“The Dude” Costume from The Big Lebowski

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As an ordained Priest in the Church of the Latter Day Dude, I feel that I’m qualified to instruct you in the ways of His Dudeness, or el Duderino if you’re not into the whole brevity thing.  Every since the Leboski Fest started to gain traction, The Dude has been a go-to costume, but it’s not easy to get the details right.  Follow my lead and you’ll soon have a costume worthy of a party at Jackie Treehorn’s Malibu beach house.

If you’d prefer to party as Walter Sobchak, I’ve got you covered with this post.

The first choice is WHICH outfit.  I conducted an informal study of the greater Los Angeles metropolitan area and discovered that, for most people, The Dude was best represented by his sweater and workout pants ensemble, so that’s the one we’ll be working on.  You’re welcome to give the robe a shot, as well as the outfit he wears at Donny’s “funeral”.  Both are great, but people will be more likely to recognize you in the sweater.

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THE CARDIGAN SWEATER

The original sweater was made by Pendleton Mills.  I’m very familiar with their work, having owned a very nice wool blanket made by them.  Their goods aren’t cheap, but they’re made to last.  If you want the best for your costume, you need a Pendleton Cowichan cardigan sweater.  Vintage versions are available on Ebay but watch out for the colors.  They were produced in several different color schemes back in the day and the one the Dude wore is tan and brown.  Even if you do find a good used one, it will most certainly be pricey.  The ones I found were in the $200-$300 range.

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You can also buy a new one.  A few years back, Pendleton began producing the cardigan again, but they changed it.  Since then, they’ve seen the error of their ways and have gone back to the original design.  They call it “The Original Westerley” and sell it for a cool $239.  While that may seem steep, I assure you that any clothing made by Pendleton is intended to last a lifetime.  If you’ll actually wear the sweater, it’s worth it.  If it’s just for a one-time costume, maybe not.

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In which case, you can go with plan B–a much cheaper wool and acrylic sweater that’s being marketed as a “dude” sweater for costumers.  No, it doesn’t look exactly the same as Jeffery’s and it certainly won’t have the thickness and weight of the Pendleton version, but it’ll do nicely for a costume.  Amazon has this version for $89.99, but you can also find them on Ebay for under $50 if you have the time to wait for a bargain.

Of course, if you want to be even more frugal, you could always knit your own.  Accurate knitting patterns are available for a small sum if you have the time and a very particular set of skills.

THE PANTS

jeffrey wears some vintage ’80s surfer/weightlifting pants.  AFAIK, no one knows where these came from.  Much of his wardrobe came straight out of Jeff Bridges’ closet, so the pants could’ve been around for quite some time.  You’re unlikely to find these exact pants at your local Goodwill, but you might find some similar ones.  If not, never fear–there is another source.

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Colores del Pueblo makes a very good copy of the original pants for $55.  You’ll need to fade them yourself, but the pattern is very close.  To fade them use a capful of bleach in the bleach dispenser of your washer and run the pants through a cold cycle.  Repeat until they’re the color you want.  If you’re in a hurry, you can try soaking them in a bleach and water solution, but it will take some experimentation to determine the right mix and length of time.  Be careful not to overdo it!

THE T-SHIRT

A lavender V-neck T-shirt shouldn’t be hard to find, right?  Well, yes and no.  The T-shirt’s easy but the color isn’t.  The Dude’s shirt appears to have been custom-dyed into it’s hippie shade of purple.  The closest I found was a US Polo Association shirt at Amazon.

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It’s a bit too posh, but the color’s close.  The other option is to buy some Rit dye and dye your own white V-neck.  I’m just going to go the white route since he does wear the white version several times in the film.

THE SHOES

The shoes are the most unusual part of the outfit, but there’s more than one option.  The ones most people remember are the jelly sandals.  Jeff Bridges even brought them on Conan to show them off.

The closest I’ve found are from a French company called Saraizienne.  They’re no longer manufactured, but a few are still available at lameduse.com.  Sadly, they don’t have the large size I need.

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I opted instead for the Otomix shoes he wears.  They’re martial arts training shoes and they look a lot like these that are available at Amazon.  All you need to do is take a black Sharpie to those “8” shapes and you’re golden.

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If you’d like other, less expensive options, you could go with some brown leather sandals or even a pair of bowling shoes.

THE SHADES

Some will say that the Dude costume doesn’t require the sunglasses, and they’d be right.  But since most of us don’t look much like Jeff Bridges, the one thing the glasses do is obscure that fact and make us look more like the Dude.  I think it’s totally worth adding them if you can.

The Dude’s sunglasses are tortoiseshell Vuarnet 5003 PX shades.  They turn up on Ebay from time to time but if you go that route, be prepared to spend a good bit of cash.

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This is one of those cases where the el-cheapo licensed glasses are actually close enough.  The Big Lebowski sunglasses are very close in shape to the Vuarnets and, although they come in black, most people will never know the difference.  There are two issues though.  First, you’ll need to use a Sharpie or sandpaper to remove “The Dude” from the temples, and second, you may need to replace the wavy lenses.  This is easier than you think.  If you can find a pair with similar shaped lenses down at Target or Walgreens, just pop the lenses out and shape them with sandpaper until they fit the Lebowski frames.   Amazon has them here.  Hey, maybe wearing the wavy lenses will help you stay in character!  Bright side!

THE HAIR

I’m going to assume you can grow a van dyke if you’re interested in tackling this costume.  If not, I’m afraid there aren’t many good options.  Most fake beards look very, very fake unless you spend big bucks.  If you need a beard, check with your local theatrical makeup vendor.  If there’s a college with a theatre department in your town, they may be able to point you in the right direction.  Never buy a facial hair appliance sight unseen.  You’ve been warned.  You’ll also need spirit gum to attach it.

As to the hair,most of the options are pretty bad.  I found a blonde “rocker” wig on Ebay that would do the trick if it weren’t so blonde.  You need to check these out in person and see how they work for you.  Visit the big Halloween stores and see if there’s something that could be trimmed.  Your best bets are women’s wigs from the local wig shop.  Bring them a picture of the Dude and I’ll bet they’ll get a kick out of helping you find something suitable.  So far I don’t have a specific wig  that I’d recommend, but I’ll update this post when I do.

CONCLUSION

So that’s your roadmap to greater Dudeism.  I hope you take the time to enjoy the journey and make a white Russian or two.  Grab a bowling ball, a carton of half-n-half, and a whale sounds cassette and you’re sure to have a great time!  Just don’t pee on anybody’s rug.

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