'Lovelace' Costume Designer Reveals How to Dress Like a Porn Star

Costume designer Wagner based this outfit on what Lovelace wore for a 1973 Esquire cover: “I could never understand why the stylist was channeling Minnie Mouse when she dressed her. I kept the spirit of the original but deepened the neckline and added garters and stockings to sex it up a bit.”
Costume designer Wagner based this outfit on what Lovelace wore for a 1973 Esquire cover: “I could never understand why the stylist was channeling Minnie Mouse when she dressed her. I kept the spirit of the original but deepened the neckline and added garters and stockings to sex it up a bit.”
 Dale Robinette

This story first appeared in the Aug. 16 issue of The Hollywood Reporter magazine.

Considering the subject of Rob Epstein and Jeffrey Friedman's provocative new biopic Lovelace -- the late Linda Lovelace, star of 1972's notorious porn film Deep Throat -- the movie flashes very little skin. The film, based on Lovelace's tragic and revealing 1980 autobiography, Ordeal, features an extensive wardrobe of period re-creations in its depiction of her years as an unwilling prostitute and porn star, her eventual escape from an abusive pimp/husband, Chuck Traynor (played by Peter Sarsgaard), and her later role throughout the '80s as an anti-pornography spokeswoman.

What Lovelace's costume designer, Karyn Wagner, does reveal with early-'70s authenticity is the naivete of the young Bronx-born Linda Boreman (played by Amanda Seyfried), who escaped a controlling mother (Sharon Stone) -- which stands in contrast to her eventual descent into Lovelace, a sex object under the manipulative spell of a hustler husband.

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While the '70s might be recalled as the decade taste forgot, Wagner believes that perception largely has been influenced by Hollywood. "With so many '70s productions, like That '70s Show and the Austin Powers films, the costumes are designed to be funny," she says. "But there was a real '70s style. I took those silhouettes and toned down the colors, so you are still in the period but the shapes are more classic."

For the early years in which Linda is living with her parents, with little money of her own, Wagner presented her wearing clothes borrowed from girlfriends, like the high-waisted leather shorts she dons in a roller-rink scene. Other hallmarks of the decade she included: hippie blouses and dresses, iron-on T-shirts and tight jeans that leave little to the imagination -- for women and men alike. "I remember Peter joking around on the set, asking me, 'Can you see which side I'm dressed on?' and I was like, 'Oh yeah, baby!' "

There were other dressing rules of the '70s to which the designer adhered in the film (which RADiUS-TWC releases Aug. 9). "I remember my jeans had to be a quarter-inch above the ground when I was wearing my tallest platform Kork-Ease [sandals]," recalls Wagner of her own wardrobe. "Kork-Ease are still available, and we bought several new pairs for the movie."

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However, the main aspect of Linda's situation Wagner wanted to convey was her helplessness and air of desperation. "I wanted her to look completely vulnerable and out of control of her own life," she says of Lovelace, who died in a car crash in 2002.

Never is that more palpable than when Seyfried wears a white cotton eyelet dress for a scene at the Playboy mansion (Hugh Hefner is played by James Franco). "She had nothing that could armor her against the world. Traynor shopped for her; he told her what to wear, liked her in lace and never let her wear underwear so she was always on display," explains Wagner. "Linda's vulnerability is what makes her story so accessible to an audience."

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