“The lifeblood of a “look” appears to flow through a show’s costume bible; this binder is an essential meeting point for the team.”
The shop windows of New York City’s Garment District are a sumptuous feast for the imagination. Beyond the glass, a dense jungle of color buzzes in the high-ceilinged canopies that flank narrow walkways, overflowing with texture; thread, ribbons, feathers, buttons, paints, trims, rhinestones, crystals, and towering rolls of sensuous fabrics stretch into oblivion. Dotted sporadically between 34th and 41st Street, these quirky stores burst with possibility; however, a new style of shop front is casting dark shadows across this historic district’s aesthetic. Wooden boards, dark blinds, and worn silver shutters have replaced many vibrant displays, serving as a relentless reminder that in many instances, these bright and brilliant businesses are gone for good.
COVID-19 ravaged New York’s costume industry. The ecosystem is built on small businesses, and when Broadway closed abruptly in March 2020, this cottage industry lost $26.6 million in gross revenue that year. Workers could rarely adapt their roles to fit a work from home model, and numerous shops closed permanently, removing familiar suppliers from the map. Experts with years of experience have said goodbye to their vocations, taking precious practical knowledge with them. Without those face-to-face interactions in the work room, demonstrating techniques and passing intelligence along, we may be losing more than we realize.
photos by Rebecca J Michelson
A look inside
New York’s “Showstoppers!” costume exhibition; how the designs move from page
to stage, and the intricate details
that hoist a costume from clothing
“Clothes have immense power and presence, and can elevate a performance from moving to mesmeric. To the audience, they are the first impression we have of a person.”
by Tash Cowley
A Close-Up On Costumes
Photography by Rebecca J Michelson
Issue No.7 features in-depth interview with artists and arts organizations across 10 cities.
In the meantime, checkout Issue No.7.
Find this, and more, in the forthcoming print edition of Issue No.8.