Celluloid Style: The Godfather

The sartorial evolution of The Godfather’s protagonist Michael Corleone symbolises his descent from Ivy League-educated war hero to ruthless, omnipotent organised crime boss.

Al Pacino as Michael Corleone in The Godfather wears a dark wool three-piece high-buttoning suit with peaked lapels, worn with a starched white shirt, 1972.

They may superficially be about the mafia. But at heart, Francis Ford Coppola’s Godfather films are not gangster movies. They’re tales of family. In the first part of the trilogy, we don’t see Al Pacino’s Michael Corleone grow from boy to man. His first appearance is as a decorated, uniformed soldier, fresh back from World War II and very much a grown-up. We do, however, observe his evolution from youngest son and kid brother to not only father, but paterfamilias, the head of the family. The Godfather.

The various outfits Pacino wears throughout the movie — the work of award-winning Hollywood costume designer Anna Hill Johnstone — beautifully illustrate the character’s reluctant transition from privileged, university-educated and relatively innocent golden boy of the clan, to murderous, monstrously powerful mob boss. As the movie opens, at the wedding of Michael’s sister Connie, he appears in full military dress regalia, squiring his lilywhite WASP girlfriend Kay around the ceremony.


January 2018