Costume designer Ellen Mirojnick never expected her "Wall Street" wardrobe for Gordon Gekko, played by Michael Douglas, to cause a stir. But since the film's release, she says, everyone from money men on their way up to affluent prizefight promoters have phoned to ask where they can get "that Wall Street look."
She's not surprised. Mirojnick herself didn't know where to find clothes after she had read the script and decided how she wanted the billionaire corporate-raider character to dress.
"Gekko is seductive, powerful. Elegant, with a tinge of flash. Men in his league--and there are plenty in real life--have individual style. They don't conform in order to be accepted. They're above all that."
The almost palpable richness of Gekko's screen wardrobe--custom-tailored suits, colored shirts with crisp white collars and cuffs, wide suspenders and woven-silk ties--shocks some viewers unaccustomed to the aggressive elegance of made-to-order men's clothes.
Gekko's look is not the outsider's idea of how inside traders dress, and some wonder if it's simply a Hollywood designer's flashy fantasy of power dressing in New York. More sophisticated types assume that Gekko's impeccable, English-style outfits were made to order on Savile Row. Neither supposition is true.
Mirojnick lives and works in New York, did all her research for the film in Manhattan's financial district and studied the wardrobes of dozens of such real-life characters as Ivan Boesky "at his peak," T. Boone Pickens, Carl Icahn, Asher Edelman and Donald Trump.
In a phone interview from Canada, where she's working on Tom Cruise's next film, "Cocktail," Mirojnick said Gekko's wardrobe is a composite of how such super-rich people look--even though no two dress alike because "when you get to that kind of position of power, you create your own style."
Gekko's suspenders, for example, are a bit wider than the ones Mirojnick said she saw in the real Wall Street world. His pinky ring with GG insignia, his gold Cartier cuff links and gold-link bracelet--even his slicked-back hair--are all personal touches that a real-life, up-from-nowhere tycoon would effect.
"Each one of these (super-rich) guys adds personal touches based on what he remembers from his past, touches that (spurn) the uptight world he has surpassed," she said.
What they have in common, however, are suits and shirts of luxurious, imported fabrics "made from scratch" by tailors to the exact measurements of their bodies.
Part of the individuality, she explained, comes from the unusual mix of fabrics and patterns only possible, for example, when a man can select an English plaid for his suit and an equally luxurious French silk striping for the shirt to go with it.
The fabric and color selections are so vast in a good custom clothing shop, she said, that such men never see their outfits duplicated on anyone else. This too adds to the aura of power.
The designer wanted "nothing Italian" for her tycoon, she says, because nowadays "that look is overexposed. It's the prepackaged image of young men with big bucks who haven't yet developed their own style. I knew there was something more true-to-life out there."
Mirojnick thought of Alan Flusser, a respected New York menswear designer with a small custom shop in Manhattan. His clothes have a classic, English orientation combined with American flair. "I walked in and one of the employees was wearing the exact pleated pants I'd dreamed of."
Men who don't spend much time selecting clothes should hear Mirojnick's assessment of the "right stuff" pants. "They have perfect dimensions, with perfectly formed pleats, so they fall gracefully from the waist, glide easily over the hips and beautifully over the leg to the top of the shoe. There are buttons inside the waistband for suspenders--English pants always have buttons inside for suspenders--and little side-tabs at the hip. All these details to make the pants shape and drape exquisitely. It's the look I wanted. A combination of the Duke of Windsor, Cary Grant and Fred Astaire."
Her discourse on Flusser's custom jackets ends with: "You put these on and you stand up straighter. They make you feel secure about who you are. You become powerful, and power is sexy. I think men always want to look sexy. I just don't think most know how to do it."
It is not always a matter of money, Mirojnick added. "A beautiful, off-the-rack European suit often costs $1,500, which is more than many custom-tailored styles."
Flusser, in a phone interview from his New York shop, explained that stock market scandals and Wall Street crash notwithstanding, there are still enough real-life Gekko types on both coasts to create a boom market for custom-tailored clothes.
Flusser recently stopped designing ready-to-wear so he could concentrate on his new custom shop, opened little more than a year ago.
"It grossed about $2 million, about 40% more than we estimated," he said.
He now plans a second shop on (you guessed it) Wall Street and one in Washington.
Flusser's custom suits cost from $995 to $1,375. This includes three fittings, selection from an array of solid and patterned Italian and English fabrics, plus expert adjustments by master tailors to compensate for narrow shoulders, too-padded hips or just plain lack of grace. The suits are made "almost completely by hand," Flusser said.
Gekko's look is simply a more dramatic, larger-than-life version of what Flusser himself wears.
"When I met Michael Douglas, I wore my typical, English-cut double-breasted, navy chalk-stripe suit," he said. It has a draped-front jacket and turn-back cuffs on the sleeves--a little English 'bespokism' that I happened to like.
"I wore a horizontally striped white shirt with white collar and cuffs. It's an extremely eccentric, individual, yet powerful look.
"And when I showed him my 'Tweety Bird' suspenders, I think he was hooked. 'That's the way I want to look,' " he said. (The Tweety Bird suspenders, which also picture Sylvester the Cat, were not in the film, Flusser said, because there are only four pairs in existence. They belong to author Tom Wolfe, artist Richard Merkin, singer Bobby Short and Flusser, who made them from fabric Merkin gave him.)
Flusser said he made all Douglas' suits "in the context of Wall Street," with peaked lapels, pleated pants, shirts with white collars and cuffs. I made the collars a fraction higher than usual for the film, to give him more presence. It's all the typical English power broker's look. It all suggests opulence and quality."
Flusser says he's seen "a more daring, flamboyant trend in executive dressing in the past four years. The clothes in the film are what's happening now.
"We haven't created the look, it's where the market has gone and will continue to go. In the custom end of the trade, people with taste and money are using colors, stripes and patterns in interesting ways, so they don't see themselves coming and going. The whole thing--including such traditional paraphernalia as watch fobs, tie and collar pins, French cuffs and cuff links--is on the upswing. It's just a look that any successful business person who wants to look well-bred might adopt."