A musical just opened on Broadway – War Paint – highlighting the fierce rivalry of two cosmetic giants, entrepreneurs, and icons: Helena Rubenstein and Elizabeth Arden. Vogue’s Hamish Bowles interviewed War Paint’s much sought-after costume designer, Catherine Zuber, and I am reminded of the power of costume design. Zuber is much admired in the industry and has earned six Tony Awards for her costume design productions, which also include South Pacific, The King and I, Women on the Verge of a Nervous Breakdown, Awake and Sing!, and The Light in the Piazza. For War Paint, Zuber is once again telling a story and addressing the character of these larger-than-life women through their costumes. Played by acting icons themselves, Patty LuPone as Rubenstein, and Christine Ebersole as Arden, these hugely successful women were among the wealthiest of their time and at that time, the only two women in America to have their names above their company – by doing something not done before in the beauty industry – bringing makeup into the mainstream of society. The timeline for War Paint begins in the 1930s and follows these women into the 1960s, which provided excitement to move through the different time periods. Rubenstein was, according to Zuber, more flamboyant, and dressed in “Poiret, Schiaparelli, and Balenciaga.” However, finding costumes for Arden’s story was “just as powerful,” says Zuber – and gave Zuber high contrast with which to work. The production focuses on the working world of these women. Says Zuber: “They were such hard-working women, and so much of their lives were focused on their careers and their businesses that we decided to celebrate that.”
A still from Netflix’s ‘Gilmore Girls: A Year in the Life’ (Saeed Adyani / Netflix)
Were you like me this weekend, losing yourself in the four-part return of the Gilmore Girls: A Year in the Life – on Netflix? Following the banter, the loves, and the lives of mother and daughter, Lorelei and Rory Gilmore? I did, of course, follow the clothes and the fashion! Gone were the uniforms and the classics for Rory, replaced by a more sophisticated style; Lorelei’s style continued to evolve with feminine twists (I noticed a lot of pencil skirts and wrap dresses! Yet the dressing was still full of whimsy, like the women themselves).
When Alexandra Regazzoni and I first met a year ago, I told her that she had my dream job. As I see it, a costume designer is the ultimate storyteller. After today’s interview, we can all live vicariously through Alexandra, and follow her passion. It wasn’t always clear to her that she would be a costume designer. This Florida native grew up interested in many things. Her education is extensive, beginning at Florida State University, where she graduated with a BA in theater, and a BS in anthropology, with a minor in French. Alexandra became more interested in clothing, while performing and working as an aerialist in FSU’s Flying High Circus, where the performers would do their own rigging and make their own costumes. This was Alexandra’s first introduction to the world of costume design. She would go on to obtain an MFA in production design with a secondary degree in costume design from Ohio University.
Today, we return to the setting of one of Alexandra’s 9 short films she has designed: Left Bank Books. In the heart of Greenwich Village, New York City, we hear from Alexandra what it means to be a costume designer …
The costume designer Janie Bryant, of “Mad Men,” with ads for her line for Hearts on Fire Diamonds and from Banana Republic’s “Mad Men” spring 2013 campaign. Photo Credit: Casey Kelbaugh for The New York Times
It seems that television’s costume designers are the new black. Well, the new influencers, that is. I was a huge Sex and The City fan, where costume designer Patricia Field’s bold fashion choices for the main characters, Carrie, Miranda, Samantha and Charlotte awakened my senses. And although I couldn’t see myself wearing everything, I was inspired to wear many things. I went through the big flower pin stage, thanks to Carrie. And I never owned a pair of Manolo Blahnik’s but I often thought of buying them! It’s hard to believe that the show ended almost ten years ago when its fashion influence is still felt around the world. Times are changing, television is moving forward and the role of the television costume designer is growing as well.
Costume designer, Alexandra, went shopping today. Her goal? Find accessories and costumes for the short film for which she is designing: Karaoke King. As a costume designer Alexandra is a storyteller and interestingly, she likes shopping for the characters but not necessarily for herself. She tells stories through costumes and accessories, never overlooking any detail. Sometimes the story is pretty, sometimes gritty and dark … and today? This story is about a former successful rocker who finds himself in a slump and singing karaoke. The clothing and the mood must be glam rock.
Because Alexandra lives and works in New York, the entire city becomes her shopping closet and she must be able to seek out the gems within the neighborhoods and the vintage shops of note; places like Goodwill in Harlem, where she can find a suit for $15, or the treasures in downtown Manhattan or Brooklyn. The turnaround time for this shopping excursion is quick; shopping today, filming over the weekend. Here is how it works: Continue reading →