“Every emotion Mary ever felt was right there on her face,” says Sally Field, who plays the First Lady in the new historical drama. “Lincoln showed least what he felt most.” For costume designer Joanna Johnston, that idea extended to their clothes. Says Johnston: “He was utilitarian. Mary was elaborate and over-futzed.”
Played by Daniel Day-Lewis, Lincoln was no fashion plate. “They considered him sloppy,” says Johnston. “Clothes for him were something to hold off the weather.” For Day-Lewis, Lincoln’s signature frock coat “became a type of armor,” says Johnston. “Putting it on every day became part of his process.”
Just getting to wear the Union blues was a battle for oldest son Robert Lincoln, played by Joseph Gordon-Levitt. “His parents didn’t want him to enlist,” says Gordon-Levitt. Re-creating the uniforms for Lincoln was an exacting process for Johnston. “I’m a daughter of a military man,” she says. “I was very keen to get the uniforms as accurate as possible.”
To create this cream-colored evening gown, Johnston took elements from three separate historical dresses worn by Mary Todd Lincoln. “She over-decorated herself to compensate for the fact that she wasn’t a great beauty,” she says.