If there’s some magical land where glitter twinkles on pavements and no one bats a false eyelash if you’re wearing feathers, sequins, beads and lace all on a satin top, Liberace is smiling down on it.
In HBO’s “Behind the Candelabra,” premiering Sunday, May 26, Liberace (Michael Douglas) and his lover, Scott Thorson (Matt Damon), strut about in a wardrobe that looks as if the real men’s actual closets were raided.
Costume designer Ellen Mirojnick painstakingly crafted replicas of Liberace’s ornate costumes.
“He was certainly flamboyant,” Mirojnick tells Zap2it. “However, in his personal life he had a particular taste. He still had an over-the-top and flamboyant manner; however, what he really wore was not what you imagined.”
In some scenes set in his home, Liberace is wearing a white caftan and gold slippers, picked for comfort because his stage costumes were heavy and restricting.
This costume, with Liberace on the half shell, was the most involved to create. Finding the right base fabric, to give it a shimmery look, took three weeks, Mirojnick says.
“We wanted to emulate a shell in the totality of the costume,” she says. “We had to find a base fabric, and we screened shells on top of it and had to embellish accordingly, and we knew we needed to do the shell collar. It was a very, very famous costume of his, called Neptune.”
This one has pearls, Swarovski crystals and beading to resemble marine plants.
Much of the movie is set in the 1970s, and Thorson, in his fox coat and boots with a heel, is pretty much the poster boy for the disco era. Here he wears colors that were so trendy then, a black Qiana shirt, which Mirojnick made. His high-wasted pants are, “eggplant/mahogany-colored suede and rough-out suede, which had a texture to it,” she says.
The powder-blue suit with silver embroidery was Liberace’s idea of what a chauffeur would wear, especially to drive a Rolls-Royce ferrying his $300,000 white virgin fox coat, lined with $100,000 worth of Austrian crystals, and with a 16-foot cape. Liberace’s costume in this was called the lasagna suit. “He was a great cook and loved to cook,” Mirojnick says. This tomato-red jumpsuit, with layers of beads and embellishments, does look a bit like lasagna.
Yes, that is Qiana because only that material has that drape. “It is kind of a version of pop art electric geometric print,” Mirojnick says. “At that moment in time, he was in a rebellious state.”
The pants have no belt, but a waistband. “In my opinion the silhouette of men’s fashion at that time was quite appealing,” she says. “It was very flattering to a man’s physique. The rise was higher, high armhole, strong shoulder, very much a masculine look. The silhouette with the pants were elongated. They looked virile. I actually really liked it.”