In March of 1959, David Dortort had the cast fitted for their costumes in the wardrobe department at Paramount Pictures. Costumes of all different types, sizes and accessories are plentiful in this massive part of the studio. Dario Piazza was in charge of the wardrobe for the series and was assisted by an excellent staff of tailors. They were very successful in costume design and authenticity. The racks, drawers and cupboards were filled with costumes from all eras and contemporary garb that was amazing.
The cast was fitted with the typical stock outfits for the filming of the series that depicted the usual work clothes of that era. For many shows, the actors would be fitted with colorful and flashy costumes during the first two years of the series. Part of this came about because the company was experimenting with color film and wanted to see the results to get it down correctly.
Ben's outfit consisted of the cream-orange vest, blue shirt, brown pants and green bandana. For the winter shows, he wore a tan buckskin coat. Adam wore a variety of outfits the first two years of the series. It was common to see him wearing a black vest with a red shirt, purple bandana and black pants. In other shows, he'd wear the black vest with a white shirt underneath it. In fact, he wore a variety of shirts ranging from yellow to red to white in color.
Hoss wore the tan vest and underneath it was the white shirt. He wore brown pants, but there was one more thing he needed to complete the fit. His white Stetson hat was really intended as a joke when Dan Blocker had his first costume fitting. They brought in a box of different size hats for him to try on. He put the oversized Stetson on and they all laughed at it on his head. It was the perfect hat for Hoss. For the winter shows, Dan would slip on a tan buckskin coat.
Little Joe's outfit in the first year was the gray jacket with a variety of shirts underneath it. In many cases, Michael Landon would slip on a thick sweater under his shirt, since he was only 132 pounds at the time. It appeared to make him look bigger than he was. The second year of the series, Little Joe wore a blue jacket that looked rather good on him. In other shows he'd wear the brown vest with a white shirt underneath it.
In the case of Adam Cartwright, there was another approach that Pernell Roberts had in mind and it would turn out be a great costume design on his behalf. He kindly suggested to David that he wanted Adam to dress in black garb, so it would generally define his character for greater audience identification for the Bonanza viewers.
This would also break the stereotype mold associated with villains who wore black so frequently in filmed productions. The first time Adam wears all black is in "Desert Justice", from the first season. Pernell would go into wardrobe and wear black garments on and off and this is how it all started. For the winter shows, Pernell would slip on a tan buckskin coat.
Prior to the start of the 1961-62 season, the cast was fitted again for their new stock costumes. The new outfits that Ben and Hoss donned were pretty much the same, but were altered to look better than the previous two years. Adam was now appropriately dressed in all black garb for the series. The most significant change in costume was for Little Joe's stock outfit.
The green corduroy jacket with the brown shirt and pants was born. Complimenting them were the rough tan boots and hat. Matter of factly, the green jacket matched Michael's hazel eye color. This costume mirrored Michael's favorite colors which were green and earthtones. This was a great move by wardrobe and the costume is the one that defined Joe Cartwright over the major run of the series. He suggested to wardrobe they use his favorite colors when designing this outfit for him. It turned out to be the costume that defined Joe Cartwright for the major run of the series through 1972.
The change in costume design for the cast would benefit the shooting of the series, with regards to having the same outfit on for shooting the interiors and exteriors over the 6 day shoot schedule. This made it much easier for the stunt doubles and stand-ins to wear them, when they were required to be in costume during the setting up of the lighting, rehearsal and filming in place of the actors. It saved on production values, too.
The costumes the cast wore ranged in the tens of dollars and they had to take care of them the best they could. When one would obtain damage it would be repaired. In the case of it being badly damaged, it would be replaced with a duplicate immediately. At the end of every shooting day, the costumes would be transported to the local dry cleaners and returned by 7 am the next morning to the studio.
When shooting on location at outdoor film sites with no cleaning facilities nearby required the cast to wear the same costumes until filming was completed. In the case of one being badly damaged, the wardrobe trailer had a good number of duplicates standing by. If it was lightly damaged, it could be repaired immediately in the wardrobe trailer.
The cast did have their input as to what they liked to wear. Lorne Greene choose the buckskin tan coat and wore it with such commanding authority as Ben Cartwright. Pernell Roberts suggested to be dressed in black garb that included the large, jaunty black hats. He didn't bother to wear his toupee when doing the outdoors shots, because he didn't have to take his hat off.
Dan Blocker was so very quick at memorizing his dialogue, he would frequently be in the wardrobe department in between filming different shots over the day. The result was he would always be in costume and literally never seen in his regular street clothes. Michael Landon selected the colorful bandanas in the early years of the series and wore them with great gusto.
Michael would add a new dimension to his persona in the 1966-67 season of the series. One day, he went into wardrobe and slipped on a pair of black gloves. He liked them and they were a good prop for he and Joe Cartwright. His stunt doubles wore them also when they would stand-in for him doing dangerous stunts on the set or location. He wore them through the final season in 1972.
In the later years of the series, Michael would be directing shows he'd written to be aired on the network. Since his character had little or no screentime, he'd have on a pair of his blue jeans instead of the brown pants. Two examples of his personal preference in clothing are seen in a few episodes he didn't write and direct. In season twelve's "El Jefe", he's wearing a red shirt that provided a good contrast to his graying hair inside the living room. In the season fourteen episode, "The Bucket Dog", he's wearing his blue jeans because he felt like it, during one of the final scenes with Joe and Jamie at the front door inside the living room. When Mike was directing, he'd have on street clothes for the most part.
David Canary was fitted with the typical stock outfit that most character actors would wear in those days by wardrobe. His first outfit was all black and then David Dortort agreed with wardrobe fitting him with the black vest, red shirt and purple bandana. It was replaced with a blue one at the start of the 1969-70 season. The matching black pants and hat were appropriately selected by wardrobe. This completed Candy's persona to perfection.
For the winter shows, Candy would slip on a tan buckskin coat for the right look. In the case of Bing Russell, he could be spotted wearing a costume of the same nature, sans the bandana in some shows, during the later years of the series. For the shows where they would dress up for social occasions, the cast would go to wardrobe and take their pick of costumes for specific-themed episodes of the series.
Western Costume Company supplied a variety of outfits for miscellaneous actors over the 14-year run of the series. They were Hollywood's largest supplier of costumes which was established in 1912. The location of the Western Costume was on Melrose Avenue, approximately 30 feet from the main gates of Paramount Pictures.