Few film costume pieces are as instantly recognizable and iconic as Clint Eastwood's poncho from "The Dollars Trilogy" of films. People love it and it's likely what brought you here to this website in the first place.
In the films Blondie first finds and claims the poncho inside a small destroyed chapel next to Sad Hill cemetery near the end of The Good, The Bad and the Ugly. (This, and Blondie's receiving of his famous hat from Angel Eyes earlier in the film is what places the film as the first chapter of the trilogy despite being the third film shot.)
Blondie finds the poncho laying next to a critically wounded and abandoned Union soldier.
Who the poncho's original owner was and how the poncho came to be there in the chapel is not known but it does appear to have been placed there well after the chapel's destruction.
It seems unlikely that it originally belonged to the dying uniformed soldier.
This happens sometime after Feb 3rd 1862 (based on the grave marker seen a little later).
The poncho at this point is already thoroughly aged, discoloured, and has the bullet holes in it from Ramón's rifle in A Fistful of Dollars. Technically the poncho should be in its best and newest condition at this point.
In The Good, The Bad and the Ugly the poncho is worn front to back in an attempt by the film makers to try and conceal Ramón's "Shoot for the heart" bullet holes behind Eastwood's back.
The commonly stated and accepted view is that unlike most films where an actor's wardrobe is duplicated and has spares created for continuity purposes (or for stuntmen) is that there was only ever one original poncho.
Eastwood has said that he wore the same single poncho through all three films and it's known that he still owns it to this day. He's stated in an interview that he keeps it "in a glass case", but people who've visited him at his home in the past have stated that he kept it in a duffle bag in "the bedroom in the back."
The poncho was selected by Sergio Leone from somewhere in Spain because he didn't like the poncho that Eastwood himself had selected and brought with from The Western Costume Company back home in California. No-one knows exactly where Sergio purchased the Poncho from. It may have been a local craftsman or it may have been from a store that imported it from somewhere else in the world. This information is lost to time.
Leone must have purchased at least two ponchos in Spain though as there exists behind the scenes photos and footage that show the director ALSO wearing a near-identical poncho while standing next to Eastwood wearing his! Both a brown and a green poncho were seen!
The design is clearly inspired by patterns of the Navajo Indians from the Southwestern United States. The pattern is made of embroidered stitching. The pattern itself and its placement on the original is imperfect and is not exactly the same on the front and the back.
The original poncho has been said to measure "203cm x 99cm" (80" x 38") (It's unknown if this measurement includes the tassels.) This measurement seems to be unfolded dimensions which would equal 38" Wide and 40" High. This height seems too tall unless it includes the tassels. The tassels appear to be 5-6" long so multiplied by 2 that would remove 10-12" from the stated height measurement giving us a final height of 34-35" per side (excluding tassels) or 68-70" in unfolded length (excluding tassels).
Considering Eastwood's 6'3" height. This measurement seems accurate for height. But the 38" wide measurement doesn't seem correct given the length of his arm that is covered.
Clint Eastwood was 6'3" at the time of the trilogy but has shrunk in his senior years and is currently somewhere between 5'11-6'0 tall.
When centred properly the poncho ends about 1"-2" below Eastwood's elbow.
The poncho resembles a wool army blanket like this european style army blanket which is typically about 62" x 80".
The thread that joins the two halves of the poncho together is black.
In some scenes of For A Few Dollars More the poncho is worn reversed and the bullet holes from a Fistful of Dollars are behind Eastwood's right shoulder.
The poncho has approximately 70 tassels per side and hang from a horizontal row sewn along the inside edge but invisible from the front side. The row appears to be made of the same material as the tassels themselves and may be made up of doubled up tassels, side by side.
In For A Few Dollars More several of the tassels are damaged or are missing. Some hang lower (appearing double in length) while the tassel next to it is missing. This is because they are likely interconnected with two tassels being made up of a single string. (You can see the back side of the poncho's bottom edge further below.) But it seems that every two tassels are a single string in a inverted and squared "U" shape and possibly tied together horizontally.
Eastwood has loaned the poncho to a Mexican restaurant before to display in their establishment. And also offered it for use in temporary exhibits.
The poncho's bottom inside edge hem is where all of the tassels are sewn into. The horizontal row of white is not visible from the outside of the poncho, only from the inside. The "row" is actually "sections" of tassel string and the area visible in the image below is the space in between two tassels that are joined as one. It can be seen most clearly seen after Blondie throws it over his shoulder while trying to convince the henchmen that they should apologize to his mule.
Close up stills (see the modern photos from 2016 below) show it to be a form of "chain stitch". This specific type of chain stitch is very different from the kind done on modern embroidery machines and originates from one of two vintage machines that can do this specific type of chain stitching made by Cornely and Singer.
I found my machine on eBay…there are a handful of people that refurbish them and sell them on there. They’re originally industrial machines and there are a lot still floating around in circulation, but it takes quite a bit of work to replace parts and get them back into working condition as they were made between the 1920s and 1960s. So if you’re looking to purchase one, I’d highly suggest getting one that is refurbished and already functional mainly due to the fact that parts can be pricey and even a functioning one has quite a bit of a learning curve when it comes to operating it, getting familiar with the maitainence of the machine, and learning about all of it’s mechanical parts.
They’re kind of pricey, mostly ranging from around $1500 USD to several thousand when you can find them refurbished. You’ll also have to invest in a motor and an industrial sewing table. Singer114w103 is the particular model of Singer that is a chainstitch machine but you can also search for Cornely, which is another brand chain stitch machines. I don’t really know much about Cornely machines, but there are a few people I follow online that use these machines and the embroidery looks the exact same. (I don’t think one is better than the other, I think it normally just depends on what brand machine you end up finding!) I found this site that explains the different models of Cornely machines and it also has a couple of machines and parts for sale so you can get a feel for how much those go for. https://saintchains.com/ – Amanda, Crewel Ghoul
Not one of the reproduction ponchos listed on this site has gotten the pattern exactly right. Every reproduction contains at least 1-2 inaccuracies to the pattern. None of them contain the embroider's error visible in the photo below where the "Stairs" section in the lower horizontal row has an error in it and differs from all the other "Stairs" covering the poncho's front and back.
The triple bar sections in the horizontal row section are 11 in number with 1 section centered on the wearer and then an additional 5 sections to each side to the poncho's edges. Even the Hollywood Prop/Larry Green Productions poncho (which is the current best of the best) got this detail wrong and contains only 9 sections.
The original poncho was displayed at an exhibit titled: "Once Upon a Time in Italy: The Westerns of Sergio Leone" at the Museum of the American West at the Autry National Center. Photos of the Poncho were taken there. The bullet holes from A Fistful of Dollars are still clearly visible.
The original poncho was taken out of its display case and worn once again by Clint Eastwood at the Carmel Centennial Parade in 2016. He served as Mayor of Carmel years ago and is an unofficial mascot of sorts. The poncho having been through 3 films worth of wear in dirty conditions and then 54 years of UV light is now a brown color that can be clearly seen against Eastwood's olive green t-shirt underneath. In still photos of the event the poncho's original olive green hue can still be seen on the inside.
Have a look at some of the various replica ponchos that can be found from makers around the world...