One of the nominees for Best Costume Design for the Academy Awards, True Grit's Mary Zophres chats about the wardrobe for the film...
"I became totally obsessed with the period," she says. "I'd get all my costume housework done during the day and at night, I'd plunk myself down on the floor with 100 swatch books in front of me and figure out what to use on all these different characters. It was fun to put myself in that time and place, before showers, before washing machines, when people had maybe four pieces of clothing and wore them over and over again."
Distrusting old photographs because subjects often posed in clothes provided by portrait studios, Zophres instead pored through 19th century diaries, studied 120-year-old chaps warehoused at the Autry National Center and perused old Montgomery Ward catalogs.
"Back then, men's clothes came in gray, brown and black, period," she says.
Period-correct Western wear meant the actors had to deal with itchy wool coats and coarse cotton undergarments.
"Nothing about the clothing was comfortable," Zophres says. "At the fittings, actors would ask me, 'Can we make these pants a little looser?' and I was like, 'No.' We cut them like pants were cut in the old days, which is really high-waisted. Every button in 'True Grit' was selected with great care."