Lifetime's ‘Bonnie & Clyde’ Costume Designer Reveals Secrets to Movie's Killer Fashion

Lifetime's 'Bonnie & Clyde' Costume Designer Reveals Secrets to Movie's Killer Fashion

Marilyn Vance tells TheWrap how she nailed the Lifetime miniseries’ period look

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This story originally appeared in EmmyWrap: Movies/Miniseries.

When costume designer Marilyn Vance watched the 1967 movie “Bonnie and Clyde” starring Faye Dunaway and Warren Beatty, she was in awe of the wardrobe designed by Theadora Van Runkle. So when Vance got the job to design the costumes for Lifetime's “Bonnie & Clyde” miniseries — her first job in TV after something like 60 films — she knew what she had to do. But she would have to do it in a fraction of the time that she would have had for a feature film assignment.

“I was a huge fan of the original ‘Bonnie and Clyde’ movie,” Vance told TheWrap. “I was not designing at the time, but the look was so incredible. It never went away, and it was always in my head. But I needed to re-imagine Bonnie and Clyde. I had to start somewhere else.”

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Vance, whose film work includes the Oscar-nominated costumes for another period gangster movie, ‘The Untouchables,” as well as “Pretty Woman,” “The Breakfast Club” and “Ferris Bueller's Day Off,” started with news clippings. Thankfully, there were several iconic photos of the stylish 1930s bank robbers Bonnie Parker and Clyde Barrow on the run. “Because they're black and white, I had to re-imagine the look, the colors, the feeling of the time,” Vance said. “So I was very fortunate to fall into the costume houses where I found these wonderful knits that had never been used before. They were in jewel tones.”

To dress Bonnie Parker (Holliday Grainger), Vance said, “I put the knit on her, worked like it was magic, and then I made the clothing that was in the clips. There was the crocheted sweater, the white blouse, the black crochet cap, the knit skirt. It's all for action. She was always running and doing … and toting a gun.”

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She stayed away from buttoned-up three-piece suits for Emile Hirsch‘s Clyde Barrow because they were too dressy, and avoided double-breasted cuts because they fly away too much. “I used two-piece suits for Clyde,” she said. “He's able to move, hold guns, run around.” She tried a number of different hats on Hirsch, beginning with the kind she saw in newspaper clippings of the real Clyde. “Emile is a great-looking young guy, but that particular style hat did not look really great on him,” she said. “So we went through some hats until we found the one that worked with him. It is a beautiful fit.”

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The other characters required different looks. For Bonnie's mother Emma Parker, played by Holly Hunter, Vance chose outfits color-coordinated with Bonnie's clothes, “but more mature looking.” For Clyde's sister-in-law Blanche Barrow (played by Sarah Hyland), on the other hand, she went for contrast: “It was great fun dressing her because she was, like, this spoiled poor girl. She always had fantastic looking outfits and hats, and she was more dressed up and more ladylike than Bonnie.”

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And for Frank Hamer, the Texas Ranger called out of retirement to track down the outlaws, she used a progression. “I considered him the angel of death,” she said, “so the subliminal color suggestion that I used was to basically start off very light and wind up very dark through the course of the film. And he wore cowboy boots. He was a rancher, and he was on his horse a good deal of the film as he was tracking Bonnie and Clyde.”