The images are indelible: Molly Ringwald’s satiny, shoulder-baring prom dress from Pretty In Pink. Robert De Niro‘s Prohibition-era three-piece suits from The Untouchables. Julia Roberts’ skimpy abs-exposing hooker dress from Pretty Woman. Marilyn Vance, the lauded costume designer behind all of the above, knows only too well that it’s rare when a film’s sartorial choices become as classic as the movie itself. So why would she take on a remake of 1967’s now iconic Bonnie and Clyde—renowned for creating a fashion craze among women who wanted to look as hot as Faye Dunaway—for her first foray into the suddenly hot miniseries genre?
“I know, what was I thinking?” she says, laughing. “Theodora van Runkle [the original movie’s costumer] was an an incredible designer—I loved her work and that movie was very influential in what I would do later in my career, but I had to re-imagine our version as closer to the real thing. Otherwise, why do it?”
“The real Bonnie Parker was a small town waitress who was into glamour—she actually sent photos of herself to Hollywood hoping to be discovered but was rejected,” says Vance, “so I thought she would have been looking at Vogue around that time, March to July of 1931. There was one particular photo of a knit suit with a blouse and scarf that, for me, was Bonnie. Holliday, who’s so beautiful and stylish anyway, took it into the trailer and came out vogueing Vogue!”For the highly-anticipated Bonnie & Clyde, airing December 8 and 9 simultaneously on A&E, The History Channel and Lifetime, and starring Emile Hirsch (Call of the Wild) and British newcomer Holliday Grainger (The Borgias) as the Romeo and Juliet of American crime, Vance not only poured over real-life photos, newsreels and newspaper clippings, but found inspiration in some vintage fashion magazines.
The close-fitting, jewel-toned knits the actress sports throughout the series are historically accurate, as are the low-heeled shoes (some vintage, other made by Capezio) and large knitting bag that Bonnie carried. As Vance explains, “They were used by older ladies to for their knitting supplies, but she kept her gun in it.”
For Hirsch, who arrived at the first fitting in sweat pants and sneakers, getting into the charismatic Clyde Barrow’s threads took a tad longer. “I showed him old photos of the look we were going for and he was very awkward at first,” recalls Vance. “But then when he actually put on the whole deal—the big suit, the tie, the hat—he looked in the mirror, turned to me with a big smile and said, ‘I got it: gangsta!'”
Several of the clothing items were found at Western Costume, the venerable San Fernando supply house that’s been dressing movie stars for 100 years, and Vance filled out the rest with custom-made suits (for him), crocheted sweaters (for her) and hats (for both).
As for whether the new Bonnie & Clyde could spur a fashion trend like the film did 45 years ago, Vance thinks it’s a sure bet. “All the knits that Bonnie wears could be worn today—just pair the skirts with high boots or the tops with jeans—and the berets and cloches always look good,” she says. “Young women today pick up fashion trends so quickly and they’re not adhering to one particular style, they just mix it all up, eras included. So, yeah, I think a lot of it will catch on and why not? It’s flattering.”
Bonnie & Clyde premieres December 8 and 9; click here for showtime info.