‘The Right Stuff’ costume designer Hope Hanafin on creating ‘museum-quality replicas’ of 1960s space suits [EXCLUSIVE VIDEO INTERVIEW]

Prior to the start of production for Nat Geo’s “The Right Stuff” (currently streaming on Disney+), costume designer Hope Hanafin did more than her fair share of research. “I re-read [Tom Wolfe‘s] novel, which I’d read when it came out,” she explains, “and then I also read every single one of the astronauts’ biographies. It was a little bit like the gospels because the same events were all there, but told from different perspectives depending on who was doing the writing. So there was a very tall reading list.” Watch Gold Derby’s interview with Hanafin above, which aired as a part of our TV Costume Designers panel.

“The Right Stuff” tells the story of the American astronauts who trained to be the first humans to enter outer space. The so-called Mercury Seven, led by Alan Shepard (Jake McDorman), John Glenn (Patrick J. Adams) and Gus Grissom (Michael Trotter), were ultimately beaten in their quest by the Russians, but next came the journey to the moon. As Hanafin explains, the space suits she created for the project were exact replicas of the real things, right down to the colorful interior fabric.

“The orange interior is so you can see them in the water when they land,” Hanafin notes about the NASA design feature. “They are to the tee accurate, unless you took them up to space — then you would die. They don’t work that way, but they’re museum-quality replicas.” The costumes, which were built in Los Angeles, were “awkward to wear and to get into, but I must say every one of the guys who put them on, their faces lit up,” she recalls. “They sent photos to their children, to their childhood friends. They kind of transformed as soon as they got into that. I’ve never seen actors put on something so uncomfortable and be so happy.”

Most of “The Right Stuff” focuses on the characters in their everyday 1960s clothing, which Hanafin reveals is sometimes “the hardest to find” for various reasons. “People preserve their wedding dresses and their prom dresses and dress uniforms,” she says, “but when it comes down to wear and tear, an apron or little boys’ clothes which all get nicked and scraped over time, [those are] harder to come by. We used 44 different sources around the country. Some of them required me climbing into bins. Another was going to an abandoned warehouse. We made very little of it but altered a lot.”

Also in our exclusive video interview, Hanafin talks about dressing the astronauts’ wives, the challenges of working with so many white button-up shirts, and how many thousands of costumes were required overall. Hanafin previously received two Emmy nominations for “Warm Springs” and “Gepetto.”

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