“I’m not a funny person so I don’t know how I got into comedy,” says costume designer Michelle R. Cole, explaining how surprising it is that she wound up working on shows like “In Living Color” and “Black-ish” after coming from a theater background and studying period design. We talked with Cole and her fellow costume designers Janie Bryant (“1883”), Kameron Lennox (“Pam and Tommy”), Hala Bahmet (“This is Us”), Ian Fulcher (“A Very British Scandal”) and Laura Montgomery (“What We Do in the Shadows”) about the periods and settings they’d most like the design for. Watch the Gold Derby “Meet the Experts” group roundtable discussion above. Click on each name to view that person’s individual video chat.
“I love doing period, the 1800s,” Cole adds. “I went to college in Kentucky, so that’s what I studied, and I have never done any of it. So that’s what I would love to close out my career. I’m 65 right now. And I always say, I have one show left that I really want to do, or one play left. I would love to do a period piece.” Bryant, who created period designs for “1883,” would like to go further back in time: “My favorite period for forever has been the 1770s. I love French rococo and the Baroque period, so that is my dream job. I mean, the men are just as fancy as the women. I love the wigs and the decorations, and I love brocades and big dresses.”
Bahmet, who spanned several decades across flashbacks and flashforwards on “This is Us,” isn’t particularly interested in the Civil War or Elizabethan eras, but “what I would love to do is anything from the 1880s through the 1970s. That’s quite a wide range, but “that whole span of almost a hundred years, I love all of those areas. I love all of them for all their different reasons. I like all the different silhouettes. I like how the clothing reflected the changing times for each of those decades.”
Fulcher picked a time within that range: “anything between 1890 and 1910, just because I’m obsessed with the silhouettes from those periods” with their “huge sleeves” and “those satins, all those fabrics, and all the lace.” Then Lennox picks up right where Fulcher leaves off: “For me, I think it would be 1920s to 1970s … There is something about especially the 1920s and 1930s that really fascinates me,” so much so that she likes to include nods to that era in other work that she does, including a black kimono from the 1930s that Sebastian Stan wears in “Pam and Tommy.”
Montgomery currently dresses characters who have been alive — or rather undead — for hundreds of years, giving her an almost limitless array of period costume options already. So she’d take on “a good kind of futuristic project,” something “free and unfettered” with “a really interesting point of view.” She points to the Oscar-nominated costumes from “Dune” as an example of creative world-building through wardrobe. So from the distant past to the distant future, there’s nowhere costumes can’t boldly go.
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