into the Don we have come to know, he wears expensive suits. Interestingly, Michael never wears a hat (aside from his USMC officer’s cap) until he becomes involved in the family.

This post will focus on the first act of The Godfather, Part II, where Michael Corleone is holding court on the day of his son’s Communion.

What’d He Wear?

For his son’s Communion and subsequent celebration, Michael wore a 2-piece lightweight dupioni silk suit. The color is gray with black and white flecking. Due to the lightweight silk material, the suit wrinkles easily after sustained sitting.

So, of course, Michael spends the whole evening sitting down. Tsk, tsk…

The jacket is a 3-roll-2 button front, with the notch lapels rolling over the top button. Each cuff has 3 buttons also. The jacket is ventless with a welted breast pocket and a straight flapped hip pocket on each side.

The many emotions of Michael Corleone: Angry and slightly less angry.

Michael’s suit trousers have double forward pleats on each side with plain-hemmed bottoms instead of turn-ups or cuffs. The only visible pockets are the two side pockets. A black leather belt with a rounded steel single-claw buckle keeps the pants up.

The white shirt has a long point collar and buttoned barrel cuffs. There is a front placket and no breast pocket. Michael wears a thin black silk necktie with no tie bar or pin.

Although it looks ecru in some scenes, it is clearly white in the outdoor light. Also, try and imagine a mobster going into a store and asking for something in ecru. Just doesn’t sound right. It’s white.

Hardly seen in the film but confirmed by production stills, Michael’s shoes are light gray tasseled loafers, worn with dark socks. The socks are probably black to match his belt and tie.

Finally, Michael disregards gangster stereotypes by keeping accessories and jewelry limited; he wears only a white face wristwatch with a dark strap and his plain silver wedding band on his left ring finger.

Go Big or Go Home

Michael Corleone lives large. He has a Lake Tahoe home (or compound) on the water with a team of bodyguards armed better than some small militaries. He has dozens of silk suits. A Communion party for his 7-year-old son includes a full band, massive dinners, and free-flowing champagne. He has crowds of people, including his own sister, that wait in line all day just to talk with him. He approves of multimillion dollar deals and talks back to senators who can’t give him what he wants.

Trust me, if I knew how to live like this, I’d keep it to myself.

Smiling would be too much to ask for, however. Happy Communion.

What to Imbibe

“Cent’anni!”

It may be a celebration and your family may be serving champagne, but you’re all business today. The only thing entering your system to do any damage are the countless packs of unfiltered Camels.

Hey, wait a minute, complains Frankie Pentangeli… aren’t you “up in the Sierra Mountains drinkin’ champagne… champagne cocktails…”?

Whether he is or isn’t, let’s have a look at this celebration-worthy cocktail.

Champagne Cocktail

Do you have a champagne flute? Good. Put a sugar cube in the bottom and add 2 or 3 dashes of Angostura bitters to dissolve it. Next, add an ounce of brandy (Michael has Courvoisier in a later scene) and top the glass off with champagne. Garnish with an orange slice and a maraschino cherry.

It’s certainly not the most masculine drink, but it’s tasty and Captain Renault drinks one with Victor Lazlo in Casablanca, so we’ll give it a pass.

Yeah, he REALLY looks like someone that would drink a champagne cocktail.

How to Get the Look

Holy shit, Pacino is smiling! No wonder they took a picture!

Basically, the only thing you don’t have yet is the suit. To be fair, specked dupioni silk suits aren’t right for everyone. I’m sure in anyone’s hands but the capable ones of Ms. Van Runkle, it wouldn’t have worked for Al Pacino either. But give it a shot:

  • Gray lightweight dupioni silk suit, consisting of:
    • Single-breasted 3-roll-2-button suit jacket with notch lapels, welted breast pocket, straight flapped hip pockets, 3-button cuffs, and ventless back
    • Double forward-pleated trousers with belt loops, side pockets, and plain-hemmed bottoms
  • White dress shirt with long point collar, front placket, and buttoned barrel cuffs
  • Thin black silk necktie
  • Black leather belt with a rounded steel single-claw buckle
  • Light gray leather tasseled loafers
  • Black dress socks
  • Steel round-cased wristwatch with a white dial on a black leather strap

Do Yourself a Favor and…

Buy the series. Seriously. These guys are not cool with you downloading illegally.

The Quote

We’re both part of the same hypocrisy, senator, but never think it applies to my family.

Footnotes

Although very reminiscent of a fleeting mid-1950s fashion and thus appropriate for the film, Fredo’s choice of attire for the party would also be very appropriate for a “What NOT to wear” blog.

Fredo was, by far, the least laid of the Corleone brothers.

8 comments

    • luckystrike721

      Ed,
      I know they exist, but they are more difficult to find these days. Dupioni silk has unfortunately become very popular for women’s dresses, especially for weddings. In my hometown of Pittsburgh, there aren’t too many fashion houses where a sharp suit like this can be picked up, but I know the larger and most fashion-forward cities like New York and L.A. (not to mention Europe) would have tailors and designers willing to put one together.
      The closest I could find online were some silk-wool blend suits offered by Ermenegildo Zegna (http://www.bluefly.com/z-zegna-grey-wool-silk-2-button-suit-with-flat-front-pants/PRODUCT_FEED/321693301/detail.fly). They may be a crunch on the budget, but a suit like this would definitely get a double-take and a compliment or two. You could also see if any vintage clothing/costume houses have any left over. They were very popular in the 1940s through the 1970s, so you could find a variety of styles if anyone has them out there.
      Good luck!
      Nick

      Like

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  3. Orson Welles

    I never thought I’d be defending Godfather III in any way but was it really a sartorial failure? I know it looks very High 80s but that’s how the ultra-stylish dressed in ’79. For the smart set (and the Corleones for the most part were always the WASPs of Gangland), big ties, wide lapels, etc. were already way out. For social climbers 1979 wasn’t the last gasp of Saturday Night Fever, it was a breath of fresh Armani. And anyway, Coppola always erred on the side of making his characters look good and if that was his goal then III was a textile success.

    Like

    • luckystrike721

      I’ll be honest, I hadn’t even considered that! You make a good point and, admittedly, I wasn’t around then to know it. Most of what I see from 1979 looks like it came from the green room of Match Game, but fashion-forward folks like the Corleones would probably look more early ’80s than late ’70s. I’ll have to revisit GF3, and make it bearable for myself by watching with my sartorial eye in focus! Thanks!!

      Like

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