Wednesday, July 2, 2014

Fly Girl Tops

Last year I was asked by costume designer Jessica Pabst to create what she kept referring to as "fly girl tops" for a musical at Second Stage called Nobody Loves You. For those of you who may not get the reference, fly girls were the backup dancers on the variety show In Living Colored that aired back in the 90's.

Pictures of the process...

This is the rough sketch Jessica drew (on a post-it note!) to convey how she wanted the tops to look.

This is a front view photo of the top I took to show Jessica my progress while I was making them. In the final look, the trim connected all the way around to make a continuous line rather than being tucked into the neckline of the shirt as seen in this photo. 

Back view progress photo. You can see it needs some pressing at the top. 

Production photos of my top being worn on stage. I made four tops altogether, including one for an understudy. It was really exciting seeing something I made being worn on the stage of a professional Off-Broadway theater, especially since I was given comp tickets and got to take my good friend Emma. The last time I had seen something I made onstage was back in college, so this was definitely way more exciting.

Thursday, April 24, 2014


I recently had the honor of working with Al Silber at the Vineyard Theater on the one woman show Arlington. Here she is in a costume designed by Jess Goldstein (Jersey Boys, Newsies). The dress was custom made, the cardigan was from Nordstrom Rack, the apron is vintage and the shoes were from Ralph Lauren I believe. Behind her is Ben Moss in a Gap tshirt and Old Navy chinos. Just a couple of days ago, Al was nominated for an Outer Critics Circle Award for Outstanding Solo Performance, which is more than well deserved. Congratulations, Al!

Friday, January 17, 2014


Sorry it's been so long! Unfortunately I do not have any of my own interviews to share with you at the moment but interviews can be tough to come by sometimes. One of the toughest things to cope with in this business is how to handle the time off between jobs. That is why I first created this blog and it's been so encouraging to see how many views the site has been getting. That is why I thought I'd share another side project of mine with you all. I've taken the plunge and finally started an Etsy shop! I hope you'll take a moment to check it out.

And since I don't want to leave you completely interview-less, please enjoy this interview with costume designer Christine Bean from "The Blacklist." I've worked with Christine a couple of times now and she is one of the most talented, kindest people in the business.

Monday, February 11, 2013

Stephani Lewis- Costume Designer

Back in July I had the pleasure of meeting with costume designer Stephani Lewis about working as a production assistant for her on a film she was going start working on soon. Unfortunately, that film fell through shortly after our meeting but since then a project she worked on back in 2010, Beasts of the Southern Wild, has gone on to receive much acclaim and accolades including four Oscar nominations for Best Screenplay, Best Director, Best Leading Actress and Best Motion Picture. So, in honor of the biggest awards ceremony of the year, which are to take place on February 24th this year, I figured who better to interview than somebody who actually worked on one of the films being honored at this year's ceremony.

How did you get into costume design?
I studied costume design for the theatre in college at the University of New Mexico. My degree program was called Design for Performance. Everyone was required to study costume, set, sound and light design before declaring which field we emphasize in. During that time the film incentives in New Mexico were making it super busy there. While I was still in school I started interning on local productions. After graduation I started working more consistently as a set costumer and seamstress and finally an assistant designer. After about a year of working in New Mexico I moved to New York to pursue more design opportunities.

How did you get involved with Beasts of the Southern Wild
I had previously worked with two producers who were involved with Beast as a Sundance Lab project. They both threw my name in the hat to design it.

What approach did you take in designing the costumes for Beasts of the Southern Wild and how has it differed from other films you've costume designed?
I wanted the costumes to be true to the characters and environment. My goal was to accurately reflect the world they lived in by creating natural pieces. Working with non-actors it was important that all the costumes were something they would feel comfortable in. I didn't want them to have to be worried about how they looked or their comfort level while they were on camera so they could fully focus on their character and their acting.

What was it like costuming Quvenzhané Wallis, who was only six at the time of filming and just became the youngest nominee in Oscar history for Best Leading Actress at age 9?
She is just fantastic- such a strong, tough, brave little girl who kept the whole crew laughing. She comes from a really fantastic family and is just so full of happiness, love and energy. 

Not only was this Quvenzhane's first acting experience, but many of the rest of the casts' as well. What was it like working with so many first time actors?
It was fun and exciting to take the journey with them but also a challenge. I remember constantly saying in fittings, you might not like this, but would your character? 

What was your working relationship with director Benh Zeitlin, who was also just nominated for an Academy Award, like?
Benh is a very smart talented guy. He had a great beautiful vision in his head and I just strived to contribute to that.

Did you have any input on the red jersey Hushpuppy carries around that once belonged to her mother or was that a decision of the director?
That was actually a prop. I believe it was scripted that she carried around a jersey but I can't remember if it was scripted as red. It was something the art department and the director worked on together.

