Category Archives: costumes

costumes

Incroyables Coat: Rock Star Clothing

Custom tailoring for Douglas Hunter, a Salt Lake music legend and one of PorchFest's founders.  An Incroyables coat in electric blue corduroy with blue leopard fur.
We adore Hunter and the way he looks here in Simon Blundell's photos.
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Costume historians differ a bit on the subject of the Incroyables, but generally agree that the wild fashion trends of this hipster-punk subculture developed in reaction to the Reign of Terror, 1793–1794, when even aristocrats' servants and others merely associated with aristocrats could be and were being executed.  We are told that the giant lapels, shaggy haircuts, bows and scarves of the Incroyables should be understood as an exaggerated mockery or aping of aristocratic fashion.  Wikipedia reminds us that "Incroyable was an 18th-century French nickname for a yo-yo, then a fashionable toy." The women's (Merveilleuses') fashions spawned even more talk and scandal.
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Mini-Me

We tailored a custom suit for Mini-Me. Yes, that Mini Me. Mr. Verne Troyer himself.

 
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Utah computer hardware giant Fusion IO hired Verne to help them announce their new product at a major tech convention, and they wanted him costumed thusly.
 
However, Mr.Troyer did not own a Mini Me costume. The Austin Powers films by this time were already over 11 years old and any costume pieces that might have been saved from those movies were long gone, unavailable for rental.
 
So Fusion hired us to create one. A custom jacket and trousers.  I was super excited, expecting to have Mr. Troyer in the shop with us to hang out, sign some headshots and take a bunch of fun selfies, etc. But that never happened.
 
The only thing the producer gave me was a sheet of measurements. They were fairly complete but also absolutely unbelievable. I couldn't find out who had taken them or when they were taken. There was no shop info or tailor's phone number in L.A. to call to confirm anything.
 
Nervewrackingly, I made the outfit, duplicating the iconic Mini-Me costume from the films, scratching my head the whole time, saying, "this can't be right, this can't be right." But it was.
 
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The producers picked it up, paid their balance, and went on their way. I checked in with them about a week later and they told me the suit looked fantastic, that Mr. Troyer loved it, and that he wanted one of his own to wear in case he was asked to appear again as the Mini-Me character.
"Great," I said, could you put me in touch with his management?" And they said they would, and then things got busy and well, yeah it never happened.
 
I wondered why they didn't just give Mr. Troyer the costume as a thank-you takeaway. Like, who else would it have possibly fit? The measurements corresponded to a few standard toddler sizes but there would definitely have been some issues. I've always wondered if someone at Fusion took the costume home and dressed up their kid as Mini Me for Halloween! I guess I'll just never know.
 
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Fusion IO's YouTube video was shot live. It's a film inside a film.  The video's aspect ration is vertical and doesn't showcase the great technical details and fit of the costume. We never did get any still photos of Mr. Troyer wearing it. But we are nonetheless very proud of this project.
 
Through custom tailoring and styling, my staff and I have dressed many celebrities and models. We're usually quiet about these events, honoring the trade we are in and its long tradition of discretion.  I don't think I've publicly talked about the story of Mr. Troyer before.  Dredging up files from old hard drives results in this sort of reflection, as well as other thoughts.
 
And these involve telling you a sort of cautionary tale about how you should be careful what you ask for.
 
Around 2004, I was moving our original Pierpont Avenue studio from its loft space to downstairs into a newly available storefront. It was pretty exciting. On impulse one day at a second-hand store, I bought a babydoll with a squeeze feature in his tummy. He'd say one of several pre-recorded things. "I love you." "Nighty-night." Or, "hehehehehe." It was, in truth, a little creepy and visitors sometimes freaked when they saw or heard him. He hung on a peg in fairly plain view, and the key to our basement was attached around his little neck.
 
My idea was that we needed an official key that everyone could always identify, find quickly, and that wouldn't get accidentally locked downstairs or get lost. This little doll was like our hall pass.  "Grab Verne and follow me," I'd shout sometimes, "we have to go find those doublets or that file or whatever in the basement."
 
We've since moved from our Pierpont Avenue shop. At our new location, our shop's basement doesn't have a lock at the top of its stairs. But I still have Verne. He's a keepsake. He's worn a number of different costumes over the years, including a tuxedo vest first sported by a bottle of fancy whisky, given to us by a client.
 
Our Verne is silent now, his squeeze-y talking device batteries long depleted, the whole apparatus dissected from the zippered opening on his back long ago. A few years back, Sora, one of our most awesome interns, lovingly sharpied in his third eye. Our old basement key is still attached around his neck. He still hangs on a peg. This time in my office.  I've reflected often over the years about the vagaries of sympathetic magic, but have never experienced a better example of its wily nature.
 
