Lindy Bop was approached recently to supply some wardrobe for season 3 of the Emmy award winning show "A Crime to Remember" airing on ID Investigation Discovery. The show is a series of crime stories set in the 1950s and 1960s. Imagine crime drama meets Mad Men & Pam Am! This year they're venturing into the 1930's and we were of course delighted to send some outfits for the stars.
We caught up with the Costume Designer whose job it is to recreate these distinctive fashion eras, Lisa Fries, to find out how she got to where she is today.
Did you always want to work in fashion?
I’ve sewn since I was young and have always had a huge love for film but it really never clicked in my head that I could actually make a career of it. In college, I majored in Film & Television and originally thought I’d work in the camera department. When my friend needed someone to do the costumes on a short film I volunteered. After that, I got asked to costume design more films. It snowballed and in time it finally clicked. Costume design is the perfect melding of all my interests - film, costume construction and history. While I don’t really consider myself to be a fashionable person, I love clothing - the construction, the detail work, the history and most importantly what clothing means about the person wearing them. So much of fashion fascinates me and I love using it to bring characters to life.
How did you get to where you are now career-wise?
For my undergraduate degree, I earned a BFA in Film & Television from New York University and took side courses in fashion at Parsons School of Design. After I graduated I took some time away from film and worked for a web development company. It didn’t take long before I was aching to get back to more creative endeavors. I enrolled in a 2 year Costume Design course in Dublin, Ireland. After that, I returned home to New York and started interning on a TV show. The film & television industry is really about making good connections so It took a few months of working for little or no pay until I landed steady work. A great costume designer took me under her wing and I started working as an Assistant Costume Designer. In time, I started working as the head designer on various projects.
Describe a typical day
My typical day can vary pretty greatly. During pre-production, my day can entail everything from reading scripts, research, meetings with the director, shopping and fittings. Once we begin shooting, I normally start my day by going over the call sheet which tells us what scenes we’re shooting for that day. I go through any new looks to make last minute changes and final touches. If a new actor is starting, I’ll have a fitting with them and set their looks as well. Once all the actors are dressed, my set costumer and I will go to set so that we can make sure everything is worn exactly how it should be. As the Costume Designer, I can float around to wherever I’m needed whether that’s on set, dressing actors or even shopping for last minute pieces.
What were some of the wardrobe challenges you faced whilst working on A Crime to Remember?
Being a period show, our biggest challenge on A Crime to Remember is always to be as true as possible to the time period and also to the real people that our stories depict. We spend a great deal of time researching these crimes and then sourcing true vintage clothing to accurately represent the time, place and people. Sometimes details or photos from the case will directly affect a character’s costume. For example, in the Betty Williams case there was a very detailed description of the pink sheer pyjamas that she wore at the time of her murder. As we needed multiple sets of the pyjamas, our only option was to create them ourselves. We used vintage patterns from the early 1960’s and images from the time to create a pyjama set that would have been worn at that time.
What’s your favourite film or project you have worked on?
I have to say I love working on A Crime to Remember. To be able to not only work on a show that spans from the 1930’s to the 1950’s but also to dress such fascinating characters is really a blessing. There’s so much to delve into between the history and the people involved in the case.
What are the best and worst things about your job?
The best thing about my job is there’s so much variety I never get bored. One day I could be working on a boxing film, the next I could be on a period drama set in the 1950’s. Everyday I get to learn new things - I research, I shop, I sew. I meet new and interesting people all the time. The worst thing about my job is the hours. We generally work 12 hour days at minimum and I’m constantly working on the weekends. It’s a trade off though. My job is freelance so I make my own schedule. I may spend every waking moment designing a show but then I can take time off too.
Do you have any other projects coming up that you can tell us about?
At the moment, I’m just working on personal projects, travelling and doing some tailoring on the side. After 6 months of working on A Crime to Remember it’s nice to take some time for myself. It’s one of the great perks of freelancing.
What advice would you give to people who aspire to work in Costume Designer?
I’d tell anyone aspiring to be a Costume Designer to be prepared to work hard - that’s really the main requirement. It’s helpful to have training and education in the field but it’s really not necessary. If you want to design - make a film with a friend, check film job postings for intern or assistant positions. You’ll start doing simple tasks like hanging clothes or even making photocopies but the harder you work the more people will notice. In time, you’ll be the one designing the show.
A Crime to Remember series three is on now in the US - and the episode featuring Lindy Bop airs on 29th December 2015. Watch this space for the UK date.