With “11.22.63,” the time-traveling, Stephen King-adapted thriller about trying to prevent the JFK assassination, costume designer Roland Sanchez got to both recreate and reinterpret history. It was a perfect fit for exploring the futility of good intentions and the unintended consequences of revisionism.
“It’s about the late ’50s transitioning into the ’60s and evolving into a looser fashion,” explained Sanchez. “Being in Dallas (the home of Neiman Marcus) for the finale afforded us the opportunity to go into more ’60s silhouettes and push the fashion further with more saturated primary colors because tonally, up to that point, it was more muted pistachio, grayed off colors from the late ’50s. It was a beautiful, pleasing-to-the-eye color and shape.
“In Dallas, we have reds and orange that are more assaulting and not as pleasing to the eye. If you think about clothing and fashion and pattern and color today, it’s a visual assault.”
This mirrors the journey of Jake (James Franco), the apathetic English teacher who starts again in 1960 after going through the bizarre time portal to alter history. “His character gets a new purpose in the 1960s,” Sanchez continued. “It was nice to see Al [Chris Cooper] tell him that men wore suits and hats back then. He’s going into Lisbon, Maine, in 1960, and I made it mid-to-late 1950s because they’re not up on fashion. It was nice to see James in those boxier suits and Howick trousers, which was a little bit awkward for him at first. But he really embraced the clothing of the time as an actor.
“Later on during the series, he liked a beaver felt hat that we made in Los Angeles. As we progressed into 1963, his suits get slimmer to go along with the period. And the fabrics change. His costume becomes more casual and more familiar as his relationship with Sadie develops.”
Sadie (Sarah Gadon), Jake’s love interest, experiences a transformation as well, going from pent-up librarian and abused wife to liberated lady. “She starts out in a buttoned up teal blue suit, which is my favorite thing that we designed and built for her. And it’s sort of an armor because of that relationship she has with her husband [T.R. Knight] that she doesn’t want anyone to know about. She doesn’t know how to process it herself, I think.
“As her relationship develops with Jake, her clothes become more casual and easy breezy. We see her in some day dresses. In fact, that’s what she wears when she’s attacked by her husband, who slices her face. I like that she’s feeling good about herself when her past comes back to get her.”
For the finale, Sanchez pays homage to “North by Northwest,” with Jake sporting a silvery blue gray suit and Sadie wearing a rust-colored suit. And although Sadie evokes Eva Marie Saint here, throughout most of the series she’s reminiscent of another Hitchcock icy blond, Tippi Hedren.
Meanwhile, Sanchez had fun diving into iconic historic characters: “Did the Babushka Lady at Dealey Plaza have something to do with it? Was the man with the black umbrella lifting it as a signal? I poured over photographs and screen grabs: JFK’s blue micro-pattern tie from Christian Dior, Jackie’s pink suit. Zapruder with black suit and black coat and dark brown beaver felt hat.”
But the costume designer’s favorites were the Oswalds: Lee Harvey (Daniel Webber), Marguerite (Cherry Jones) and Marina (Lucy Fry). With plenty of photographic reference, Sanchez recreated costumes based on those images, including Marguerite with her cat eye glasses and dour wardrobe and Marina with her tight pants and sweaters. “For me, in recreating the iconic shirt that Lee Harvey Oswald was arrested in [dark blue, gray-black and orange-yellow] was great, but Marguerite Oswald was a real transition and a real joy to design,” Sanchez offered.
“We owe it to history to be that detail-oriented.”