Remaking the Castro Clone

12.1.2008

By Eddie Shaprio

Levi's 501 jeans. Skin tight. Sanded down at the knees and crotch for that perfectly worn-in look. Third button unbuttoned to create a bit of allure. T-shirt, also skin tight. A Levi's snap-front plaid. That was the uniform of the Castro clone, the gay fashion icon spawned in the '70s that -- with surprisingly minor evolution or alteration -- can still be seen on the streets of San Francisco today.

Danny Glicker, thankfully, is in love with the look. As the costume designer on Milk, Gus Van Sant's biopic of the slain civil rights leader Harvey Milk, Glicker had to outfit hundreds of actors, from leading men Sean Penn, James Franco and Emile Hirsch to an army of extras, all dressed to span a full decade's worth of fashion do's and don'ts.

Period films always present challenges to their costumers, but those based on true stories are that much more complicated. Glicker was saddled with another great expectation while preparing the highly anticipated film: Milk's characters are not only real, they lived during a time many viewers can still recall themselves. And Milk owned a camera shop and lived an incredibly well documented life, which took some of the guesswork out of the equation, but also meant that there would be no excuse with eagle-eyed fans for anything less than absolute authenticity.

Simply recreating the clothes wouldn't have been sufficient -- the bodies on today's actors are more defined and muscled than those of the leaner Milk and his comrades. Instead Glicker had to tailor the clothes to look as if they were hanging off of a '70s frame.

'We created these enormous books of research that specifically address each character within the timeline,' says Glicker, a young, unassuming, bespectacled man with a head of thick black curls whose previous work include Transamerica, Thank You For Smoking and HBO's True Blood. 'It was sort of overwhelming, because after awhile it was hard to edit down the material. I was very interested in recreating outfits exactly as they were, partially because I knew that Gus was going to be incorporating so much archival footage into the movie, and I didn't know exactly where.'

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