Lee Daniels on Collaborating with Prada to Bring Billie Holiday's 'Timeless' Style to the Screen


When it came to translating Billie Holiday's iconic, glamorous style to the screen for his upcoming Hulu biopic The United States vs. Billie Holiday, director Lee Daniels told Vogue he turned to Anna Wintour for advice.

After the magazine's editor-in-chief suggested Prada, nine looks were born that Andra Day, who portrays the legendary jazz singer, wears throughout the film — and Daniels' favorite is the gown in the "All of Me" performance at the end, a sketch of which was provided to PEOPLE.

The drawing depicts a floor-length, cap-sleeve gown featuring an intricately embellished bodice and blush-pink tulle skirt.

"I dropped in on most of the fittings and I was involved on all tests with final notes where necessary," says Daniels, 61, noting that he believes Holiday's fashion legacy still lives on today. "Tailored clothing and glamour are timeless elements of style."

As "such a fan of Billie's," Day, 36, "was completely obsessed with every single piece, as we spent countless hours on Billie's wardrobe to ensure the pieces in the film matched the outfits and gowns Billie actually wore in real life," Daniels adds.

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Andra Day Stuns in Chilling Trailer for Lee Daniels' The United States vs. Billie Holiday

The Oscar nominee shares with PEOPLE one fun story about a particular vintage piece that costume designer Paolo Nieddu, Daniels' longtime collaborator, took it upon himself to bring to life, before Day even wore it for the film.

"We were preparing to shoot a really emotional scene on set and my costumer Paolo came to my trailer to show me what Billie would be wearing — specifically, there was a gorgeous vintage gown with fringe, and I wanted to see how it would look on screen since Billie would be moving frequently throughout the scene," Daniels recalls.

"Without hesitation, Paolo ripped open the garment bag, threw the dress on and sprinted around reciting Billie's dialogue – which made me break out in laughter," he adds. "It was such a fun moment and believe it or not, really helped me envision the scene, so it was a win/win."

Of Holiday's signature flower shown in Day's hair at some points throughout the film and not others, Daniels tells PEOPLE, "In real life, [Billie] chose to periodically wear the gardenia. We just followed suit."

As for Wintour, 71, Daniels recently told Vogue in an interview published Tuesday that "she knew I couldn't go wrong with Prada" to bring Holiday's style to life.

"I was going to throw myself at Miuccia [Prada]'s feet as she's a genius, but I didn't have to. She admired my work, and I am such a fan of hers, so we were excited," he added.

Nieddu told Vogue that during the collaboration process, he "went through every single collection on Vogue Runway then started eBaying vintage magazines because I wanted to flip through a magazine rather than print an image."

"We were inspired by a dress from fall 2017 and then referenced the shoulders from the resort 2011 collection [for another look]," Nieddu explained. "Then we had hundreds of reference photos of Billie to select from too."

The United States vs. Billie Holiday drops Feb. 26 on Hulu.

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