What was the inspiration behind the looks of the women in the bar scene towards the end?
We didn't want the women at Elysian Fields to feel like strippers, they are supposed to feel more like mother figures in this fantastical world Hushpuppy and the orphans enter. It was so long ago but I think Behn came into my office one day with that idea and I thought it was fantastic. We went thrift store shopping and bought up all the slips and negliges we could.

How did you achieve the looks you wanted on such a miniscule budget?
Well there aren't actually a lot of costumes in the film so most things came from local thrift stores. And they have great thrift stores in Houma, Lousianna! It was always an adventure to go out shopping. 

What have you been up to since Beasts of the Southern Wild wrapped?
We wrapped in summer of 2010 so I've been up to quite a lot! I've designed and assisted on quite a few films. I guess the biggest change is I moved from New York to Los Angeles. 

Thanks to Stephani for answering my questions and good luck to the Beasts of the Southern Wild at this year's Academy Awards!

Tuesday, January 22, 2013


The last show I wardrobe supervised was a play at the Vineyard Theatre called Checkers by Doug McGrath. The show documented Richard Nixon's famous "Checkers" speech and the events leading up to it. For the show, costume designer Sarah J. Holden designed the dress Pat Nixon (played by Kathryn Erbe) wore to look exactly the same as the actual dress the real Pat Nixon wore during the speech's broadcast in 1952.

(L: Anthony LaPaglia and Kathryn Erbe as Richard Nixon and Pat Nixon in Checkers; R: Pat Nixon during the actual "Checkers" speech.)

(Sarah's design on display in the window of the theater.)

Thursday, September 20, 2012

I'm A Set Costumer Now!

Above is a picture from the set of a TV show I've been working on as a dayplayer set-costumer, taken by my terrible camera phone! After my last job ended I wasn't sure where I'd wind up but a series of very fortunate events led me to what has been my first experience working on set. I must say, it's a lot different than working in theater and a bit of a relief compared to being a PA. Paying your dues (metaphorically and literally seeing as there are union dues) DOES pay off!

Unfortunately, I have no interviews to attach to this post but I will share some of the best and most unique advice I was ever given by somebody in the business, an assistant costume designer who I believe is now working on the new show Infamous. I received it in college for a school project and it has stuck with me ever since.

"Decide what you want. Do you want to be a big fish in a little pool or a small fish in a big pool?"

I think I like the little pools much better but every once in a while it's exciting to go play around in a big pool. 

Thursday, February 2, 2012

Jessica Risser Milne- Costume Designer/Script Supervisor/Fellow Blogger

Hello there! It’s been so long! Sorry about that! To get this thing started back up again I thought I’d interview costume designer/script supervisor/fellow blogger, Jessica Risser-Milne. Jessica is a theatrical costume designer who runs the ever-popular Costume Design Blog, which is a good resource that provides advice for students looking to get into the field. Enjoy!

How did you get into costume design?

In High School I loved to sew, but I hated my HomeEc teacher. Hate might be too strong a word... Greatly disliked would be better. So I was looking for something else to use my skills, and found the theatre!

You also work as a script supervisor occasionally, how does that differ from costume design?

I like to say that working as a script supervisor (or stage manager when I was in college) gave my creativity a break, and exercised my right brain for a while! It's all analytical, structure, and disciplined concentration. There aren't wild, last minute discoveries. And you work with a completely different side and section of people. Folks come to you looking for facts, not opinions. I find that refreshing.

I once met costume designer Jennifer Von Mayrhauser when I interviewed for a position as a production assistant with her on her current show Unforgettable and she seemed so nice. What was your time at Brandeis University as an MFA student and on Law and Order as an intern with her like?

Jennifer is a wonderful person! She was clear in school that she wanted to be more of a mentor than a teacher and this was especially true of the time I spent with her on Law and Order. Even though I could only be there for a week, she made sure that I saw/worked on every aspect of the show. I was exposed to every aspect of creating a weekly television show, from production meetings, to shopping, to shooting, to storage. There was just so much new language in that week! I still find myself going back and remembering things and saying, “Yes that's what they meant....”

What made you start Costume Design Blog?

There are so many little things that you learn on the job, that no one thinks to tell you when you are in school. I realized this and thought, "I could tell people who are interested." Blogging isn't nearly as intimidating as, say, writing a book. And if I can help people through the blog, or even just entertain people, that's great! The response to the blog so far has been tremendous. I really didn't anticipate many people reading it. That is such a cliche thing to say, but it is true.

On your blog, you give students a lot of advice and tidbits about what it's like to work as a costume designer. What's the best advice someone ever gave you?

Oh, there are so many! "Use a bigger brush" and "Don't be boring" come to mind quite often these days. Sadly, I often throw out advice when I first get it, and then come back to it days, weeks, or years later. Just a quirk of who I am.

Thanks for your great answers, Jessica!

And on a personal note, for the past couple of months I've been fortunate enough to work backstage at the Vineyard Theatre on a sweet little show called "Outside People." We close this Saturday which makes me really sad but on the bright side, we'll always have this nice little trailer to remember it by.