Suiting Himself By Marimar McNaughton When a costume designer casts his crew, he may hire an assistant designer. “It depends on whether I need one or there’s someone worthy of that title to help me through the process,” says Alonzo Wilson, a Wilmington native with 28 years of film and television costuming credits. In the costume shop, costumes are designed, patterns made, templates stitched, fittings held and the final products fabricated and tailored. On set the crew includes a costume supervisor, a set costumer, a second or a third costumer and beyond that, additional costumers as needed to manage the wardrobe trailer. The set costumers are looking for continuity; Wilson explains continuity as a replication of the way the costume appeared on first arrival. “I’m on the set occasionally when the new costume is established. When an actor wears a costume for the first time, my assistant or I, or the assistant designer will be there to make sure it looks the way we want it to be established on film. Then it’s up to the set costumer to keep the continuity of what that look is,” he says. The set costumer takes a still photo of the actor in costume taking detailed notes about the costume’s continuity in that scene. The photograph and the notes become one page in a book that goes with the scene. “It’s like a huge process,” Wilson says. “Another costumer may not be on the set but may be in the costume trailer pulling the clothes for the next scene or dressing the background artists,” he says. And then there are the shoppers, the ones who find contemporary clothing of the period that the costume designer and his team do not have time to design and make. “We create the racks of clothes for the next scene, or the next day, or the next week. On ‘Treme’ there’s about 500 costumes per episode. We have racks and racks of clothes with the labels … what all the pieces are, how they’re supposed to wear it,” Wilson says. Wilson was in Wilmington this spring to launch a retrospective of the lavish Mardi Gras Indian costumes he designed for “Treme,” HBO’s post Katrina series that will wrap during season four this fall. On a show like “Treme,” sourcing 500 costumes per episode every 10 days, Wilson would have as many as 25 costume staffers in his department says Mar Calderon, a “Treme” accountant. She says the accountants are the production’s avant-garde, arriving on location two or three months in advance to establish the financial base of operations. “Nothing happens without a check,” she says. Now in Charlotte working on Cinemax’s “Banshee,” Calderon made the four-hour trip last month to see her old “Treme” friend Wilson during his gallery talk at the Cameron Art Museum, which showcases his Indian costumes now through November 3. Among them is Wilson’s yellow feathered, Swarovski crystal beaded Mardi Gras Indian chief’s costume, for the television pilot — rumored to be the costliest in HBO history. Wilson ballparked its value between $80,000 and $100,000. The feathers were hand dyed, the beads hand-stitched. www.wrightsvillebeachmagazine.com behind the scenes HOLLYWOODeast Costume designer and Wilmington native Alonzo V. Wilson with “Treme’s” second season Flag Boy suit. PHOTOGRAPHY BY ALLISON POTTER 31 WBM PHOTOGRAPHY BY BILL KING The Big Chief’s costume from HBO’s “Treme” season one is Wilson’s memorial for Hurricane Katrina victims. The purple represents royalty and spirituality. Details include the Guardian of the Flame’s tribal emblem on the suit’s crown. The iconic hurricane symbols, rendered in Swarovski crystals on its wings, represent SOS. The breastplate worn over the heart represents the marking of each household, the date of inspection, the number of dead bodies found inside and the initials of the inspector.
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