Saturday Night Fever, Tony Manero's 3-Piece White Disco Suit

made from scratch movie prop

For what is certainly the best remembered costume in SATURDAY NIGHT FEVER, John Travolta as Tony Manero wears a brilliant white 3-piece suit to dazzle on the disco dance floor. His look defined an era: smart, yet somehow scruffy; classy yet somehow cheap. To keep costs down the film’s director John Badham insisted that costume designer Patrizia von Brandenstein procure all outfits off the rack and not make them from scratch. This added to the realism of the film, as Tony could never have afforded tailor-made clothing, let alone custom-made suits. Interestingly, despite the pristine first appearance of Tony’s suit, it never really looks clean. Just like the disco scene itself, his costume is sullied from the sweaty self-indulgence of its environment. Travolta’s costume is a deliberately awkward fit from the start. As tragic events of the finale unfold his suit becomes ever grubbier; deconstructing further and further until the haunting image of Tony slumped in the subway train smoking becomes just as iconic as the image of him gyrating on the dance floor. Visually the suit works better this way, more representative of the anti-hero (which Tony most definitely is). Compare this to “flawless” Tony swaggering through Bay Ridge in the opening titles. In order to really make something out of himself Tony had to hit a wall. Only then, with his facade completely destroyed, could he begin anew. John Travolta is a mesmerizing presence in SATURDAY NIGHT FEVER. Unfairly dismissed at the time for playing a caricature, his performance has since been regarded as one of cinema’s greatest debuts. The iconic white suit was a star from the outset however. It adorned publicity materials, kick-started a fashion trend, and just three years later in the hit comedy AIRPLANE! had already become a parody of itself. Though maybe in movie language it is this and not imitation that constitutes the sincerest form of flattery.  

 

 

prop: collector:
category: made from scratch
type: movie props
celebrity: John Travolta (34)
original (26)  |  replica (8)
movie: Saturday Night Fever (1977)
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