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Clinique Mascots

Custom mascot costumes for Clinique.

In face-hiding as well as face revealing varieties, at the preference of each store's regional manager.

Katrina Kirkland, Naia Folidei and Rory Sepulveda pose in costumes designed as popular Clinique Cosmetics products at the grand opening of the Meier & Frank in Riverdale. The one-story department store is the eighth in Utah to open and is expected to generate between $200,000 and $300,000 in annual sales tax revenue to the city. (Robert Hirschi/The Salt Lake Tribune)

Katrina Kirkland, Naia Folidei and Rory Sepulveda pose in costumes designed as popular Clinique Cosmetics products at the grand opening of the Meier & Frank in Riverdale. The one-story department store is the eighth in Utah to open and is expected to generate between $200,000 and $300,000 in annual sales tax revenue to the city. (Robert Hirschi/The Salt Lake Tribune)

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To 'hide' or to 'reveal' is always an interesting consideration when you plan to create a walkaround or mascot for your business or product. The face-revealers interact the most purposefully with shoppers, passing out free samples during a department store grand opening.  The anonymous mascara-wearer is far more mischievous and sees through a scrim of metallic fabric.  For all twelve of these costumes we used high density closed cell foam and replicated the Clinique logos with pretty satin-stitch embroidery over appliques.
 
Katrina Kirkland, Naia Folidei and Rory Sepulveda pose in costumes designed as popular Clinique Cosmetics products at the grand opening of the Meier & Frank in Riverdale. The one-story department store is the eighth in Utah to open and is expected to generate between $200,000 and $300,000 in annual sales tax revenue to the city. (Robert Hirschi/The Salt Lake Tribune)

Katrina Kirkland, Naia Folidei and Rory Sepulveda pose in costumes designed as popular Clinique Cosmetics products at the grand opening of the Meier & Frank in Riverdale. The one-story department store is the eighth in Utah to open and is expected to generate between $200,000 and $300,000 in annual sales tax revenue to the city. (Robert Hirschi/The Salt Lake Tribune)

Weddings with Tradition

Custom wedding attire for the wonderful Karl and Rebecca.

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We engineered Rebecca's four-piece dress to match her illustrations (she is a very talented artist and author). We created a suit for Karl, too.  His is an elegant grey wool frock coat with matching trousers, plus colorful vest, period shirt and a custom hat we had JW Hats make for us, here in Salt Lake City.

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When it's ungathered, the skirt we made for Rebecca is over 10 feet long! Eight seams with casing and cord inside her skirt gather it all up into the lovely Austrian folds, topped by an elegant bustle. She also wears a custom corset we built to go underneath her custom bodice. Everything is white satin with very little trimming or embroidery, as per guidelines for Temple weddings.  We stabilized both her corset and outer bodice with steels to create a smooth, hourglass silhouette. We love how Karl and Rebecca look and we adore them both:) Very proud of this custom tailoring/dressmaking project.

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Making History: Victorian Dress

Historical anniversaries bring re-enactors and history buffs out of the woodwork, so we thought we'd add some youthful vigor to the Transcontinental Railroad Anniversary shenanigans by creating a lovely dress and sending our intern, the lovely Anna, to join in on the fun.

 

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The Union Pacific's tracks joined the Central Pacific's tracks on May 10, 1869, in Promontory, Utah.

 

1840s_dress_costume2 We took our pattern from a museum book featuring mid-1800's dress patterns and created the outfit in a nice calico. We adore how bright and cheerful Anna looks, amidst all the dark, dour costumes around her. They look like they're dressed for a funeral and she looks like she's dressed for a party:)

 

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Tea dyed, linen frog closures adorn the front of her bodice plus tiny crochet lace trim on her collar and sleeves that are also finished with teeny burgundy piping. We created a straw hat for her with the matching fabric, too. Anna is wearing a corset and hoop underneath, plus a rounded 'pillow' to fill out her bodice, giving her the accurate monobosom silhouette of the period.

