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A Divine Transformation

By the dawn of the eighties, Divine had already made an outsize impression in a handful of John Waters features, playing insolent women on the wrong side of the law in cult films such as Pink Flamingos and Female Trouble, and becoming a drag icon along the way. But with the deliciously overripe melodrama Polyester (1981), his first studio-backed effort, trash master Waters finally gave his star the opportunity to show his softer side: Divine dazzlingly embodies the sweeping emotions of Francine Fishpaw, a long-suffering—but ever decked-out—Baltimore housewife who seemingly finds true love with the hunky Todd Tomorrow (Tab Hunter). In this clip, taken from the supplement “Dreamland Memories” on our packed new Polyester edition, costume designer and makeup man Van Smith and casting director Pat Moran (both of them frequent Waters collaborators) talk about some of the over-the-top duds that helped Divine settle into the role. To learn more about the bras and girdles that Francine wears in her boudoir (the former filled with voluminous artificial breasts of a very surprising origin), as well as the deliberately garish, stiffly synthetic creations that are key to communicating the film’s heightened vision of suburbia, just hit play above.

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