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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