'Magic Mike' costume designer on the trouble with tearaway pants -- and why it's worth it

“Someone asked me recently, ‘How important are clothes to a movie about stripping?’ And all I could say was, ‘Without the clothes, you really don’t have an act as a stripper. You’ve got to have something to take off,’” says Magic Mike costume designer Christopher Peterson. Fair enough. An Emmy nominee last year for his work on HBO’s Boardwalk Empire, Peterson did some quick research for the film by visiting several male revues on both coasts. What he learned immediately: “A guy walks out onstage, tears his pants off, it’s guaranteed to get a reaction every single time. It’s pretty much full-proof if you do it right,” he says. What took him awhile to figure out: How exactly to make that happen. “I thought, okay, so you attach a bit of velcro to some pants and yank ‘em and that’s it. It wasn’t working day after day. They weren’t tearing away,” says Peterson, who tested them on himself. “Finally, I figured out the right combination of velcro and snaps and how to grab them and got it. I tore away the final pair of trousers. Of course, that is the moment when the producer and the director walk into the fitting room for a quick check in, like, ‘Hey, how’s it going?’ and I’m standing there in my underwear in front of my staff. It was a pretty steep learning curve, but we got it because like I said, there’s nothing that guarantees a squeal out of a crowd more than Channing Tatum tearing away his cop pants.”

We go inside the movie’s dance numbers with Peterson, choreographer Alison Faulk, and music supervisor Frankie Pine in our behind-the-scenes gallery. (The story of Peterson’s collaboration with McConaughey on his thong is not to be missed.) Here are answers to a few more burning questions:

• What exactly is the atmosphere like during a thong fitting? Awkward, as you’d expect. The thongs used in the film were custom-made for each actor by a company called Pistol Pete. “Really what happened was that Channing was there, comfortable with it and game, and the other men just stepped up, got into them, danced around a little bit to figure out how to move with their behinds hanging out, and just did it,” Peterson says. You’ve probably heard Matt Bomer talk about his thong mishap. Peterson confirms he was called to Bomer’s trailer the first time Bomer put his on because the actor had a problem. “I said, ‘You’ve got the wrong leg in the wrong whole,’” Peterson says. “I closed the door and knocked again in a couple of minutes. He’s like, ‘Oh, it’s all good now. Houston, we have no problem.”

• Why does Channing Tatum’s Mike show up wearing a Marilyn Monroe dress on the Fourth of July? “That to this day still puzzles me. That was an idea of Channing’s, and I just said ‘Okay,’” Peterson admits, laughing. “It’s something to do with the red, white, and blue, and rah-rah America. I just thought if Channing wants to get into a white Marilyn dress, rock it out. I want to see that, too.”

• Why aren’t the guys wet during the “It’s Raining Men” number? “Initially, there was gonna be wind machines and rain and actually have the boys wet onstage,” Peterson says, but when that proved too difficult, it became a simpler number — which everyone agreed felt more realistic anyway. Just like Faulk, who’s currently touring with Madonna as co-supervising choreographer, had to stage numbers that felt like the “C—rockin’ Kings of Tampa” had choreographed them themselves, Peterson needed the costumes to look like something these guys could and would have put together themselves. (That’s why Joe Manganiello’s Big Dick Richie makes his entrance using a sewing machine on a thong.) “We used this glitter spray to try to make the umbrellas and the men look wet at the last-minute. I thought, ohmygod, this is so ghetto. I can’t believe I’m using glitter spray on these costumes, and yet, it’s something that the guys would have done.”

Read more:
‘Magic Mike’: Stripper Tales Exposed! Inside the Dances!
‘Magic Mike’: Joe Manganiello makes us blush — and dishes on what makes him do the same — EW VIDEO
Movie Talk with Owen and Lisa: ‘Magic Mike’ is a ‘guilt-free stripper movie’ — VIDEO
Channing Tatum talks ‘Magic Mike’ musical: ‘I’m a huge fan of stage’

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