Friday, February 6, 2009


Imagine you are doing a period play or movie about poor coal-miners or farmers working in the fields and you need to costume all the people in poor, work clothing. What if your character gets shot and you have to prepare a shirt with "fake" blood for a quick before-and-after scene? What do you do? If you use new clothes, you are presented with crisp white shirts and clean denim overalls. The white shirts are too bright to be believable and the denim too clean and crisp. Costume designers will do what they call "teching", and in the case of trying to make clothes and accessories look even poorer, "distressing." There are all kinds of techniques and tricks, from the simplest, "teching down" white shirts by boiling them in tea or coffee to make them beige, to more sophisticated powders and dyes that do the trick. Denim often gets washed over and over and rubbed with sand-paper to get a used-in look. Productions have often driven back and forth over clothes bathed in mud to get them just right! Whatever works! We just rented some Victorian men's and women's shoes to the film "Sherlock Holmes" in a scene in which they are unearthed as "evidence", in which they had to distress them with brown powdered clay as if they had just been laying in mud. Here is an example of a shirt and undershirt that were stained with fake blood, for a scene in "Cadillac Records" in which Little Walter is beat up by a police officer. Thankfully, they did not distress one of our own period shirts, but used new ones instead! Though we don't allow any dying or distressing of garments without our consent, sometimes the production sneaks them by us! In "The Assassination of Jesse James by the Coward Robert Ford", they unfortunately distressed our period shirts and we could not get the dye out. We had similar issues with some of the 1920's dresses in the share-cropper scenes in "Cadillac Records". On a brighter note, we will soon be renting some clothes for "The Extra Man", a feature film shooting in New York directed by the same team who directed "American Splendor", based on the book by Jonathan Ames. Other new projects are a new play, "Magnolia" at the Goodman Theater, "View From the Bridge" at Cal Poly-Pomona University, "Don Giovanni" at the Boston Lyric Opera, and this weekend, a revival of the 1930's musical "Music in the Air" for the Encore Series at City Center in NYC. We are also delighted to welcome our newest intern Kathryn to our extended family!!