Mentoring is the Best Part for This Costume Designer

Katherine with her costume team leaders,

Katherine with her costume team leaders, Kate Klaschka and Kira Ross

There is no question that mentoring the kids is what brings me back year after year. I don’t need to make another dress.” ~ Katherine Winter, Costume Designer

As the costume designer for the award-winning Summit High School Theater Arts Program (Summit, New Jersey), Katherine Winter’s job is to design and create costumes for the full casts of the Fall and Spring productions. For over 13 years at the high school, with every production, every cast, every performance, Ms. Winter leaves her mark, her knowledge, and her passion with the students and the adult volunteers who work tirelessly with her on the costume crew. Because more than anything else, Ms. Winter believes that her true purpose is to teach, mentor, and elevate the young people with whom she works. It is a passion that started when she was a young girl using her mother’s Singer sewing machine and a desire to tell stories that is an integral part of Ms. Winter’s Irish heritage. Brooklyn, New York, was the original stage for Ms. Winter’s love of costume design; it all started with that Singer sewing machine and the strong need to create, always create, something entirely from scratch …

I grew up in Brooklyn, the first generation of Irish immigrants. It was common for many mothers of the time to purchase sewing machines and learn to make their own clothes. As my mother, who was very fashionable, was learning to sew, she encouraged me and my brothers to learn with her. My brothers lost interest quickly but I became hooked. I couldn’t sew enough! I loved making things: buying the patterns and the fabrics, and creating most of my clothes! Every weekend I attended a Parish dance, and it became a ritual for me to make a new dress for each dance. As time went on, I made my own Prom dresses (I still have two of those dresses!) and most of the clothing I owned. Continue reading

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Farewell to Downton Abbey Fashion

DowntonAbbeyHatsThe-final-ever-episode-saw-her-marry-Bertie-Pelham-422594Oh, Downton Abbey! So sad to see you go. The characters, the drama, the fashion! Yes, I will miss the fashion. Especially when things were getting so interesting. The fashion of the 1920’s is so much fun: the cloche hats, the long pearls, the dresses – simple, color-blocked, … all so very Coco Chanel. And the women were getting so interesting, too: strong and independent – the clothes reflecting this change.

Farewell, Downton. My fashion fave!

 

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A Fashion Trio for the Ages: Hepburn, Givenchy, and Sabrina

Audrey Hepburn in Sabrina, wearing Hubert de Givenchy creation: photo courtesy of Paramount Pictures

Audrey Hepburn as Sabrina, wearing Hubert de Givenchy creation: photo courtesy of Paramount Pictures

Last night TCM aired one of my all-time favorite Audrey Hepburn movies, 1954’s Sabrina. Sabrina tells the tale of a chauffeur’s daughter who pines over the handsome playboy son of the wealthy, Long Island family for whom her father works. After her father ships her off to Paris to attend cooking school and kick her crush, Sabrina returns two years later sporting a complete makeover, including a new haircut and Parisian style. When Sabrina accepts an invitation to a fancy dance from her former crush, she promises to wear “a lovely evening dress with yards of skirt and way off the shoulders.” And so enters Sabrina, as the belle of the ball, in the strapless, iconic Hubert de Givenchy dress that would launch the french designer and one of the greatest collaborations in film and fashion history: Hepburn and Givenchy. And here, the story behind the story gets more interesting … Continue reading

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Oh, to be Well-Dressed on Downton Abbey!

Lady Mary in Season 6

Lady Mary in Season 6 – Photo Getty Images, courtesy of (C) Nick Briggs/Carnival Film & Television Limited 2015 for MASTERPIECE

I’ve really gone to town and found some incredible original pieces that I’m very excited about. Knowing that it’s the final season, I wanted to go out on a high and epitomize that mid-decade point that we’ve reached. The ’20s glamour and decadence, knowing that that way of life is waning.” Anna Mary Scott Robbins, costume designer Downton Abbey

I am in love with costume design and telling stories through clothes. Downton Abbey’s final season has just launched in the U.S., with the 1920s in full swing. The look of the show is extremely important, down to the smallest detail and the clothing is at the heart of the storytelling. In a recent Glamour Magazine interview with costume designer, Anna Mary Scott Robbins, Robbins describes the process of finding vintage pieces and the combination of making things from scratch and adopting originals for the characters, whom she knows so well: “You could troll vintage markets for months and months and months and it might not be exactly like it was in your imagination. That’s another reason you make something: It gives you control over the exact coloring of the silk, the cut, the detailing. I tend to have an open mind when vintage shopping and am constantly looking for things that could be for any of our characters. When I find them, I’ll buy them and stockpile them. I know the characters so well that I can buy things knowing they’ll be good for certain scene moments. Having a rough idea where the characters’ stories are taking them, I try to be prepared.”

Robbins, who joined the show last year for Season 5 has really hit her stride, just in time to see the characters embrace the movement of the 1920s. We all benefit from the perfect character studies and storytelling through fabric.

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If Looks Could Kill

Photo: @emmaroberts

Photo: @emmaroberts

I Scream. You Scream. We all Scream for Scream Queens! I am super-obsessed with last night’s new show, Scream Queens (Tuesdays on FOX). Part horror, part comedy, the show takes place on a college campus and focuses on a series of serial murders at a popular and snooty sorority house where the leaders call themselves, appropriately enough – The Chanels. The president of the sorority is played by Emma Roberts, the queen bee herself. Fashion takes the lead as the main characters are dressed in vintage Chanel and Moschino. As they deal with blood and gore and murder, these Chanel girls are killing it.

