Carol Burnett, Bob Mackie … and Me

Photo, Lauren Hagerstrom

For me, as a young kid wanting to be a designer, nobody had more fun than I did doing that kind of a show, a weekly show, like that. Where we could be glamorous one moment, horrible the next. It was just crazy. It was crazy and I loved it.‘ ~ Bob Mackie

To be on the Carol Burnett Show wearing a Bob Mackie gown that was all wall-to-wall sequins, and the sequins were done in copper; it was just extraordinary. I thought it was a spectacular gown.” ~ Rita Moreno

This week I watched the Carol Burnett 50th Anniversary Special and the memories and the laughter came flooding back. I had a love affair with Carol Burnett and especially with her variety show, which ran for 11 years, from 1967 – 1978. I would watch the show religiously every weekend – for the sketches, the laughter, the camaraderie among the cast, and … for the costumes. Bob Mackie was the costume designer for the Carol Burnett Show and for other shows at that time, including The Sonny and Cher Show. For Carol Burnett, Mackie designed not only Burnett’s costumes, he designed the entire show’s costumes – every costume, every week; from the costumes for the dancers, to the secondary actors, to the lead actors. Every sketch, every scene – Mackie designed them all. My favorite of his creations was Mrs. Wiggins, the ditzy secretary to Mr. Tudball. And perhaps Mackie’s most memorable costume? Carol Burnett dressed in velvet drapery for the Went With the Wind sketch. Says Bob Mackie – when Burnett came down the stairs and the audience saw her for the first time: “I never heard laughter like that in my life … it just made people laugh and it still does. Every time I talk to anybody, they bring up this silly curtain-rod outfit with the velvet drapes attached to it .. it will be on my tombstone one day.”

Bob Mackie was a gifted designer and I loved seeing it all! Carol Burnett, Bob Mackie … and me. Continue reading

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Revisiting The World of Downton Abbey

A new Downton Abbey Exhibition has opened in New York and something was clear to me during my visit this week: I have missed this extraordinary show! Revisiting the world of Downton Abbey; the exquisite house with all its rooms – both upper and lower levels – and the beloved characters whom I had come to love, with their engaging story lines, was thrilling to me. I have been drawn to the costumes and costume design of Downton Abbey, and have written about it on TFIO, but it was actually seeing the fashions up close that brought my fascination to life. The hats, the gloves, the dresses, the evening gowns, the tuxedos, the jackets, and the jewelry were all integral to the storytelling. But there were two specific costumes that were everything: the red scalloped dress worn by Lady Mary Crawley, when she and Matthew are together on that snowy evening as he gets down on bended knee and proposes to her, and the harem pants with which Lady Sybil Crawley shocks her family. Seeing these two costumes brought me back to those quintessential Downton Abbey moments.

Downton Abbey’s costume designer, Susannah Buxton, was able to tell the story of the times in these costumes. In creating Lady Mary’s engagement dress, Buxton looked to the period designs of Parisian design house Lanvin. The beading gives definition and pop to the scalloped edges, which otherwise might disappear in front of the camera in the dark snowy scene. For Lady Sybil, who represents change and a shift in the social order for her aristocratic family, she disarms them by showing up to formal dinner wearing harem pants. Buxton chose the Ballet Russes-inspired silk trousers as a way to tell Sybil’s story of rebellion and independence.
The fashions of the times displayed at the Downton Abbey Exhibition are so worth seeing!

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Why Television Costume Designers Need to be Recognized

Sonu Mishra styling on the set of the show ‘Genius’. Photo: Courtesy National Geographic

Elsa Einstein (played by Emily Watson) in ‘Genius’. Photo: Courtesy of National Geographic

Television programming is enjoying a surge of popularity, sophistication, and support of highly-visible film actors. No question. Film was always considered more glamorous and fashion designers were quick to recognize the impact of film on an audience. So, too, was costume design in film considered more glamorous, and well simply, more considered. Fashionista brought this issue to light: “By the 1930s, 75 million Americans went to the movies weekly, film becoming a primary source of fashion for many. Costume is understood to be critically important to a film’s success, and is honored as such; at the Oscars, the prestigiously singular costume design award is presented at the main ceremony. Film and the fashion industry mutually inform and benefit from each other.”

But where does leave costume designers in the television industry? Continue reading

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Creating the World of Magic Through Costumes

Jany Temime at the 15th Annual Costume Designers Guild Awards in February 2013 in Beverly Hills, Calif. Photo: Jason Merritt/Getty Images for CDG

When I was four years old — I was designing for dolls all the time. That’s all I wanted to do. My parents were designers and had a ready-to-wear company in Paris, so I grew up in the studio. The idea of working for films was difficult, so I really had to fight for it, but I did what I wanted. You always do what you want, when you want, if you’re determined enough to achieve it.” – Harry Potter costume designer, Jany Temime

These inspirational words belong to costume designer Jany Temime, who came to the Harry Potter film series during the third film, “The Prisoner of Azkaban“, and designed costumes for the remaining six films. This fashion designer, who grew up in Paris in the 1960s and 1970, spent her Saturdays at the studio of her parents’ ready-to-wear company, designing sweaters on the side for pocket cash, would eventually create the dark world of magic in the most world-beloved series – Harry Potter. Did she have any idea of the magnitude of its popularity?  “At the time, I didn’t realize how important it was. Thank God, because if [I had] I would have been completely paralyzed and incapable of doing anything. It’s now that I realize what a nerve it [hit].Continue reading

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On the Costuming of Broadway’s War Paint

Courtesy of War Paint

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.”

