The Dress That Started it All by Anne

Posted on February 26th, 2015 at 6:52 AM

The Dress That Started it All

Dress? What dress?

If you have paid any attention at all to me when I talk about how I got started in doing costumes for a living, I always talk about Darth Vader. How I quit my day job (file clerk at a company that went under a few months after I left) to devote myself full time to making a costume of such beauty and detail and epic-ness as to impress the makers of the original Darth Vader. But that isn't the one that started my love of costumes.

Thoroughly Modern Millie was produced in 2000 at the La Jolla Playhouse and I got to work on some of the costumes. I heard about this job when I went to Gyldenholt's 20th anniversary, one of the other people in our camp worked at the La Jolla Playhouse and mentioned they needed extra help sewing, so I applied. It was only part time, and I didn't have a set task, it was whatever needed to be done; from steaming or pressing satins, silks, taffetas, silk velvets (so yummy!!) to sewing velcro and buttons onto the actors shirts for quick changes, I was even a body double for one of the actresses who was a similar size as I was at the time so the costume mistress could see how the dress would move as the actress walked.

But the thing I remember most, that lives with me to this day are the daisies at Millie's neck and asymmetrical waist line on this one particular poison green dress, complete with loooooong fringe. The daisies were originally part of a velvet burn out fabric, each one set apart from the other, randomly scattered over the sheer background fabric. The person supervising me for this particular task gave me piece meal instructions without ever telling me how it was supposed to turn out and what we were trying to achieve. What was achieved was two dozen or so of these 4 inch diameter velvet daisies stabilized on interfacing, cut out of the fabric oh-so-carefully, then edge-stitched to prevent raveling, before being placed just so on the dress. I never got to see the play, on the night that we were supposed to go they were having technical difficulties with some of the stage equipment and there wasn't any other night in our schedule during the run of the play. And my only photos are those scanned in from the newspaper that I did remember to buy the following day.

The realization that sewing wasn't just a hobby for me, but a passion, happened in that incredibly warm workshop located upstairs at the La Jolla Playhouse, and no matter what I am sewing, even when I am hemming my own pants, those poison green velvet daisies go dancing through my mind to this day.