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HBO’s The Deuce (2017, Season 1 is first and only on Showmax) is a costume buff’s dream. The series takes a decidedly un-nostalgic walk on the wild side of 1970s New York. David Simon and George Pelecanos, who were the minds behind brilliant drug drama The Wire (2002-2008), have turned their expertise in crime, money and exploitation to exploring the rise of the pornography industry. The series does nothing to glamorise the lives of the people onscreen, which makes it incredibly watchable even when “nothing” is happening. The early 1970s were a bizarre time in fashion and every character outfit that comes into The Deuce plays with that costume-y sense of style to tell a bigger story. Watch now »
The series’ costume designer Anna Terrazas reveals, “We really got into tiny details. It was just trying to show the reality of New York in that time. It’s a dirty thing, even with the pimps, who always have to look like power.” While the pimps’ outfits in The Deuce seem outlandish to our eyes now, Anna actually tried to downplay the gaudy, cartoonish aspect of what real pimps wore on the street – because they had to be eye-catching, obvious, living billboards for the product they were selling – to play up their nature as predators. “I picture a pimp as being like a panther who goes out at night wearing the best suit can he put together,” she reveals. “Clothes are like armour they wear to show their power, but at the same time, these guys aren’t millionaires.” So Anna took care to restrict the number of outfits worn and to show dirt and wear in the collars and cuffs, or discolouration on the white shoes. Watch now »
The right hook
For the working girls, Anna wanted to strike a cheap and dirty note, highlighting those issues of money and exploitation. “I got to think more about how the girls will pay for the clothes,” she explains. “The working girls don’t earn a lot of money because their pimps take most of it. Basically, these prostitutes have four outfits. I wanted it be like where you can almost smell the clothes when you see them onscreen,” she reveals. Anna even paid attention to the underwear – or lack thereof. “In that time, a lot of the girls did not wear a bra. It didn’t really matter,” she reveals, which is why when “new girl” Lori (Emily Meade) arrives in New York “from the country” in episode 1 she’s wearing a bra under her shirt, which makes her seem more conservative. Watch now »
Did you know?
Costume designer Anna Terrazas drew heavily on the book Gentleman of Leisure: A Year in the Life of a Pimp by Susan T Hall (1972) while designing outfits for The Deuce.
Clothes in The Deuce advertise who you are and what you’re selling – in one way or another. Many of the characters are living double lives. In the case of James Franco playing twin characters Vincent and Frankie, this was literal and the wardrobe had to walk a thin line. There has to be some element of confusion according to the story (since mobsters keep muddling the two) but there had to be some way to tell them apart. Anna’s choice was to do it with shoes, giving Frankie a Cuban-heeled boot, which leads to him walking with a bit more of a swagger than Vincent. And check out working girl Candy (Maggie Gyllenhaal), who keeps it tight and short on the street, with moth-eaten fur coats but covered up, classy and conservative at home with her mother and son. On the street she’s Candy; at home she’s Eileen – two very different people wearing two different kinds of costumes, selling two completely different ideas to the people who want things from her. Watch now »
Additional sources: Uproxx.com, Fashionista.com, TheCut.Com, WheretoWatch.com
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