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Entourage’s Ari Gold Dresses to Impress

From left, Adrian Grenier, Jerry Ferrara, Kevin Connolly, Jeremy Piven and Kevin Dillon in a scene from "Entourage," which hit theaters June 3.  (Claudette Barius / Warner Bros.)

From left, Adrian Grenier, Jerry Ferrara, Kevin Connolly, Jeremy Piven and Kevin Dillon in a scene from “Entourage,” which hit theaters June 3. (Claudette Barius / Warner Bros.)

Like I told you fifteen years ago – the next level is coming.” ~ Ari Gold, from the movie “Entourage

The next level did come to Ari Gold, Jeremy Piven’s masterfully-played character in the film version of  the HBO Series “Entourage.” In the recently-released film Ari has moved from agent to studio head and his wardrobe follows suit, so-to-speak. Costume designer Olivia Miles, who designed seasons seven and eight of the HBO series, dresses Ari Gold and ‘the guys’ in the film and has the responsibility of telling their stories with their wardrobes (in contrast to Ari, ‘the guys’ spend most of the film in t-shirts and more relaxed garb). Although Ari Gold wore suits during the television series, Ms. Miles gives him a fashion boost in his new role as studio head. His look is composed primarily of three-piece suits – many with double-breasted vests. Throughout the film he wears Italian designer Domenico Vacca suits exclusively, enhancing the aura of Ari Gold’s character. Says reporter Adam Tschorn of The Los Angeles Times: “The extra fabric from that look, as well as the occasional full-on double-breasted suit, creates an impression of impenetrable luxury armor that allows Piven’s character to unravel on the inside while still looking buttoned-up and in control on the outside.” Tschorn asks the question if this look will eventually reach the everyday person and influence the mass market. One can wonder …

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Every Girl Will Want This Muffin Top!

Muffin Top: with Cathryn Michon and Marisa Jaret Winoker

Muffin Top: with Cathryn Michon and Marissa Jaret Winokur

Muffin Top: Cathryn and Tucker

Muffin Top: with Cathryn and Tucker

Muffin Top: with Cathryn and Tucker

Muffin Top: with Cathryn and Tucker

You know you are watching a movie with a meaningful message when the opening screen fills with these inspiring words of Eleanor Roosevelt: “No one can make you feel inferior without your consent.” What follows is a hilariously funny, charming, and slightly sexy film called Muffin Top: a movie that addresses important issues like body image and self esteem and is brought to life by a super-talented cast that includes Cathryn Michon, Tony Award winner Marissa Jaret Winokur, David Arquette, and Melissa Peterman. I was fortunate to catch the premiere and meet Cathryn Michon herself – the writer, director and star of the movie. Ms. Michon and I talked about the essence of Muffin Top, body image messages, why it is essential that women have larger roles in filmmaking, and of course, the costumes! Here is my conversation with Cathryn …

MKG:  What is the message behind Muffin Top? What are you hoping to say to women and men with this story?

CATHRYN: Muffin Top is a great Girl’s Night In movie. That makes you laugh and get inspired to be kinder to yourself, because you are beautiful. It goes very well with wine and chocolateWe really want the takeaway from Muffin Top to be,love yourself NOW, not 5 lbs from now.” We all came together to make a truly funny and romantic movie because we believe that comedy really helps open your heart to looking at yourself in a more loving way.

MKG: What do women need to know about their bodies and feeling good about themselves?

CATHRYN: We need to remember that these media images that make us feel so insecure about our bodies are photoshop cartoons, not real women. Even supermodels don’t look like their magazine covers in real life. Continue reading

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“There are a lot of favorite parts to being a costume designer”

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

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When it comes to fashion, seeing is believing!

Play
Alexandra Regazzoni, costume designer

Alexandra Regazzoni, costume designer  Photo Credit: Lisa Reznik

I hope you will join me tomorrow for my first filmed interview: a conversation with costume designer, Alexandra Regazzoni. Alexandra has been featured on the blog before, when we meet a year ago, but this is the first, of what I hope will be many, filmed discussions. Because when it comes to fashion, seeing is believing …

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Oscar-winner Cate Blanchett shares the screen with her Birkin Bag

Cate Blanchett, Blue Jasmine, with her Birkin bag

Cate Blanchett in Blue Jasmine, with her Birkin bag

Women wear their Birkins like a shield. They hold it in front of their bodies. It says, ‘Don’t get near me.’ We had to have one, but it was another case of the cost of an Hermès bag is my whole budget. Again, though, they surprised us by saying, ‘Come up and take anything you need.'” Suzy Benzinger, costume designer, Blue Jasmine

On Oscar night, I start watching TV early. In fact, my family knows not to disturb me after 6pm. It’s the perfect evening for me, bringing together my favorite things – movies and fashion. And this year, to my delight, ABC’s Red Carpet Pre-Show featured short films, entitled Fashion and Film. In one, Suzy Benzinger, costume designer for Woody Allen’s film, Blue Jasmine,  talks about how important Cate Blanchett’s Hermès Birkin handbag was to the story; in fact, Ms. Benzinger says the bag actually is another character, playing a prominent role in most scenes.

It’s what this blog is about; fashion playing an important role in our lives – our armor, our shields, ourselves.

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