All the secrets behind Elvis’ dazzling costumes

In a scene from Elvis, Baz Luhrmannthe fiery remix of the life of the man considered the king of rock ‘n’ roll, Austin Butlerassuming the role of Elvis Presley, is made to perform in a tuxedo with tails. He had, until then, raised eyebrows (and heartbeat) with his onstage gyrations, going against the social mores of the 1950s, so the new look was designed to make him look more respectable.

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Back from the set, Presley tears off his jacket, visibly embarrassed by the inauthenticity of the costume – and, above all, by the difficulty of moving in it. “I can’t sing if I can’t dance,” he says.

Elvis’ costumes were like a second skin

At this point, the film’s audience sees the monumental significance of the clothes for the performer – an idea that the costume and production designer Catherine Martin handled with the utmost care, having worked with the estate of Elvis Presley and researched Graceland holdings, Presleyis in Memphis, Tennessee.

Elvis in front of the stylists

As Martin explains, perhaps the most remarkable element of the Elvis look — the puffy pants, the delicate lace shirts (he owned them in multiple colors), the dandy scarves, the droopy eyeliner — was that he was completely self-invented. “I think one of the things the Graceland archives allowed me to see was a world that formed Elvis,” said Martin. “Her mother and father were both products of the Depression, and her father kept every receipt and every check that ended up in the bank. I’ve seen the kind of financial simplicity he comes from and how amazing his fashion choices are because he’s completely self-created. He lived in a time before stylists and before people helped create the image. It was totally Elvis create the look itself.

Pictures from Warner Bros.