Michael Corleone’s Gray Dupioni Silk Suit
Al Pacino as Michael Corleone, powerful Mafia boss
Lake Tahoe, Fall 1958
Film: The Godfather Part II
Release Date: December 12, 1974
Director: Francis Ford Coppola
Costume Designer: Theadora Van Runkle
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.)
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 gray dupioni silk suit with the black and white flecks and slubbing consistent with dupioni suiting. Due to the lightweight silk material, the suit wrinkles easily after sustained sitting.
The suit jacket’s notch lapels roll gently over the top of the three-button front, creating a 3/2-roll effect. The ventless jacket has a welted breast pocket, straight flapped hip pockets, and three-button cuffs. The shoulders are straight with roped sleeveheads.
Michael’s double forward-pleated suit trousers have side pockets, no back pockets, and turn-ups (cuffs). He wears a black leather belt with a rounded silver-toned single-prong buckle.
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 tie with no tie bar or pin.
Traditional sartorial logic would dictate black shoes and gray socks to match the belt and trousers, respectively. However, Michael subverts these traditions and dresses with the flash one would expect of a dupioni suit wearer, sporting a pair of light gray leather tassel loafers and black socks.
Michael’s only jewelry and accessories are an elegant yellow gold watch, possibly an 18-karat Omega Constellation, with a white dial and a plain white gold 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 military forces. 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 multi-million 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.
What to Imbibe
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.
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.
How to Get the Look
Basically, the only thing you probably don’t have yet is the suit. To be fair, 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, no back pockets, and turn-ups/cuffs
- White dress shirt with long point collar, front placket, and 1-button squared cuffs
- Black silk skinny tie
- Black leather belt with a rounded silver single-prong buckle
- Light gray leather tassel loafers
- Black dress socks
- Gold round-cased wristwatch with a white dial on a gold bracelet
Do Yourself a Favor and…
Check out the series.
We’re both part of the same hypocrisy, senator, but never think it applies to my family.
Can somebody tell me where can I buy this suit? Please, I will be very thankful.
Where can i buy a suit like this
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.
Nick, Thanks for the reply. Beleive it or not I live in Pittsburgh. Small world.
It’s a copy of this one, used by Elvis Presley in front of 14,000 donors at Russwood Park Stadium, on June 28, 1957, at a Danny Thomas organized benefit gala to raise US$1.2m for St Jude’s, which they did, and he didnt even sing. The suit was a part of the apparel he was using while doing jailhouse Rock for MGM. https://i.pinimg.com/originals/34/7c/95/347c95df75897e61ffa8215c2419d00c.jpg
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.
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!!
Very nice article. The Godfather Part II has very good costume design which serves to highlight the story and important details about the characters. The silk suit Michael Corleone wears at his son’s First Communion party is more than just sartorial genius however. It shows how his character is oppressed by ethnic and racial prejudice when Senator Pat Geary says that he does not like Michael’s kind of people i.e. Italians coming out to this clean country i.e. Lake Tahoe with their “oily hair and silk suits”. Michael Corleone is not a good role model. He has people killed and slaps his wife when she admits to having had an abortion to stop “this Sicilian thing that has been going on for two thousand years”. But that is not to say that Michael Corleone is not also wronged by racial and ethnic prejudice. He functions as a kind of anti-hero like J.R. Ewing in Dallas. He is the man you love to hate. Just don’t think it applies to his family!
Stop talking nonsense, the suit was a copy of one Elvis Presley used, that same year, in 1957, to raise US$1.2m for St Jude’s. He used it in front of 14,000 donors at Russwood Park Stadium, on June 28, 1957, at a Danny Thomas organized benefit gala and it worked. LOL. The suit was a part of the apparel he was using while doing Jailhouse Rock for MGM. whose custom designer beat that of Paramount for a full 15 years. https://i.pinimg.com/originals/34/7c/95/347c95df75897e61ffa8215c2419d00c.jpg