Costume designer John Dunn literally has his work cut out for him when it comes to dressing the characters on HBO’s hit series `Boardwalk Empire.’
It can be challenging to find clothes from almost 100 years ago that are in wearable condition and fit modern body types, so Dunn spends a lot of time locating good vintage fabric that can be used to make copies of items. The Internet makes it possible to shop internationally, and he has various vintage vendors he deals with.
“We use as much real and vintage clothing as we can with a great deal of restoration and reinforcements,” Dunn says. “The women’s evening wear in particular was a lethal combination of chiffon and lots of beading. The chiffon begins to rot away, and the weight of the beads accelerates the disintegration of the clothing.”
He offers a few examples of outfits inspired by story lines on the show:
“Plaid taffeta skirts were hugely popular in the late teens (of the 1900s). We wanted to indicate that Gillian is very feminine and her style was evolving because she is in a better circumstance now. The blouse is a chiffon georgette, and it’s a copy of a blouse we had that was disintegrating and we knew would be beautiful with Gillian’s red hair. The buckle is a vintage piece. And the shoes are from the period.”
“Nucky is a showman, he really is always interested in turning out and looking like the most important person in the room. His wardrobe is very stylish and tailored. This is one of his springtime suits. This is a Scottish woolen that was imported, and we copied an original suit of the period. We don’t put vintage on Nucky or many of the male characters because we don’t want them to look tired or vintage. These characters are very successful, so we want to make sure they look fresh.”
“The green blouse is a cotton that we copied from a Sears and Roebuck catalog. We often use for research the mail order catalogs. They are awesome for research because we can read the descriptions. Angela is wearing vintage jewelry, and the blouse has silk fringe at the hem. She is a bohemian character, and we wanted her to have more of an arty wardrobe. She also is a modern character, too; she’s dressing in softer or looser fashion, and she has her hair bobbed. Short cuts were just coming into fashion in 1921.