August 28, 2015
Working with Edward Burns on his new crime drama “Public Morals” was a reunion of sorts for Costume Designer Catherine M. Thomas.
Thomas has worked with Burns on a number of other productions, including “Sidewalks of New York,” “The Groomsmen,” “Purple Violets” and “Ash Wednesday.” They and production designer Dina Goldman spent several months trading images of ‘60s New York before settling on the look, which isn’t specifically rooted in a particular year.
“There are a lot of interpretations of that era—so much happened—but we felt very strongly about keeping it real,” she said.
Burns, who is the writer, producer, director and star, plays Terry Muldoon, who oversees the NYPD’s Public Morals Division, a vice squad. Burns, whose father and uncle are retired New York City Police officers, worked 18 years to get a series made about Irish-American gangsters.
Variety said the Steven Spielberg-produced series “stands a cut above much of TNT’s lineup in terms of ambition. That includes a sumptuous look that showcases the darker, rougher side of the ‘Mad Men’ era.”
“It’s not a clean and shiny world,” said Thomas. “It’s the gritty New York of the ‘60s.”
For many of the key characters, Thomas had suits constructed by Martin Greenfield, a legendary Brooklyn tailor.
“They understand our timetable, which is amazing in the world of tailoring,” Thomas said. “It’s also great for us because they have a wealth of information. You could do a doctorate in men’s suiting and not know what they know.”
To dress Brian Dennehy, who plays Mafia boss Joe Patton, Thomas relied on the tailor’s skill to fit the actor properly.
“He’s an older man, a little uneven in his carriage. So when I told him I was building suits for him, he said, ‘Good luck!’”
Thomas envisioned Patton as a classic dresser. “He’s a three-piece suit guy. His look is based more in the ‘40s and ‘50s. If you are in your seventies, you’d be dressing in the ‘40s of your heyday. We tried to nod at that,” Thomas said. She chose a muddy palette from specially ordered reproductions of old English woolens.
“They’re great chalk stripes that you can’t find anywhere. We order them through Martin Greenfield. It’s insane the amount of fabric books they have, like every fabric book in the world,” Thomas said.
To top off the look, Thomas paid special attention to hats. Burns and Dennehy wear Borsalino classics, while other characters pull their retro looks from the racks of vintage-inspired toppers at Gooring Bros. With top-quality hats and custom-built suits, these cops manage to wallow in urban wrongdoing, but look impervious to the vice. A good hat can do that for a man.
“Public Morals” airs on TNT at 10 p.m. / 9 p.m. central.