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THE ALAMO

Costumes And Props
Veteran costume designer Daniel Orlandi also tapped into the historians' vast knowledge in his attempts to recreate history right down to the last buttons and threads. Like Corenblith, Orlandi's titanic task consumed almost two years of his life. As director Hancock relates, "The colors make you realize this is not a western. Look at Daniel Orlandi's wardrobe to realize there is something far more intriguing than a western. Stetsons were not yet invented. People wore top hats. This has more in common with Dickens or the Jacksonian era than it does westerns. I referred to this as ‘dirty Dickens.'”

Orlandi's enormous effort (4,000 costumes in total) was global in scope – he fashioned fabrics in England, India (the leather shakos worn by the soldados, from a company that makes uniforms for the British military), Pakistan (where they found "handmade gold embroidery from one of the few places on earth that still does this,” Orlandi notes), Mexico (the Mexican's army boots), and Hollywood (where all these components were brought together to actually manufacture the Mexican wardrobe).

"Outfitting the Mexican army was a big task unto itself, and that was only one portion of the movie,” the veteran costumer adds. "The Mexican army's uniforms were very elaborate, especially the generals. We made virtually everything from scratch. All the gold embroidery was done by hand, as were the sashes and boots. All the generals' uniforms were modeled after Napoleonic uniforms. We probably made a thousand Mexican shakos. We copied the shako plates from one that an archeologist actually excavated in the ruins of the Alamo. Even the buttons, probably 10,000 of them, were molded specifically for us from the original designs.”

Orlandi's full-time staff of 29 craftspeople (artisans whose expertise ranged from tailoring to textiles, from seamstresses to sanders) "aged and dyed and painted the clothes to make them seemed lived in,” he notes. At the costume factory based twelve miles away from the Dripping Springs set at another ranch, these wardrobe artists wielded sanders and sprayers, spending upwards of two hours on a single garment, transforming brand-new fabrics into textured fibers that authentically represented the period.

One particularly satisfying piece of wardrobe was Davy Crockett's vest – based on the vest that actually resides at the Alamo. "We copied its design, every little meticulous bead, all Indian embroidery,” Orlandi says. "We first found photos of this item in books. A company that does Indian beading made this for us... it was beautifully done. And, when Billy Bob put this on, I think it just immediately took him to being David Crockett.”

"Crockett wore buckskin pants only for show,” Orlandi says. "My research indicated that any portraits of Crockett show him in borrowed buckskins. He usually wore a tailcoat, indicating that he was a gentleman. As for the coonskin cap, eyewitness accounts confirm he did wear one at the Alamo. We tried to be as true to the legacy of David Crockett as possible.

"It was an interesting story to tell in relation to the costumes, because there were so many different strata of people,” the costumer continues. "We had Mexican peasants. The Spanish nobility living in Texas. Santa Anna and his elegant generals. Tejanos and Americans alike. The many different defenders at the Alamo that included doctors, farmers, lawyers, storeowners. We tried to give each and every extra a character, just like we did with every actor. All of the defenders at the Alamo have a legacy, their family name lives on, so we didn't take it lightly. We wanted to be true to who they were. Also, our task was to make it seem like they weren't wearing costumes. To make them seem like they were of the time. Real people in real clothes, not costumes.”

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