Who wouldn’t want to design a film about Elton John and his life?” asks Rocketman costume designer Julian Day. “He’s pretty much the most flamboyant rock star that has ever lived.” Day is no stranger to theatrical musicians after working on last year’s Bohemian Rhapsody, but Rocketman provided new challenges—and a reunion with star Taron Egerton, whom he dressed for 2018’s Robin Hood. “With Bohemian Rhapsody it was much more of the idea of copying some of the items and a true representation,” says Day. “With Rocketman we had the freedom to redesign.” 

That freedom came from John himself who invited Day into his wardrobe archives and personal closet for research and inspiration since, as Day notes, “it’s not a straight-up biopic it’s a fantasy musical.”

Although he didn’t let on, Day admits he felt like a kid in a candy store. “Typically, being very British, I’m very reserved.” If there hadn’t been guards — since many of the pieces were of museum quality — Day says, “to be honest with you, if I’d been as thin as Elton was in the Seventies I would have tried to try [some of the clothes] on. But yeah, I was very giddy.”

Day had one particularly special wish while working on Rocketman. “My priority was to design a film that when Elton watched it he’d sit there and go ‘I want to wear that, I wish I could have worn that, I would have loved to have worn that.’”

That dream came true. “One of the first images that went out of the film was Taron sitting in a plane, he’s got shorts on, a gold leather jacket and these boots that I designed with wings on them,” says Day. “I got a message to say that ‘Elton really loved these boots, and could we make him a pair?’ I don’t think there’s better acknowledgement of what he’s thought about the clothes than him wanting to have a pair. So, we had a pair specially designed for him that had an E on one foot and a J on the other.”

“He’s incredible at what he does,” says Egerton of Day. “His work was a real key in unlocking my version of Elton.” The Kingsman star was ready to slip into the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame-r’s skin in as many ways as possible including via his memorable stagewear, which the actor refers to as a “suit of armor, making yourself feel capable.” He adds: “My sense is that it comes from a place of ‘If you make yourself ridiculous, then nobody else can.’ I mean, I don’t wish to deconstruct Elton; that’s how I approached it in terms of character, and Julian understood that completely.” 

“The thing that I love most about Julian is that besides his incredible eye for aesthetic and detail, he is intensely collaborative, his first question is always, ‘how do you feel?’” says Egerton. “I felt excited and so, so stoked to wear the clothing that he designed, not only because they look incredible and they’re so different than I expected but because he was concerned with how I felt.”

Some outfits hew closely to John’s originals, including a few looks he donned for his starmaking U.S. debut at the Troubadour in Los Angeles in 1970. But Day took liberties with a few of the more eye-popping getups, including an insanely elaborate, colorful wings-and-horns number. “That is a very iconic look, and you really can’t change the shape of it,” says Day, who nonetheless made alterations subtle and less so, like adding thousands of Swarovski crystals in place of the sequins used on the original by designer Bob Mackie. “It was very comfortable,” says Egerton, adding with a laugh, “The problem is, because it’s covered in Swarovski crystals, we couldn’t wash it for the whole three months, and I wore it every third day. So I’m glad I never to have to get in it ever again, because it probably stinks.”

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