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Production Designers Can and Should Help You Develop Your Script: (What I mean when I say I work in script development).

script_revisions Writers and producers bring scripts to my colleagues and me so we can write bids for costume design, production design and line production. We do this for a fee because we ask that our clients be serious, plus our time and expertise is valuable. You’re probably familiar by now with Josh Olson’s famous I Will Not Read Your Fucking Script, and we, too, usually say no to doing too much work for free. If you’re paying us and treating us as serious associates, though, we are very interested in helping clients develop their scripts, and we take this job very seriously. However, we may not be able to do our best pre-emptive work by the time someone finally arranges to come in and talk to us about costumes, locations, sets, props, miniatures and practical effects. Our shop is sometimes a script’s final destination, instead of its first. And this is not always a good thing for two reasons: If made with the script as-is, the final film product may really suffer from low production values. You should have seen us sooner. Plus, our responses to scripts are sometimes not what writers and producers want to hear. In a sense, the buck may stop with us. This is neither funny nor punny because our work is sometimes negatively categorized as “below the line” of the usual “executive” production team. But we are your necessary eyes, scholars, hands and co-creators. As artists and art directors, we are materialists, bringing your script to life. The things we create for the world of your film need to be as beautiful and as credible as your script is. We are super-nerdy like that and are passionate about splitting hairs over historical facts, arcane subjects and technical terms. Because like you, we are consumers who love and appreciate good film, we will always play the devil’s advocate about your script’s content. We’re artists, and we owe it to the medium we love, so we won’t mince words. Here’s how the script development process usually rolls inside our production design studio:  

I am interviewing you!  I have to believe in you and your product.

I’ll first ask you where your script is in its development.

Have other eyes seen it, how many, and whose? What were some responses those readers had? How many rewrites has this script been through? How many issues or problems with your script do you already think you’ve resolved and how did you do it?  Who else is already attached- meaning other producers, director, crew and talent? Who is your distributor and what are the specifics of how this film will be released and viewed? Where are you at with your budget?

 

If you think it sounds like I’m interviewing you for a job, you are exactly right!

If I agree to sign my shop on to your production and design items for your film, it means I’m investing in your film. I'm attaching my name as a producer or costume designer to your project.  The stakes are high for me, my colleagues and my staff. So your script needs to have a good story and must actually be produce-able.

But since everything’s negotiable, too, we might be willing to produce the physical assets your film needs at a lower price-point if you already have a marketable director or actor attached. I might also agree to take some of our payment on deferment.

 

Sometimes we work as mercenaries in the production design business.

If you already have a decent budget, our shop might agree to create your film’s physical assets just for the work, regardless what we think of your script. We’ll do this sometimes during slow months or in-between big projects.  We may stipulate through an agreement that you will show us a rough, then a final cut, and we reserve the right to omit our association in the credits if the end product’s a real dud.

Those things being said, as production designers and art directors, we want to create a quality product, so we’re never going falsely praise a script that has issues!

Before I’ll even write you a bid or consider breaking down your script into my spreadsheet that includes head-counts for character and extras, their costume changes and costume multiples for continuity, I may confront you about some of the following common issues and I will ask if you’ll consider rewriting before you go into pre-production

The "common issues" include some of these:

 

Your script is too wordy.

Your story’s not being told with enough visuals. Film is a visual medium and your story should be told that way. As designers, we are film consumers, too, and we know overwriting when we see it or read it. I’ll go see theater if I’m craving a story told predominantly through dialogue. There’s always a Shakespeare or Sam Shepard production playing somewhere. I want to see that you know how your shots and cinematography are going to tell your story.

Your script contains awkward anachronisms.

Your script has anachronistic technology references, dialogue, attitudes or enculturated behaviors that don’t fit. A Harvard-educated scientist with redneck speech leaves me scratching my head unless your character is behaving ironically. And cell phones don’t belong in films about the 1980’s any more than feminism and political correctness belong in the 1880’s. Unless your story involves time-travel, these are distracting and your product may suffer from the old Dr. Quinn: Medicine Woman problem. Revise your script. Don’t be a historical revisionist just because you want to further a personal agenda. We see this a lot in scripts from Utah, actually. Please. We want to be moved by your story, not preached to.

Your script is too populated with supernumeraries.

Your script has superfluous characters whom you drop in as bit players but don’t include later. As is said in so many creative or expository writing workshops, “don’t drop the thread.” If it’s a speaking role, make a decision about that small town store owner who exchanges philosophical barbs with your main character. Or that frat-boy bully who runs interference in your protagonist’s goal to get the girl. Their interactions are dropping hints for your audience, so don’t abandon the inclusion of these character in your story’s resolution. If you can’t do it, cut them. Wrap up all your loose ends.

Your main characters’ motivations aren’t clear and aren’t resolved.

After reading your script, I might code switch into my old theater director’s persona and flatly ask you, “What does character X need?” And how does your script further and resolve (or not resolve) that character’s needs and desires? If you’re not sure and can’t verbally sum this up succinctly, and if your script is also unclear about these motivators, how will I know how to design the right costumes for this character as he or she proceeds through his/her journey? How will our production designer know if the props or set pieces are correctly designed and chosen?

My design and producing colleagues and I love great film and collaborating with great artists and writers. In a part II of this thread, I’ll talk more about the process of designing for film projects once I have a firm handle on (as well as belief in) your script.