Elvis and Priscilla Presley are such well-documented figures and it can be a challenge to recreate their unique style while not making it too much of a caricature. How did you first approach your costume design and how important was authenticity to the process?
Well, I think a big thing is that Sofia and I often talk about ‘wig’ movies. Sometimes when you see prosthetics in films, they actually make somebody look like a caricature as opposed to [the real-life character]. You lose the essence of the person, and then it feels more like a Saturday Night Live skit or something.
I just wanted to really make sure that Elvis seemed more intimate and less like the flashy version of Elvis that you’re used to seeing, and a big part [of that] was hair and makeup too.
I think [hair designer] Cliona Furey and I talked a lot about the hair, and [makeup designer] Jo-Ann MacNeil about where the timelines would shift, but I think another thing that Cliona brought to it was that she kind of knew that [Priscilla’s] hair shouldn’t be really black, and it should actually be a very dark brown and she lowered the height of the beehive.
I’m not sure how tall they were, but if [the hair] was 12 inches, she was like, ‘Cailee [Spaeny] is petite, let’s make ours 10 inches', so I think that also helped in making them seem human.
Once Priscilla arrives at Graceland, her style evolves from soft silhouettes and pastels to bold colours and pieces that physically occupy more space. How did you represent the nuance of their relationship dynamic and how did it evolve through their style?
There’s a photo of the two of them in the 70s, and he’s wearing a shiny blue suit and he has big, big, sideburns and jewellery and a staff, and she’s in a lavender top with long natural hair and bronzed makeup.
I think when you see the photo of them at their wedding, they feel very much in tune with one another, and then you see that photo of them and you can tell that they’ve come apart. I think that, to me, was just a really important marker of how their stories came apart and their lives followed different paths.
With the colours, Sofia had said to me at some point, "I want it to feel sad in Germany and that the sun comes out in Memphis," and that meant something to me. I presented her with the colour palette that I built around colours that I saw in magazines from those eras and colours that I saw them actually wear.
After Priscilla settles into her new life in Memphis, Elvis begins to heavily dictate how she expresses herself through fashion. How did you represent Priscilla's reclaiming of her agency through style?
I made a lot of visual timelines, like one with the lingerie, to have her be in cotton. Then, the silhouette changed, so it went from a cotton nightgown to a baby doll chiffon and then to more of a pinot noir.
I do feel like that was to help to give her sophistication and move from a child to a more sophisticated person. Similarly with her silhouette starting kind of puffy and then reducing in size, I think that too helped.
I think also, it was really important to me that when she was coming into her own, it wasn’t a reaction to what he did not like and that it was really about what she liked.
Priscilla Presley herself is the Executive Producer of the film. How much were you able to draw from her? Were there any certain pieces or styles that she remembered from that time?
There weren’t any labels that she spoke about ever having worn, but I was able to draw a little bit from her.
The locket necklace [worn by Cailee Spaeny], she really did have one like that, and she wore it in the late 50s. [I included it] primarily because I do feel like it relates to us today, so I thought it was a nice way to bring it back to now.
She did tell us at some point that Elvis never came downstairs not fully dressed and that both of them never came downstairs not fully dressed. He would wear a black shirt when he was in between concerts or between shows in Vegas.
PRISCILLA IS IN CINEMAS JANUARY 18, 2024.