Videos: True Grit's Costume Designer Mary Zophres

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."

Quoted from San Francisco Chronicle

4:30 min video

51:00 min video

Photo credits: Mary Ellen Mark / Paramount Pictures.


  1. I loved this flick. I know others have given it lukewarm reactions, but Hailee Steinfeld reminded me of Megan Follows as Anne of Green Gables. I would definitely watch this again, although I never really considered myself a fan of Westerns.

  2. I've only heard good reviews from those who've seen this one! I know what you mean re: Westerns but I do enjoy them once in a while too!

  3. "Back then, men's clothes came in gray, brown and black, period," she says.
    Even with a minimum amount of research you will find that this statement is untrue, men had a wonderful variety of colors available.

    "Distrusting old photographs because subjects often posed in clothes provided by portrait studios"
    I would love to see the source for this statement. Sometimes this may have been the fact, but look at how fitted the majority of garments are, obviously the were made for the wearer.

    "Nothing about the clothing was comfortable," As a Civil War Reenactor I find that this statement is not factual, clothing that is properly tailored is often more comfortable than modern clothing.

  4. K and Crew,
    sorry to hear that Mary has made faulty assumptions! I've still not had the time myself to watch the second video but posted it for others who are interested in period costumes. I love learning more about all aspects of period films so I'm a bit disappointed if she's nominated for an Oscar and hasn't got all the details right unless dramatic effect was more important for them than accuracy?



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