Category: Two-Piece Suit

Elvis Presley’s White Suit in the ’68 Comeback Special: Reel vs. Real

Elvis Presley’s iconic “If I Can Dream” performance in his 1968 comeback special (left) was recreated on screen by Austin Butler in the 2022 biopic Elvis (right).


Austin Butler as Elvis Presley, rock star on the eve of a comeback

Burbank, California, June 1968

Film: Elvis
Release Date: June 23, 2022
Director: Baz Luhrmann
Costume Designer: Catherine Martin
Tailor: Gloria Bava
Original Concept: Bill Belew


Fifty-five years ago tonight, the King signaled his return to glory in the music world when NBC aired Singer Presents… Elvis, now also known as the ’68 Comeback Special.

Despite his start in music, Elvis Presley’s career through much of the ’60s was anchored in movies. There were a few winners among the mix, but the singer’s famously shrewd manager Colonel Tom Parker engineered them closer to formulaic, low-budget comedies that would yield higher profits—particularly when they could be linked to a soundtrack album, an opportunity less possible or profitable with the more dramatic (and often higher-quality) roles that Elvis preferred.

By late 1967, Elvis had grown disenchanted with the programmatic films like Clambake, Double Trouble, and Stay Away, Joe that had led him far from the recording and touring that cemented his colossal popularity in the ’50s. At the same time, Colonel Tom approached NBC with a million-dollar deal to feature Elvis in what would be a holiday special, designed to conclude with the King of Rock and Roll crooning Christmas carols.

Luckily for Elvis, producer Bob Finkel convinced his cohorts and presenting sponsor Singer Corporation to green-light a different concept that focused exclusively on Elvis—intended to connect him with younger audiences and refresh the cultural mindset of Elvis as a groundbreaking rock star and not the tired star of corny comedies. Despite expected resistance from Colonel Tom, Elvis was fully on board with Finkel and director Steve Binder’s renewed vision for the special, which was rehearsed, recorded, and produced through June 1968.

It was during this tumultuous month that Bobby Kennedy was shot and killed in Los Angeles, just two months after Martin Luther King, Jr. was murdered in Memphis. The King assassination particularly troubled Elvis, who “definitely wanted to say something more with his music than a song like ‘Hound Dog’ could express,” as Peter Guralnick wrote in Careless Love: The Unmaking of Elvis Presley. “Binder wanted a musical statement based on [Elvis’] conversations about the assassinations and the discord gripping the country,” wrote Donald Liebenson for Vanity Fair on the 50th anniversary of the special. Binder charged songwriter Walter Earl Brown Jr. to craft “the greatest song you’ve ever written,” which Brown did—overnight.

The next day, Brown played “If I Can Dream” for the core members of the production. After Elvis asked Brown to play it at least six times, he simply stated “We’re doing it,” and the special’s finale was determined. Of course, Finkel knew that “the Colonel will blow his stack. It’s got to be a Christmas song,” and even after Colonel Tom’s initial protest that it “ain’t Elvis’ kind of song,” taste prevailed and “If I Can Dream” became the closing number of Singer Presents… Elvis. Continue reading

The Wicker Man: Christopher Lee’s Tweed Suit

Christopher Lee as Lord Summerisle in The Wicker Man (1973)


Christopher Lee as Lord Summerisle, charismatic pagan cult leader

The Hebrides, Scotland, Spring 1973

Film: The Wicker Man
Release Date: December 6, 1973
Director: Robin Hardy
Costume Designer: Sue Yelland

WARNING! Spoilers ahead!


Happy Halloween! This year marks the 50th anniversary of The Wicker Man, Robin Hardy’s Scottish-set drama that helped define the folk horror subgenre.

After more than a decade portraying the debonair yet dangerous Count Dracula in a half-dozen Hammer films, Christopher Lee met with screenwriter Anthony Shaffer in 1971 to discuss collaborating on a more unique type of horror. Shaffer’s subsequent conversations with director Robin Hardy centered their focus on old religion, like the practices depicted in David Pinner’s 1967 novel Ritual, which Shaffer set out to adapting into what would become The Wicker Man.

