Emmy-nominated costume designer Mitchell Travers didn’t have the luxury of simply recreating the real-life suits and dresses worn by country legends George Jones and Tammy Wynette for Showtime’s limited series George & Tammy. In fact, the status of actor Michael Shannon, who earned an Emmy nomination for his performance as Jones, was an immediate obstacle for the designer.
“Michael Shannon is a brilliant actor, but he’s also six feet tall,” says Travers THR, adding that the real Jones was three inches shorter. “Trying to make costumes for a much smaller man was an important part of the transformation for him.”
Speak with THR at an FYC event George & Tammy, held Monday at the 71 Studio Bar at Hollywood’s Grandmaster Recorders, Travers recalls the sheer amount of period costumes required for the limited series — not just Shannon and his Emmy-nominated co-star Jessica Chastain, who plays Wynette. “For every musical performance[on the show]I dressed the whole band and the whole audience,” says Travers, sharing his experience of Jon M. Chu’s 2021 musical In the Heights — for which he “cosquipped a few hundred dancers every day” — prepared him for the sheer size of the six-episode series. But since Chastain wore nearly 140 costumes on the show and Shannon wore 120 (almost all of the latter’s looks were created by the team due to his height), Travers says the size was nothing he’d experienced in his career thus far.
Four of these costumes were on display at Monday’s event, which is just one of a handful of FYC events taking place in Los Angeles during the Emmy voting window (last voting day is Aug. 28). However, amid the WGA and SAG-AFTRA strikes, that number is much lower than during a normal Emmy campaign season (and yet the 71 Studio Bar was busy, with a line nearly an hour before doors opened, according to a publicist who worked on the Showtime). series, which has also been nominated for an Emmy for its cinematography).
Two looks from the season’s third episode feature as Jones and Wynette headline their first concert in Las Vegas. “That was important for a country artist in the mid-1970s,” says Travers. “Vegas at the time consisted of the Rat Pack and Elvis, so George was trying to find his gateway to such an audience.” Shannon wore a tailored suit inspired by one Travers had studied at the George Jones Museum. “There were no dice; the original has flowers,” he explains of the beaded design on the jacket, topped with Vegas-inspired embellishments – a version that audiences see select Jones in the pre-concert series.
Wynette, on the other hand, is much less timid than her husband, wearing a red sequined number inspired by a black dress worn on an album cover. “Tammy has no problem headlining Vegas,” says Travers. “She knows what the public wants.”
Travers admits he was “very lucky that Jessica can wear vintage clothes beautifully” (he also worked with the Chastain as a costume designer for Tammy Faye’s eyes, which won the actress an Oscar), and also reveals that he had some of Tammy Wynette’s real dresses at his disposal. “It’s so strange — (I’d go to) vintage dealers who said, ‘You’re working on the Tammy (show)? I got one of her dresses,” Travers recalls, adding that access to the star’s clothing provided “a bit of a character study.”
After production wrapped, Travers gave the dresses to Jones and Wynette’s daughter, Georgette – who recently wrote a guest column for THR about watching her parents’ story on screen. “Georgette didn’t have as much of her mother as she did of her father,” says Travers. “I said, ‘These belong to none other than Mrs. Jones herself.’