The costume design details in Elvis the movie
The newly released Elvis the movie is, as you’d expect from a Baz Lurhmann film, a visual spectacular.
A powerful part of the storytelling of the life and career of Elvis, and of American culture more broadly throughout the 1950s, 60 and 70s, is achieved by costume and set design.
Oscar-winning costume designer Catherine Martin was tasked with creating multiple looks across different decades for the film’s main characters and supporting cast. Martin once again collaborated with Miuccia Prada, who had also worked on the 1996 film by Lurhmann and Martin, Romeo and Juliet; and again in 2013 on The Great Gatsby. Together, the pair drew on the archives of Prada and Miu Miu to create the film’s costumes.
With Elvis’s clothing some of the most recognised pieces in popular culture, as well as Priscilla Presley’s iconic style, the pair were keen to find a way to translate those pieces to a modern audience.
In a press release by Prada and Miu Miu, Catherine Martin said that it was important they they didn’t merely imitate Priscilla’s clothes, “…but that we find a modern way of connecting audiences to her distinctive, history-making style. It was wonderful for both Baz and I to collaborate creatively with Miuccia once again. Immersing ourselves in the Prada and Miu Miu archives with superlatively skilled ateliers, we made the journey to translate the Presleys’ historical clothes into the costumes that would be in the film,” said Catherine Martin.
Catherine Martin has said that Austin Butler, the actor playing Elvis, wears 90 different outfits throughout the 159-minute film – many that were embroidered by the original artisans.
To play Priscilla, Olivia DeJonge had 30 different costumes designed for her, all tailor-made by Prada and Miu Miu, including a pair of suede, knee-high boots that were custom-made to fit her calves.
In the June 2022 issue of Vogue Australia, guest edited by Baz Lurhmann in an article titled, ‘Love Me Tender,’ Martin says that an incredible 9,000 costumes were featured in the entire film
In this article in The Sydney Morning Herald by Garry Maddox, it is revealed that for the famous black leather suit worn by Elvis during his 1968 TV Comeback Special, Austin Butler had 30 hours of costume fittings alone for that one suit.
The costume team took into consideration how the leather outfit moved when he lifted his arms, how it fitted over his boots, the flare of the pants, the collar and if the leather was too stiff.
They made four different versions of this suit that worked best on screen for when he was sitting, standing, “doing nothing in particular and yet another for when he was rolling on the ground, so Butler could wear knee pads.”
Watch the official trailer of Elvis here:
(opening image: Austin Butler as Elvis Presley. Credit: Warner Bros)