The Costume Style of the Segerstrom Production Nice Work if You Can Get it
An Unsung Hero of Theater | Catherine Lovejoy, Costume Manager
Written By: Mary McNulty
All industries have their unsung heroes. Rock stars have their loyal Roadie Crew. Executives have their Assistant. All agree that their success would be severely limited without the dedication of the individuals who love to work behind the scenes.
One such key player in any production is the Artist, who can transport the Audience through time with costume. As the Segerstrom Center for the Arts prepares for the 2012 Tony Award-winning production of George and Ira Gershwin’s based “Nice Work If You Can Get It”, Catherine Lovejoy is busy managing the costuming on the road.
Set in the 1920’s, “Nice Work If You Can Get It” contains such George and Ira Gershwin classics as “I’ve Got a Crush on You” and “Let’s Call the Whole Off”. The costumes reflect the iconic bootlegger style of the period and putting it together is quite a task as Ms. Lovejoy explains.
Q: How do the costumes in NICE WORK set the scene for a roaring ’20’s bootlegger setting?
Catherine Lovejoy: In most cases, it’s easier to tell the time period from the women’s clothing than the men’s. The 1920’s are known for the drop waist and the boxy style, women didn’t want to be curvy in that period. So everything is designed to reflect that desire, with a Broadway twist. Which means the colors are brighter and they like to add a little sparkle.
Q: When did your interest in costume design begin and what was your first show?
CL: I started enjoying costuming and wardrobe as a freshman in college and have been doing it ever since! My first designs were children’s shows, which can be fun because you can often get a little extra crazy with color and pattern for young audiences.
Q: Are a majority of the costumes made in-house or purchased? Do you work the thrift stores with any success?
CL: I’d say for this show the majority of the costumes were made by a studio in NYC. There are a few things, like the tuxedos and bowties everyone wears, that were purchased. But even some of the men’s costumes were made specifically for this show. For example, the Vice squad suits that the men’s ensemble wears, even the fabric was made. They took a base fabric and sewed colored stripes on it using embroidery thread, then used it to make three piece suits.
Q: Every fashion reality show is always about the women. Why do you think that is?
CL: I’d say there are a lot of factors that play into that. The greater majority of women are interested in fashion versus men. The sheer number of pieces a woman can wear in one outfit is staggering if you include accessories, so there’s more to play with. Across history women’s fashion has changed much more than men’s …
Q: How much of your time is spent in costume maintenance?
CL: That’s one of the most important parts of my job, along with making sure quick changes happen on time. I’d say it depends on the day because as with most things, when it rains, it pours. Everyone always seems to have things breaking on the same days! Snaps come loose, buttons come off. What people forget is that these outfits are worn every day. If you had one suit, you wore every day, that you put on and took off at least twice a day, your buttons need to be very secure!
Q: What costume is the most difficult to maintain and why?
CL: The designer obviously wanted to have design integrity for this show, so they used a lot of period appropriate fabric. Which means a lot of chiffon (lightweight sheer fabric) and a lot of wool. Chiffon, after months on tour, starts to disintegrate, and is a challenge to fix. And wool, once you’ve sweated in it for a few months, starts to break down. Which means the male and female ensemble costumes are probably the most difficult to keep looking fresh.
Q: What impact do the other technical areas such as set and lighting design have on costuming?
CL: Lighting can affect the way colors look onstage, which this show uses to its advantage. The Vice suits that the men wear during the show, actually have specifically colored stripes in them to match them to their female counterparts. But so as not to reveal that too early, the lighting in the scene before that reveal makes the striped suits look like they’re all black and white. That’s theatre magic!
Q: What challenges does working with a touring company pose?
CL: The climate changes can affect the costumes negatively, so when we go from snow to warm and sunny and back to snow, that can keep things interesting. Just like wood expands and contracts in the heat, so can other things. Also, thread doesn’t like climate change, so buttons start popping off left and right when we go from cold weather to warm weather!
Q: After the run of Nice Work what is the next project?
CL: I’ve got a few things on the horizon for the summer, one of which is doing some cruise ship installs. I’m going to get on a ship for a week in the Caribbean and help make costumes fit new actors!! Then, who knows, maybe back to tour in the fall!
“Nice Work If You Can Get It” is part of the Segerstrom’s Center’s Broadway series and is scheduled March 17th through the 22nd with Saturday and Sunday matinees on the 21st and 22nd.
Segerstrom Center for the Arts
600 Town Cntr Dr
Costa Mesa 92626