June 5, 2015
The 1960s get remembered as a combustible, colorful, confusing era of rapid social change, marked by the antiwar movement, student unrest and drug experimentation.
Against this backdrop, John McNamara created the NBC crime show “Aquarius,” about a cop who tracks Charles Manson and the Manson family before their gruesome murder spree. Starring David Duchovny as the clean-cut cop Sam Hodiak and Gethin Anthony as Manson, the series, set in 1967, is a time capsule of the era’s fashion and cultural shifts.
“The kids were kind of going crazy with flower power, free love and drugs,” said Costume Designer Amy Stofsky. “And Manson was way more than one toke over the line, sweet Jesus.” Stofsky plunged into research to capture the tumult and quirks of the era and its murderous cult leader.
“We really did Manson authentically based on photos,” said Stofsky. “Thank god for ‘Life’ magazine where the pictures were so prominent,” she said. She also shopped in the San Fernando Valley at stores that were once frequented by the Manson Family.
Though with a title like “Aquarius,” it could be tempting to pour on the bright, mod patterns and layers of fringe, beads and psychedelic colors. “If we’d have gone as bright as the real era, it might have been too much for HD,” she said. Nor would the bright colors have been particularly accurate: the cult members weren’t exactly fastidious.
“Manson actually hated hippies and he liked Western wear.” As Stofsky scoured costume houses, vintage stores and thrift shops, she founds dozens of versions of the slim-fitting cowboy shirts that were popular in the era.
She cloaked Manson in earth tones. “It’s a palette to go with the ranches where they live, in comparison to David’s stark white shirt. It’s all about contrast,” she said. Stofsky gave Manson rust-colored corduroys, but added a period-correct element by tie-dyeing portions of the flared legs.
She used modern fabrics to recreate his cowboy shirts, which an ager-dyer treated to look just the right shade of filthy. She had to make lots and lots of extra shirts–multiples for those gruesome scenes. Said Stofsky: “There was so much blood.”