One of the iconic images of the Poirot television series is Poirot's costume itself. In fact, one of the wonderful things of the television series is admiring the costumes on screen. We'll discuss a little about specifically the "look" of Poirot on the show. For the article on David Suchet's portrayal of Hercule Poirot on television, please click here. We'll start "head to toe" on the costume of Hercule Poirot.
Moustache and Accent
David Suchet and make-up men reportedly tried 40 pairs of moustaches before they found perfectly symmetrical ones when they first began filming in 1988.
Mr. Suchet worked hard on Poirot's accent, and even hired a tutor to master it. He explains thus: "I was desperate that he should sound French, although he is Belgian, because everybody believes that he is French. If I used a proper Belgian accent, which is slightly guttural and has a bit of Dutch in it, people would know I wasn't French . . . It's a mix and match really, a mixture of French-speaking Belgian and country French. It's very, very specific, and it also had to be an accent that could be easily understood because there's no point in speaking a brilliant accent if nobody can understand what you're saying."
He also says this about Poirot's voice: "I worked very hard on finding the right voice . . . I wanted to raise that voice up into his head because that's where he works from. Everything comes from there. My voice is very much in my chest and in my emotional area, but his is up in his head. He's a brain, so that voice had to be raised up and perfected."
Flower Lapel Pin
The pin is called a "Tussie Mussie" (which means "sweet posey"). The word "tussie" also refers to a knot of flowers; "mussie" is the moss that keeps flowers fresh. A Tussie Mussie contains a nosegay of flowers and herbs dating back to medieval times in Europe. The nosegays were believed to rid of unpleasant odors and even ward off the plague. The nosegay consisted of herbs such as thyme, rue, and rosemary.
It is clear that a Tussie Mussie is the pin and the nosegay, but people also refer to the pin itself as a Tussie Mussie. There are shops that also call Tussie Mussies "Victorian Vase pins."
Now, to tie this to the Poirot television series: the pin you see on the show was created by a New Zealander named Gavan Riley. Mr. Riley has served as a jeweler for many stage and TV productions. He was commissioned to make the pin for the show. On a New Zealand online store, the pin by Mr. Riley is called an "amphora", after the Greek jar with two handles, not a Tussie Mussie.
In an interview for PBS' Mystery! viewers in the US, David Suchet says this about the "fatsuit": "You see, as Poirot I wear a lot of padding and I may look fat, but I'm not fat. In fact, this is all illusion. You see, the high collars [pointing to his neck]--so that sits [pointing to the wing collar] and makes me fatter. And I have a huge amount of padding under here [pointing to the abdominal area] and around my shoulders to make me look rotund."
It's been reported that the costume designers had to build up approximately 22 centimeters (close to 9 inches) in the waist. Says Mr. Suchet on the waist: "I'm a 34" waist, and Poirot is about a 43", and he must be at least [224 or 238 pounds], and no way am I going to . . . put that weight on my own frame."
About filming in Tunisia for "Murder in Mesopotamia", Mr. Suchet says this: "It was undoubtedly the most difficult shoot of my entire career because of the extreme heat. The temperature reached 139 degrees, and my costume consists of a three-piece wool suit, leather gloves, a hat, a wing collar, bow tie, and full body padding. I had to drink four liters of water every day because I was sweating so much, but even so I nearly fainted on several occasions."
Shoes and "The Walk"
The shoes are, of course, patent leather. It's assumed that Suchet wears that kind in the series. The shoes help with the look of Poirot, but more importantly it's the way Mr. Suchet does the "Poirot walk". David Suchet asked costume designers to maximally constrict all pants in the hips. He then learned to walk the way Agatha Christie described in her books, in little and quick steps. Thus, "the walk" was created.
Mr. Suchet says: "When I did the film testing, I had been cast and we did some film tests just to see how it all looked--the make-up and the costume and things before we actually went into proper filming. The producer, Brian Eastman, and I sat down to have a look at what we'd shot, and we were sort of pleased that the character was there, and he said, 'Well, you know, it's nearly there, but there's something missing. There's something missing.' He said, 'You know, the funny thing is, David, I don't know what it is. It's something to do with the movement.' And I turned around and said, 'Could it be the way I'm walking because maybe I'm walking too much like me and it's not reflecting the character.' So we watched a bit again and he said, 'You know, I think you're right.'"