The Wicker Man follows the devout and unimaginative police sergeant Neil Howie (Edward Woodward) to the remote island of Summerisle in the Hebrides, facing polite but firm resistance as he investigates a young girl’s disappearance leading up to the island’s annual May Day celebrations. Howie’s investigations direct him to the island’s much-discussed leader, the mannered Lord Summerisle who describes himself to Howie as “a heathen, conceivably, but not—I hope—an unenlightened one.” Continue reading

Bell, Book and Candle: James Stewart’s Stone Suit

James Stewart in Bell, Book and Candle (1958)


James Stewart as Shepherd “Shep” Henderson, bewitched publisher

New York City, Spring 1958

Film: Bell, Book and Candle
Release Date: November 11, 1958
Director: Richard Quine
Wardrobe Credit: Ed Ware


Not every Halloween-season movie has to be scary! In time for October 29 being National Cat Day, dig your claws into Bell, Book and Candle, Richard Quine’s lighthearted supernatural romance that reunited Jimmy Stewart and Kim Novak just months after their iconic screen pairing in Alfred Hitchcock’s thriller Vertigo.

I’ll admit that Bell, Book and Candle may not be my favorite from Stewart, Novak, Quine, or screenwriter Daniel Taradash, but this bewitching comedy still offers plenty of atmospheric fun and camp between the two stars… and Novak’s magical Siamese cat Pyewacket. Continue reading

Never Say Never Again: Bond’s Cream Tropical Suit

Sean Connery as James Bond in Never Say Never Again (1983)


Sean Connery as James Bond, sophisticated secret agent

Nassau, Bahamas, Spring 1983

Film: Never Say Never Again
Release Date: October 7, 1983
Director: Irvin Kershner
Costume Designer: Charles Knode
Tailor: Douglas Hayward


The “Battle of the Bonds” commenced 40 years ago today when Never Say Never Again premiered on the 00-7th of October 1983. Produced by Jack Schwartzman’s Taliafilm, the movie was essentially a reimagining of Thunderball (1965), in which a weathered but game Sean Connery reprised his iconic role of James Bond… but without the official oversight of Eon Productions.

As I’ll be jetting off to a tropical environment this weekend, it feels appropriate to look at one of Bond’s sartorial highlights from this “unofficial” adventure, worn as Connery’s 007 makes some initial contacts upon landing in the Bahamas for his mission to investigate a missing nuclear warhead. (His lodgings are the historic British Colonial Hotel, which had to close during the COVID-19 pandemic but has been extensively renovated and is planned to reopen by the end of the year!) Continue reading

Hawaii Five-O, Episode 1: Jack Lord’s Slate Suit

Jack Lord as Steve McGarrett on Hawaii Five-O (Episode 1.01: “Cocoon”)


Jack Lord and Steve McGarrett, Hawaii state police “Five-O” task force commander

Honolulu, Fall 1967

Series: Hawaii Five-O
Episode: “Cocoon” (Episode 1.01)
Air Date: September 20, 1968
Director: Paul Wendkos
Creator: Leonard Freeman
Costume Designer: Richard Egan

WARNING! Spoilers ahead!


Book ’em, Danno! Today is the 55th anniversary of when the original Hawaii Five-O series premiered with the TV movie “Cocoon” on Friday, September 20, 1968. Conceptualized by creator Leonard Freeman, Hawaii Five-O set new records for TV longevity by lasting twelve seasons, all of which were almost entirely set and filmed in the Hawaiian islands.

The series centers around the Five-O Task Force, a fictional state police agency commanded by Detective Captain Steve McGarrett, who reports directly to the governor. Despite the pivotal role, McGarrett wasn’t cast until less than a week before filming began when Freeman called on Jack Lord. Continue reading

Warren Beatty’s White Suit in Reds

Warren Beatty as Jack Reed in Reds (1981)


Warren Beatty as John Silas “Jack” Reed, radical journalist and activist

Provincetown, Massachusetts, Summer 1916

Film: Reds
Release Date: December 4, 1981
Director: Warren Beatty
Costume Designer: Shirley Ann Russell


Whether it’s because Labor Day is considered by some sartorial purists to be the last acceptable day for wearing summer whites or because the holiday originated to recognize the American labor movement, it feels appropriate for today’s post to explore Warren Beatty’s off-white summer suit as labor activist Jack Reed in his 1981 historical epic Reds.

Reds won three of the 12 Academy Awards for which it was nominated, including Beatty for Best Director, Maureen Stapleton for Best Supporting Actress, and Vittorio Storaro for Best Cinematography, though it had also been nominated for Best Picture and—of significant interest for this blog’s focus—Best Costume Design. Continue reading

The Day of the Jackal: Edward Fox’s Tan Herringbone Suit

Edward Fox in The Day of the Jackal (1973)


Edward Fox as “The Jackal”, mysterious professional assassin

Europe, Summer 1963

Film: The Day of the Jackal
Release Date: May 16, 1973
Director: Fred Zinnemann
Costume Design: Joan Bridge, Rosine Delamare, and Elizabeth Haffenden


The Day of the Jackal culminated 60 years ago today on August 25, 1963 in Paris, commemorating the liberation of Paris from Nazi Germany during World War II. Frederick Forsyth’s excellent 1971 novel The Day of the Jackal was hardly two years old before it was adapted for the screen by screenwriter Kenneth Ross and director Fred Zinnemann, who reportedly wanted to make the film after reading Forsyth’s yet-unpublished manuscript all in one night.

