Elvis: 10 Behind-The-Scenes Facts About The Costumes

Throughout the '50s, '60s, and '70s Elvis Presley was known as a fashion icon, and Baz Luhrmann's Elvis brings The King's signature style to life with the help of long-time collaborator Catherine Martin and her talented team of costume designers. Not only did they have the glamorous task of dressing star Austin Butler in some of Elvis's most recognizable outfits and stage ensembles, but they also had to make sure that his wife Priscilla, his manager Colonel Tom Parker, and all the extras looked period-perfect too.

From hand-stitching intricate jumpsuit details and recreating belt buckles to making sure that Austin Butler could land every single one of Elvis's hip thrusts and wiggles without busting a seam, behind-the-scenes the costume process for Elvis was as over-the-top as The King of Rock 'n' Roll himself.


Austin Butler Had 90 Costumes As Elvis


One of the reasons Elvis is considered the definitive story of the King of Rock 'n' Roll is Austin Butler's electrifying performance, but his impressively large wardrobe also deserves credit. Throughout the lengthy 2-hour and 40-minute run time, Elvis changes outfits constantly.

Speaking to Indie Wire, Martin explained how Elvis blended "elements of the blues, country, gospel, and rock into a personal aesthetic," and to properly capture it Butler had to go through "nearly a hundred costume changes." This was necessary to bring the actor through the ages of Elvis's career, making it a bold and demanding performance.

The Extras In The '68 Comeback Special Were Exact Replicas Of The Real Audience


Among the many things the movie got right about Elvis's life, the effect he had on popular music was one of them, so Luhrmann and Martin knew that they needed to bring his stage performances to life as accurately as possible. One of the largest sections of the movie involves his '68 Comeback Special, where everything about the NBC event was recreated down to every last detail.

Speaking to Pop Sugar, hair and makeup designer Shane Thomas stated that every extra in the scene didn't just wear period accurate costumes and hairdos - they were the costumes and hairdos from crowd shots of the special itself. This achieves more than the feeling of being in a time capsule - it helps modern audiences feel like they're witnessing something for the first time.

Priscilla's Beehive Wig Was An Undertaking

Olivia DeJonge as Priscilla Presley in Elvis

Priscilla Presley was as much a style icon in the '60s as her famous husband, known for her shift dresses, tall boots, and of course, giant brunette beehive. In order to properly create such a bouffant, sculpting needed to be done. In the same Pop Sugar pierce, it was revealed that "[Olivia] DeJonge had to wear two wigs at once to get the needed height," with fine baby hair added around her forehead to make it seem more natural.

By the time Priscilla divorced Elvis in 1973, she had a bouncing blonde blowout, which was recreated using four separate wigs. While it's fun to see Priscilla's beehive, it's also fascinating to watch her hair change with the times, enabling her to be a woman in motion and not a static image.

Austin Butler & Tom Hanks Both Wore Prosthetics

Austin Butler in Elvis

Thomas went on to say that Butler not only had to be fitted with prosthetics and wigs during each decade of Elvis's journey, but he also wore two sets of false eyelashes and makeup. The real Elvis wasn't shy about creating a larger-than-life persona for himself, but it was harder for him to demand privacy.

To play Colonel Tom Parker, Tom Hanks had to spend upwards of five hours in hair and makeup, and Martin and her team had to fashion dowdy outfits over his fatsuit. For a man with his roots in the carnival, he wasn't a particularly flashy dresser, preferring to leave that to his clients and acts.

9,000 Costumes Were Created For Extras

Elvis Presley (Austin Butler) performing at the carnival in Elvis

Luhrmann and Martin have been working on glitz-filled showstopping movies filled with extras for decades now, but Elvis presented an even bigger challenge than The Great Gatsby because of all the concerts and stage performances.

According to Harper's Bazaar, Martin and her team made "more than 9,000 costumes," for the extras working on the movie, taking great care to make sure all of the crowd scenes (which were mostly real people, not CGI) were dressed appropriately. Paying that much attention to something as seemingly trivial as extras in a flyover shot helps add to the dizzying levels of excitement at seeing Elvis perform live.

Some Alterations For The Costumes Were Made For Austin Butler's Movements

Elvis Presley (Austin Butler) dancing in Elvis

Another behind-the-scenes fact about Elvis involves Butler's mellifluous movements, which necessitated a little creative license on the part of Martin and her team. Butler needed to be able to not only move well, but look comfortable and natural doing so, so it was essential that they never looked like a costume and he never looked like an impersonator.

In the same Indie Wire article, the team explained that though changes to the costumes, such as the height of collars, the placement of pockets, or the width of collars were "imperceptible" to all but hardcore fans, they helped Butler move as convincingly as Elvis.

The Costumes Were Made By Designers Like Mui Mui And Prada

As Elvis reveals, when the singer became more popular, Elvis could afford the latest fashions on Beale Street, and by the time he was 21 and purchasing Graceland, he could afford to wear designer items from around the world. It's fitting then, that modern couture houses created some of The King's looks for the big screen.

According to W Magazine, designers like Miu Miu and Prada worked with Luhrmann to recreate Elvis and Priscilla's style, often creating "reimaginations of looks that the pair wore in real life." They incorporated elements from the '60s and '70s with modern styles to help make the outfits look germane to the actors, which helps make the luxurious lifestyle The King wore feel accurate while also somehow feeling trend-setting.

Austin Butler Kept One Costume For Himself

Austin Butler as Elvis

It's not surprising for actors to keep a prop from a film they worked on, and in the case of Elvis, its star chose to keep one of the most important outfits of Elvis's career - the all-black leather suit he wore for the '68 Comeback Special. After ten years turning out 3 formulaic movies a year, Elvis was finally getting back to his rock 'n' roll roots, and selected an ensemble that was dangerous and sexy, something The King hadn't been viewed as in years.

The '68 Comeback Special suit had a few adjustments made for Butler (such as a raised Napoleonic collar and a longer inseam), so it's not surprising that he might feel connected to the piece. It's also one of the most recognizable outfit of The King's career, and represents his vitality as an entertainer.

They Replicated Every Stitch From Elvis's Personal Tailors

Austin Butler As Elvis Blue Jumpsuit Cape Pose

By the '70s Elvis was known for the flamboyant jumpsuits he wore onstage at his shows in Las Vegas. In order to recreate the dozens that he debuted over the years, Martin and her designers turned to the patterns of his real tailor. The Indie Wire article goes into detail about "replicating the look of the original [jumpsuits], including the complex chain-stitch embroidery all done by Gene Doucette, who personally embroidered Presley’s own jumpsuits."

Costumes can do a lot to help transform an actor into their character, from the way they move to the way they conduct themselves with other actors around them, so knowing so many of the Elvis costumes were made with such attention to detail only heightens the feeling of realism.

NEXT: Baz Luhrmann's 7 Best Movies, According to Ranker


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About The Author Kayleena Pierce-Bohen (1409 Articles Published)

Kayleena has been raised on Star Wars and Indiana Jones from the crib. A film buff, she has a Western collection of 250+ titles and counting that she's particularly proud of. When she isn't writing for ScreenRant, CBR, or The Gamer, she's working on her fiction novel, lifting weights, going to synthwave concerts, or cosplaying. With degrees in anthropology and archaeology, she plans to continue pretending to be Lara Croft as long as she can.

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