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TV’s obsession with early-’60s style shows no sign of stopping. This fall, new series Pan Am and The Playboy Club are showcasing two iconic looks long identified (for better or worse) with the era: the stewardess and the Bunny.
For both, authenticity was paramount in re-creating Pan Am’s blue uniforms and the Playboy Club’s cotton-tail suits. In the case of Playboy Club, costume designer Isis Mussenden (The Chronicles of Narnia series) was unable to find even one original uniform. “We started scouring photos,” says Mussenden, who consulted with Hugh Hefner on the outfits for the NBC drama series, set in Chicago in 1960.
To create costumes to withstand 12-hour filming days, she chose a lustrous cotton-backed satin in a rainbow of colors, from red and hot pink to cobalt. Each suit — two for each of the five leads — took 10 hours to construct. The total cost per uniform? $3,000 including built-in bra, French cuff, Playboy cuff links, bow tie, satin ears and dyed-to-match 3-inch heels. Mussenden created 50 additional, less-expensive suits for extras.
Hefner had comments, including one that the suits weren’t cut high enough on the leg. “I sent Mr. Hefner a photo of him with five bunnies and the leg was exactly the height we used,” says Mussenden. “We featured the lower leg cut.”
The makers of ABC’s Pan Am were able to track down the airlines’ original uniforms. Exec producer Nancy Ganis, a former flight attendant for the airline, located a collection of originals in Palo Alto, Calif.
“We copied them exactly,” she says. “The only thing we had to adjust was the color. Because of high definition, the suit looked too blue-gray on camera. Now it’s very close to the original blue.”
Costume designer Ane Crabtree (FX’s Justified) notes the new twill uniforms are a bit more form-fitting through darting. Otherwise, the original specs were retained: below the knee pencil-skirt; 3-inch heels while greeting passengers in the airport (the stewardesses could change into 1 ½-inch heels in the cabin); and pillbox hats complete with a brass Pan Am logo.
While the Playboy Club creators worked closely with Playboy execs from the start, Pan Am’s makers had more of a battle. “The rights to the logo are owned by a New England group, some of whom had been on the Pan Am board,” says Ganis. “They wanted to protect the legacy.”
After three years of negotiations, Ganis went East to win over the board. “I explained it would be about an adventure of young women discovering the world,” she says. “They understood what it meant to me. For a young girl to be able to travel and be so independent, it was just extraordinary.”
GET THE LOOK: To capture the fresh-faced beauty of the Pan Am flight attendants, series makeup head Patricia Regan consulted the airline’s official handbook provided to stewardesses in the 1960s. It required that ladies establish a defined eye “to give the appearance of big round eyes” and a touch of pink or coral on the cheeks and lips, as seen above on series star Margot Robbie [pictured right].
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