Zinnemann didn’t want a recognizable major star to distract from the intrigue on screen, and—despite Universal Studios pushing for Jack Nicholson—cast Edward Fox as the eponymous “Jackal”, whose codename is determined in the book after he was “speaking of hunting” with his handlers. In addition to the film benefiting from faithfully following Forysth’s narrative and structure, a highlight is Fox’s performance as the enigmatic and oft-elegantly dressed assassin, whose demeanor can shift from affable to icily dangerous as needed. Continue reading

Al Pacino in Dog Day Afternoon

Al Pacino in Dog Day Afternoon (1975)


Al Pacino as Sonny Wortzik, desperate Army veteran-turned-bank robber

Brooklyn, Summer 1972

Film: Dog Day Afternoon
Release Date: September 21, 1975
Director: Sidney Lumet
Costume Designer: Anna Hill Johnstone

WARNING! Spoilers ahead!


51 years ago yesterday on August 22, 1972, Brooklyn was abuzz with activity as John “Sonny” Wojtowicz and Salvatore “Sal” Naturile attempted to rob a Gravesend branch of the Chase Manhattan Bank. Having expected up to $200,000 to be delivered that morning, the two hapless heisters had their information wrong—the money had actually been removed from the branch that morning.

After their accomplice Robert “Bobby” Westenberg successfully got away, Sonny and Sal remained inside the bank with a fraction of the money they expected to steal and a handful of bank employees that they took hostage once they learned that the police had surrounded the bank… and what started as a dog day afternoon descended into 14 hours of chaos. Continue reading

Guy Pearce in Memento

Guy Pearce as Leonard Shelby in Memento (2000)


Guy Pearce as Leonard Shelby, vengeful insurance investigator with anterograde amnesia

Los Angeles, Summer 1999

Film: Memento
Release Date: September 5, 2000
Director: Christopher Nolan
Costume Designer: Cindy Evans

WARNING! Spoilers ahead!


I have no short-term memory. I know who I am, I know all about myself, I just—since my injury, I can’t make new memories. Everything fades. If we talk for too long, I’ll forget how we started. The next time I see you, I’m not gonna remember this conversation.

Memento stars Guy Pearce as Leonard Shelby, a former insurance claims investigator out for revenge after an attack on his wife that left him with a rare form of short-term memory loss. Appropriate for today (July 17th) being National Tattoo Day, Leonard covers his body with tattoos to help him instantly recall his understanding of the facts of what happened and who he must target for revenge. Continue reading

Austin Butler as Elvis: Black Suit for a 4th of July Concert

Austin Butler as Elvis Presley in Elvis (2022)


Austin Butler as Elvis Presley, country rock guitarist and singer

Memphis, Tennessee, July 4, 1956

Film: Elvis
Release Date: June 23, 2022
Director: Baz Luhrmann
Costume Designer: Catherine Martin
Tailor: Gloria Bava


It doesn’t get much more American than Elvis.

Austin Butler went all out in his performance as the King of Rock and Roll in Baz Lurhmann’s characteristically flamboyant biopic, released last summer. Butler’s performance received particular praise—including endorsements from the Presley family—and Elvis would be nominated for eight Academy Awards, including Best Picture, Best Actor, and Best Costume Design.

Elvis follows Presley’s brief life from boyhood through the various levels of stardom, particularly through the lens of his complicated relationship with his domineering manager, Colonel Tom Parker (Tom Hanks). In the early years of his fame, Presley’s hip-swinging celebration of Black music is shown to so enrage the bigoted establishment that he’s being threatened with legal trouble.

The film presents his July 4, 1956 concert in Memphis as an opportunity for Presley to maintain the cleaned-up “New Elvis” image he had introduced three days early while performing “Hound Dog” on The Steve Allen Show three days earlier, stuffed into a white tie and tails as he crooned to an actual basset hound. Instead, having rediscovered the meaning behind his music among the blues joints on Beale Street, Elvis delivers a sweltering performance of “Trouble”—and lands himself right in it, arrested by the Memphis vice squad when he soundly disobeys being told to not “so much as wiggle a finger.” To avoid prosecution, Colonel Tom devises a plan for Elvis to swap out his blue suede shoes for spit-shined service derbies: “It’s either the Army or jail.”

Except that isn’t quite what really happened. Continue reading