Actors on the new ABC series “Pan Am” actually are asked to stop working out. Among the many challenges of dressing an entire cast as though it’s 1963 is how differently bodies are shaped today.
“Every period has different body shapes,” says costume designer Ane Crabtree. “Muscles are firmer now, so I have to ask the women to please lay off working out because bodies were softer, and the clothes laid on the bodies so differently in 1963. Also, the clothing silhouettes are leaner, especially for men. The silhouettes have gotten way more bulky today.”
Another big issue is that almost all the clothes used on the show really are from 1963, and they are especially hard to find for men.
“They’ve been worn, so a lot of them are ratty,” Crabtree says. “A lot of times we have to rebuild the garment from scratch. You fall in love with something, and it’s rotting away from the inside. It’s the body chemistry breaking down the fibers. People took care of their clothes; they were natural fibers built to last, but people really wore them. There was no air conditioning or antiperspirant.”
“Pan Am” also takes place all over the world, and there’s not a lot of advance notice about where it’s headed next.
“I have 500 extras on a given day, and maybe they are in Berlin,” Crabtree says. “We have to dress them all. We’re doing three episodes at a time. Vintage stores are good if you are looking for one piece. But because we need a mass amount of clothes in a short period of time and we are in the whim of the writers, we had to do a major pull of costume houses.”
Crabtree also relies on a wholesale vintage clothing company in upstate New York called Right to the Moon Alice. It’s owned by Alice and Ron Lindholm and caters to fashion and film designers as well as retail store owners.
“I’m trying to spend money in New York because it’s a New York show,” she says. “(Alice) hires locals to help her, and it’s so mom and pop and it’s wonderful. It’s such a nice change for me. I love vintage in New York, but it has gotten a little too pricey for my taste.”
Viewers who want to dress like the characters in the show can find clothes from that era on eBay by designers such as Pierre Cardin, Oleg Cassini, Balenciaga and Don Loper. But buyers should be aware that the sizing on the label does not correspond to today’s sizes.
“I worked in the fashion industry before, and our fit models have changed,” Crabtree says. “Our dress forms have gone larger in America for sure. We’ll have an actress who is a 00 up to a 6, and they might be wearing a size 12 on the label from 1963.”
There also are some current designers whose collections reflect the sleek tailoring and narrow silhouettes of the ’60s.
“I was really inspired by the fall collections,” Crabtree says. “Burberry Prorsum, Jil Sander, right, right now, Pierre Cardin, Yves Saint Laurent: They have a classic, timeless, modern ’60s appeal.”