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Luster Bayless, Costume Designer on Many John Wayne Movies, Dies at 84


John Wayne Luster Bayless
Image via Diana Foster

Legendary Hollywood costume designer Luster Bayless, who dressed John Wayne in more than a dozen classic Westerns, including True Grit and The Shootist, died of natural causes last Friday at his home in Canyon Country, California. He was 84.

Bayless was a Navy veteran who grew up in Mississippi and hitchhiked to Los Angeles, where he was promptly hired by Western Costume in 1959. He worked there for two years as a staff costumer before eventually linking up with Wayne on 1963’s McLintock!, after which Bayless became the Duke’s go-to costumer, though he liked to joke that Wayne “dressed himself.”

Luster Bayless
Image via Diana Foster

They would go on to work together on True Grit (1969), The Undefeated (1969), Chisum (1970), Howard HawksRio Lobo (1970), Big Jake (1971), The Cowboys (1972), Cahill U.S. Marshal (1973), The Train Robbers (1973), McQ (1974), Rooster Cogburn (1975), Brannigan (1975) and Wayne’s swan song, The Shootist (1976).

Bayless’ extensive credits also include Francis Ford Coppola‘s Apocalypse Now as well as Mary Poppins and Smokey & the Bandit, plus he worked with John Ford on Cheyenne Autumn. Bayless also picked out the iconic Stetson hat that Robert Duvall wore in the acclaimed miniseries Lonesome Dove.

In 1977, Bayless launched American Costume Co. (now known as United*American Costume and run by his daughter, CEO Diana Foster) as the first independent company to furnish all the wardrobe and wardrobe crew for a set budget. His company supplied the wardrobe on classic films such as Titanic, Back to the Future and Unforgiven. Bayless also operated the Hollywood Movie Costume Museum in his hometown of Ruleville, MS for years.

A member of Motion Picture Costumers Local 705 and the Costume Designers Guild Local 892, Bayless received a lifetime achievement award from the Motion Picture Costumers group in 2013 and the Costume Designers Guild’s Legacy Award in 2018. Clearly, he was one of the greats and will be dearly missed, though his legacy will live on via the many films he was involved with.

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