Emmy-nominated costume designer Mitchell Travers didn’t have the luxury to simply re-create the real suits and gowns worn by country music legends George Jones and Tammy Wynette for Showtime’s limited series George & Tammy. In fact, the stature of actor Michael Shannon, who has earned an Emmy nom for his performance as Jones, was an immediate obstacle for the designer.
“Michael Shannon is a brilliant actor, but he’s also six feet, four inches [tall],” Travers tells THR, adding that the real-life Jones was seven inches shorter. “Trying to create costumes for a much shorter man was a major part of the transformation for him.”
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Speaking with THR at an FYC event for George & Tammy, held Monday at the 71 Studio Bar at Hollywood’s Grandmaster Recorders, Travers recalls the massive volume of period costumes needed for the limited series — not just for Shannon and his Emmy-nominated co-star Jessica Chastain, who plays Wynette. “For every musical performance [in the show], I was dressing the entire band and the entire audience,” says Travers, who says his experience on Jon M. Chu’s 2021 musical In the Heights — for which he costumed “a few hundred dancers every day” — prepared him for the large scope of the six-episode series. But with Chastain wearing nearly 140 costumes throughout the show and Shannon sporting 120 (nearly all of the latter’s looks were created by the team because of his height), Travers says the scale was like nothing he had experienced so far in his career.
Four of those 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 (the final day of voting is Aug. 28). Amid the WGA and SAG-AFTRA strikes, however, that number is much lower than a normal Emmy campaign season (and yet the 71 Studio Bar was crowded, with a line forming nearly an hour before doors opened according to a publicist working on the Showtime series, which is also Emmy-nominated for its cinematography).
Two looks from the third episode of the season are seen when Jones and Wynette headline their first concert in Las Vegas. “That was major for a country artist in the mid-’70s,” says Travers. “Vegas at the time was the Rat Pack and Elvis, so George was trying to find his entry point to an audience like that.” Shannon wore a custom suit inspired by one Travers studied at the George Jones Museum. “It didn’t have dice; the original has florals,” he explains of the beaded design on the jacket, which sports the Vegas-inspired embellishments — one that the audience sees Jones select in the series before their concert.
Wynette, on the other hand, is much less trepidatious 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 audience wants.”
Travers admits he was “very lucky Jessica can wear vintage clothing beautifully” (he also worked with the Chastain as the costume designer for The Eyes of Tammy Faye, which won the actress an Oscar), and also reveals that he had some of Tammy Wynette’s actual dresses at his disposal. “It’s so strange — [I’d go to] vintage dealers who were like, ‘You’re working on the Tammy [show]? I have one of her dresses,” Travers recalls, adding that the access to the star’s actual clothes 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 told onscreen. “Georgette didn’t have as much of her mom’s as she did of her father’s,” says Travers. “I said, ‘These don’t belong to anybody other than Ms. Jones herself.”
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