Film & Fashion – Rocketman

Just saw Rocketman, and LOVED the costuming! Most of the stage costumes were unfamiliar to me but when I got home and read up, it turns out that all but a few of the stage costumes were original creations by costume designer Julian Day. Normally, I hate it when designers aren’t faithful to recreating original designs but in this case it works because all of Day’s creations use a period-correct style vocabulary. 

The first costume we see is when Elton brings his demons to rehab – appropriately dressed as a demon with giant red feather wings and massive horns, but with heart shaped glasses, indicating his search for love. As he reminisces about his youth, the film goes back to the mid 1950s where his mother (a far less caring one than depicted in the Christmas piano ad) and an emotionally detached father ruin his childhood. A dance montage of Teddy boys and Mods takes us quickly through the 60s until we arrive in 1969 when Elton meets Bernie Taupin. The movie then slows down and we get to savour lots of yummy, over-the-top 1970s nostalgic/ethnic/space age inspired boutique fashions in the vein of Tommy Roberts and Mr. Freedom. The ‘everyday’ 70s fashions are superb!

The story slides through the late 70s and into the 80s as the drugged out diva plays a piano that spins faster and faster, with each turn revealing another stage costume. The film culminates with John’s rehab and his hit ‘I’m Still Standing’. Although written years before Reggie Dwight had beaten his addictions, the clever splicing of the actor playing Elton John into the 1983 video neatly wraps up the storyline – even if you are left wanting more star-spangled jumpsuits and winged platform shoes.

Although the fur coats are faux, and Day uses rhinestones instead of sequins for better film effect, all of Day’s costumes are brilliant campy creations that never parody the originals, but instead build on Bob Mackie’s work, who designed and made most of the original stage costumes. Mackie is also credited at the end with creating some of the pieces for the movie. 

Designer Julian Day and some of the costumes he created for Rocketman

Costume designer Julian Day came to everyone’s attention in last year’s Bohemian Rhapsody for which he received a Bafta but no Oscar nomination. Surely Rocketman will bring him a well-deserved Oscar nomination this year. I noticed Day’s work a while back in films like: Pride and Prejudice and Zombies, Brighton Rock, and Nowhere Boy. He deserves recognition for his work and maybe this time it will come. 

About Jonathan

Jonathan Walford is a fashion historian and co-founder of the Fashion History Museum in Cambridge, Ontario. The FHM maintains a collection of nearly 12,000 artifacts dating from the mid 17th century to the present. Jonathan has authored various books and museum catalogues, including The Seductive Shoe, Shoes A-Z, Forties Fashion, 1950s American Fashion, and Sixties Fashion.
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