This show is a must-see for me!!

 

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Why We All Love Annie Hall

InStyle, featuring Alexa Chung; photographer, Matthew Sprout

When InStyle Magazine photographed Alexa Chung channelling Annie Hall’s iconic style, I smiled a huge smile. One of my all-time favorite movies, Annie Hall is a love affair waiting to happen; love of New York, love of romance, love of comedy, love of Diane Keaton as Annie Hall – and especially her style. She was so effortless in her attitude. “Feminine masculinity,” is how Alexa Chung describes Annie Hall’s style and I would have to agree: hats, high-wasted trousers with men’s style shirts and ties, vests, and blazers – costume designer Ruth Morley worked closely with Keaton to create the look and it was pure Annie Hall. It was also my mother’s style of the 1970’s – and this film brought my mom to the screen!

The best part about watching Annie Hall, though, is that I have shared it with my son, Eric. When we watched it together for the first time about a year ago (I hadn’t realized he had seen it before) it was so much fun to see it through his eyes! He of course did not realize that as I was laughing my head off (how about that car scene with a young Christopher Walken!?), I was also swooning over every outfit and every look of Annie Hall! La ti da! 

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Today I am a Costume Designer!

Some of the chosen 1960’s-style accessories – Photo: Susan Olson

Some of the chosen 1960’s-style accessories – Photo: Susan Olson

When I started the assignment I had no idea how satisfying it would be. I had volunteered to help my friend and costume designer Katherine during the preparation of the local high school production of How to Succeed in Business Without Really Trying. I told her to put me to work in any capacity, that I simply wanted to be a part of the costume crew. When Katherine told me that she would like me to accessorize the female performers’ costumes I was thrilled. This musical is set in an office in the heart of the 1960’s and I would be accessorizing the students portraying young women who worked in the secretarial pool. Fashion in the 60’s was full of color and silhouette. Accessories were simple but bold. Outfits were color-coordinated and highly accessorized and a bit matchy-matchy; big button earrings, brooches, bright necklaces, and headbands rounded out the accessories.  Continue reading

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More Gilmore Girls’ Costumes!

A still from Netflix’s ‘Gilmore Girls: A Year in the Life’ (Saeed Adyani / Netflix)

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).

To my delight, the LA Times reported that WWD (Women’s Wear Daily) interviewed the show’s costume designer Brenda Maben, who reprised her role for the reboot. Continue reading

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Technology Advances Fashion

The Yves Saint Laurent "Sardine" dress from the 1983 couture show that took 1,500 hours to complete

The Yves Saint Laurent “Sardine” dress from the 1983 couture show that took 1,500 hours to complete

I use so many processes in my work – some that involve the hand and some that involve the machine. For me, mixing the hand and the machine give the best results. I don’t think the hand or the machine have any use or value on their own. What matters is the form in relationship with the idea.” ~ Miuccia Prada 

In a way, the hand is being lost today. It’s important to me that a piece of clothing always feels like it has been touched by the hand at some point, even if there’s a lot of machine work involved.” ~ Sarah Burton

With just a week before it closed, I explored the exhibit at the Met: “Manus x Machina: Fashion in an Age of Technology.” I was extra lucky to experience it with costume designer and new friend, Katherine Winter, who has shared her story on TFIO. To see it through Katherine’s eyes, with her love of fabric and texture and construction, made this experience even more meaningful for me. Continue reading

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Where Clothes and Fabrics Only Sell for ‘Happy Money’

Purushottam Goyal and Saroj Goyal have been married for 46 years. Credit Santiago Mejia/The New York Times

Purushottam Goyal and Saroj Goyal: Credit Santiago Mejia/The New York Times

Saroj Goyal organized fabrics at Dress Shoppe II, an Indian textiles store in the East Village. Credit Santiago Mejia/The New York Times

Saroj Goyal organizes fabrics at Dress Shoppe II: Credit Santiago Mejia/The New York Times

Yesterday’s New York Times’ Metropolitan Section featured a story about an East Village shop, owned by couple, Purushottam Goyal and Saroj Goyal. The Goyals have owned Dress Shoppe II since 1878 when it was originally, Dress Shoppe. Mr. Goyal has garnered favorites of the shop, where the main offering is Indian clothing made of cotton, silk and linen – and where his business philosophy is full of kharmic charm: “Just relax, and if you feel something, buy it. We want only happy money.” Among the favorites is costume designer, Katie Novello, who shopped at Dress Shoppe II to buy outfits for the cast of Hulu show, “The Path.” “It is a treasure trove,” according to Novello, who, as a costume designer spends huge amounts of time shopping for the perfect pieces to tell a character’s story.

The Goyals were about to close shop at the end of the year but they received so many letters from customers that they decided to postpone their retirement until 2018, which will be the store’s 40 anniversary. I must make a trip to this shop – this magical place where fabrics only sell for ‘Happy Money’ – and meet the Goyals myself. I love their message!

 

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