TBT: The Sting (1973)


The Sting (1973), starring Robert Redford and Paul Newman, is one of those classic films I have always been meaning to watch but just never got around to it. But with a major storm setting in tonight, I was casting about for a cozy classic frock flick to wrap myself up in and this came up in my Netflix recommendations immediately. Having won seven Oscars, including Best Costume Design for the costumes designed by Edith Head (who has the briefest cameo in the first few minutes of the film), I knew it was going to deliver. And boy did it ever! The plot holds up nicely for a 50-year-old film, plus Head’s costumes don’t suffer from the issues a lot of films of the same era do, where you’re watching it and wondering if you’re actually watching a period film, or a film that’s set in the 1970s — I’m looking at you Grease (1978).

And of course, there’s Redford and Newman, literally two of the most beautiful human beings to ever walk this planet, delivering all of the eye candy, lo these many decades later. They have excellent on-screen chemistry, having done Butch Cassidy and the Sundance Kid in 1969 to widespread acclaim.

The Sting (1973)

I have to confess, I didn’t realize that Paul Newman was 10 years older than Robert Redford until I watched this film. For some reason, they were basically the same age in my mind, probably because they were both “old” by the time I started watching their films, but the age difference is very apparent in this film.


The Sting (1973)



The Sting (1973)



The Sting (1973)

And then there’s this guy, being all offensively handsome.

Ok, now that I’ve got that out of the way, let’s talk about the costumes. Menswear is, well, menswear … Lots of three-piece suits and tuxedos, and while expertly tailored, there’s not a whole lot to say about them. The women’s costumes, however, are wonderfully done. Unfortunately, there’s only about three women in the cast.

The Sting (1973)

Sally Kirkland plays a burlesque dancer in the first few minutes of the film. Edith Head can be seen from behind, helping her into a robe as she exits the stage after her performance.


The Sting (1973)

Blink and you’ll miss her!


The Sting (1973)

Sorry about the blurry screen grab! Things move fast in this film.


The Sting (1973)

Eileen Brennan plays Billie, the right-hand woman to Henry (Paul Newman). Of course you probably will all recognize her as Mrs. Peacock from Clue (1985). She’s fabulous in this film.


The Sting (1973)

Again, sorry about the blurriness. The important thing to note about this outfit is that it’s actually not a dress, but a jumpsuit.


The Sting (1973)

Dimitra Arliss plays Loretta, a waitress who might be more than she seems. Her costume is very low-key, everyday working girl, compared to the more glamorous Billie.


The Sting (1973)

But we have yet another fabulous jumpsuit on Billie, this time in black and white polka dot.



Have you watched The Sting (1973) recently? Tell us what you think!


About the author

Sarah Lorraine

Sarah has an undergraduate degree in Clothing & Textile Design and a Master's in Art History and Visual Culture, with an emphasis on fashion history. When she’s not caught in paralyzing existential dread, she's drinking craft cocktails and writing about historical costume in film and television. She's been pissing people off on the internet since 1995.

15 Responses

  1. Boxermom

    Love Eileen Brennan! She was really terrific in The Cheap Detective, playing a character based on Lauren Bacall (the costumes were great, too). :)

    • Sarah Lorraine

      Ooo! Thanks for the rec! I have a feeling I’m about to go on an Eileen Brennan deep dive… ;)

      • hsc

        Don’t forget her earlier Neil Simon detective spoof MURDER BY DEATH, which is also a hoot. (You even get views of Oakley Court you didn’t see in THE ROCKY HORROR PICTURE SHOW as a bonus.)

    • MoHub

      Brennan was the original “Little Mary Sunshine” on stage as well.

  2. Lisa

    Just caught this the other night myself! I am old enough to remember seeing this in the theater and it holds up beautifully as a complex, beautifully detailed caper film and as a period piece. The language feels right, the art design is spot on, the Scott Joplin arrangements by Marvin Hamlisch are perfection.

    And that first jumpsuit Billie (Eileen Brennan) wears? The back of it is the best part!

  3. Alexander

    It is a fabulous film! Like Boxermom I loved Eileen Brennan as Billy – she is a total powerhouse in this, though, as you say, you randomly see flashes of her playing Mrs Peacock and the Captain in Private Benjamin (in her expressions and delivery) which is most amusing – but is not at all distracting as a whole from a great performance. I love her polka-dot jumpsuit, which is so fitting for her character, practical yet feminine. The boys are fantastically dressed and ALWAYS look sharp and sexy, even when they are in slight déshabillé and showing their braces – just as they should be. Their hat game is on point! Nothing to do with costuming but I especially love Newman’s smoulder! Grrrrrrgh!

  4. GinaP

    I remember reading an interview with Paul Newman, the reporter asked him if he ever watched any of his movies. He said no, but when he was on vacation with his grandkids and they were looking for a movie to watch, they all pointed to the sting and asked him if they could rent that one. The reporter asked him what did you think after watching it? He said “It was pretty good.”

    Understatement of the year!

  5. Roxana

    Yes indeed, Newman and Redford were the Supreme eye candy of their day!

  6. Lily Lotus Rose

    Technically, I’ve “seen” it–because I feel like all of Robert Redford’s movies were on the TV in the background of my 80s childhood. I guess my mother and grandmother were taking advantage of VCRs and/or just network TV to indulge in man candy (with regard to films starring Robert Redford and also Omar Sharif). And who can blame them? I sure followed suit later in life! But I couldn’t tell you anything about The Sting other than it was a heist movie starring Newman and Redford who looked gorgeous. Definitely time for a re-watch as an adult. Thanks for the nudge!

  7. Nzie

    I’ve seen this many times and love it – but I never once flagged that Billie’s dresses are in fact jumpsuits! Wild. Such a great movie; when a con movie cons you it’s a good time.

  8. Emes

    I watched this with my mom because she considered it part of my education! In classic entertainment or handsomeness or something.

    I really liked the waitress and her chemistry with Redford.

    The jumpsuits are fabulous and it looks like the first one has dress clips! Which I love.

  9. B. Durbin

    I was actually in a stage performance of The Sting in high school. (They gender-swapped some of the characters in the script so as to get a better balance—I was Countess Bordreaux.) I had watched it before then numerous times and owned it for a long time.

    We had a good student pianist who did all the Joplin pieces live. It really added a lot.

    There’s one more woman character featured in the movie: Alva, the wife of the third partner at the beginning of the movie. You really don’t see much of her, of course.