Trip to Parson-Meares costume design shop in NYC (Part 1)

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My local quilt guild arranged a trip to Parson-Meares costume design studio. My daughter and I attended yesterday and were thrilled to see inside this prestigious costume shop. Of the 20 or so costume shops in New York City, Parson-Meares is one of the largest. They do costumes for such Broadway Hits as Spiderman and The Lion King, as well as costumes for singers such as Bette Middler.

(I apologize if photos are not working. Please go directly to my blog at quiltnotes.wordpress.com to see the proper format.)

Dragon Tail Costume

Here is Christian, our tour guide (a Project Manager manager at Parson-Meares) showing us one of the costumes.

The gown is pleated. The rest of the garment is hand painted with dyes. The bodice is a separate piece so that the gown can be dry-cleaned.

Christian explained the costume-making process. First they receive a sketch from a costume designer. After viewing the sketch, they ask many, many questions. Is the actor wearing a harness under the clothing? How much twisting will they be doing? If they’re dancing, how high will they be kicking? If you want sparkles, do you want sequins (cheaper) or rhinestones (much more expensive).

The next step is to place a bid for the costume. Hopefully they will be successful.

An employee shopper then combs the fabric district for appropriate fabric and notions. In one legal size file folder, we found 10 strips of one inch black lace. In another, there were swatches of orange. The costume designer will then pick the fabric that they wish to use.

Lion King Costume

Here’s another costume for the Lion King. It is made of soft ropes over a metal frame that has enough “give” that the actor can walk through doors.

In Christian’s left hand you can see the hand-woven bodice made of silk plant leaves.

This part of the tour took place in their large fitting room. It was interesting that this room has a variety of lighting options (including black light) so that the costume can be seen in its show environment.

Samples of flesh color

I believe this is called the “Skin Ring.” It contains samples of all flesh tones for the nude part of the costumes. I was amazed at the number of colors of flesh, so it’s possible to match skin exactly. Also, these were not flimsy fabrics like pantyhose. These were a thick mesh.

Design studio

Here’s a peek into the costume studio. It was a large room that accommodated about 60 people. I’ll show you some more pictures tomorrow.

Mannequins

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