One thing I’ve learned through the trials and tribulations of being/becoming a wardrobe stylist is that you’re not going to be amazing at styling everything. I discovered, to no surprise to myself, since I’m not sure that I have a sexy bone in my body, that I’m not inspired while doing lingerie. I realized this while working for Playboy. Itty bitty lacy gizmos are generally not where I feel the most creative. But in this case, when one of your best buddies (who just happens to also be one of the best photographers in Chicago people NEED to hire) asks you to do a fun collaboration, itty bitty becomes SUPER fun/creative. Colleen Durkin is amazing at making models feel comfortable, and creating a place that occupies both sexy, provocative, weird and beautiful. It also never hurts to have a model that is game for anything and incapable of taking a bad photograph. You can buy a copy of Inked Magazine with Leon TODAY!
The Trump Tower Terrace never looked so good thanks to the invite by Chicago Magazine to shoot their July cover. That night I had one of those deep, overwhelming love patters for the city of Chicago. It’s a really beautiful place when you’re not chattering your teeth to get out of the cold. On top of that, apparently there’s more than 165 things to do?!!
Here’s a recent portrait I styled with photographer, Brian Kuhlmann of Chicago’s own Gold Motel. I’m usually not a big fan of using black because it creates a hole in the frame, but when you’re working in an old bank vault with walls of gold safety boxes, black is your friend, especially some good ol’ black leather (singer’s dress, although you can’t really tell. It looked AMAZING on her! Dress is by Elizabeth and James.)
This may have been the easiest shoot I’ve ever styled thanks to this handsome chap. It’s a rarity when the first thing someone puts on fits them like a gem and ends up in the final image. All of Patrick Andrews (actor in photograph) clothes were provided by AllSaints Spitalfield new store on Michigan Avenue. Hair and make up was done by the talented Jenna Baltes (you should hire her). Lastly, a BIG thanks to the super duper photographer, Brian Kuhlmann for asking me to be part of his team. Make sure you go see Patrick in the two man show called Red at the Goodman Theater.
If I break a record for most hits on my blog in one day with that title, I can then conclude that my readership consists of a bunch of 6th grade boys who watch Project Runway. I’m not talking about grooming areolas here, rather, how to style someone in a progression where eventually they’re going to take off their clothes. Sounds weird, and don’t worry, I haven’t become a costume designer for porn (although I wouldn’t turn down the opportunity, sorry mom), but it’s an interesting project to conceptualize as a stylist. Being a self-proclaimed, far from sexy person… My underwear drawer is something similar to a stack of cotton sheets you would see sold at JCPenney, I find it hilarious that I’ve had a couple of assignments styling for a gentlemen’s magazine (saying that made me feel about 70 and Christian.) Thinking about what provokes excitement in wardrobe is something I rarely get to do, at least that kind of excitement, but I’ve learned isn’t all that different from styling a car advertisement. It’s what is underneath it all that get’s us move’n, but it’s also how we get to that point. Therefore, I’ve found, and by no surprise, it all goes back to story telling. This time it’s not only about the details in the costume that tell the story, but the process of the clothing from bare skin to fully loaded with fabric. Even though it’s print, you have to think of it as a sequence where the end point, middle point and beginning point, you’d hope would be equally as exciting.
The hardest obstacle is to not fall into a cliché. At the end of the day, it’s all been done, but I personally think what sells sex is confidence. Granted, everyone has their own preferences on what wardrobe makes their hips sway. Whether it’s butt stirrups, or wet A-shirts, it’s not going to work unless the model is comfortable. That’s why, like with any person being shot for an editorial, it’s best to interview the subject before you go shopping to get an idea of what they’re all about. Being naked with a room full of strangers is a enough to shake some nerves, the last thing you want is for the model to not feel their best. They have to sell their body, like models have to sell the product. It’s the same thing, just a little more drafty.
Where can you find a plot of grass with pretty ladies eating guacamole in the middle of the street? Only in your dreams and/or Todd Baxter‘s computer. It’s always exciting working with Todd because he’s a Photoshop genius and nothing ever quite looks like how it did in studio. My focus was on the wardrobe, which was directed to be ladies out at brunch. The challenge was finding clothing that was bright enough to break them away from the city background while also being climate appropriate. What I didn’t want was for the shot to look like a circus in color, or for the ladies to look like twin-kies in that they all dressed in very similar styles. Each girl needed to have their own personality, yet work together in proportion and color at the table. The solution… as always, bring a whole lot of options and play around with it until you have something that works.
A big THANKS to Todd for asking me to be part of this! Make sure you check out his website, you’ll Ooooo and Ahhh.
A big thanks to the super awesome photographer, Dave Rentauskas for asking me to style this entrepreneurial family who own the bar/liquor store, Maria’s Packaged Goods and Community Bar. Ed Marszewski, the creative engine behind the bar, a couple of art zines, and one of the coolest art spaces in town, Co-Prosperity Sphere, was chosen as Time Out’s Chip Off the Old Block. The kicker behind this shoot was that we couldn’t tell the family why we were photographing them AND I was directed to dress them in matching outfits. The challenge was to not make them feel like the Partridge family and finding wardrobe that still made them look like the hip people they are, while keeping the art director’s wishes. They were great sports, easy to photograph, and in the end look like a band I’d want to be part of. If you haven’t visited Marias Packaged Goods in Beverly, I highly suggest you do so. Killer Manhattans.
I’ve been helping out on and off on a new television series taping in Chicago (more details to come) and I can’t help but compare and contrast the difference between working on wardrobe in advertising, whether it’s print or television and working in film or a television series. Something I had never had to take into consideration in advertising is, “How would this make the actors feel.” Especially in print, how the model feels about what they are wearing doesn’t really come into play. There are some exceptions to this. For instance, if your subject is someone who is featured in an article in a magazine for something they have done, of course you want them to like what they’re wearing. But when it comes to advertising, it’s not about them. They’re there to compliment the product or in television commercials, to sell the product. In print, it’s not really about looking cute or stylish unless that has to do with the product, it’s about the entire image as a whole making sense. In television commercials, it’s obviously a little more fluid, but the same rule of thumb goes.
When I shop for advertising assignments, I’m thinking about what I think works, what I think the client will think works, and what I think the photographer/director will think works. In film and television, you can go right ahead and move all those people aside and put the actor at the top of your list. You’re caressing their ego with fine cashmere for every item you buy for them. In the end, if they don’t feel 100% confident in what they’re wearing, even as they’re walking to set, you’re making a frantic run to the stores.
To the actor, how good they look in every scene gets them the next job. To the costume designer, every detail in their clothing tells you something about their character and sometimes all those details don’t please the actor’s taste. How do we resolve this? The costume designer becomes really good at the psychology game to make the actors feel comfortable and confident. Don’t you think it would be a good class?
Truth be told, this is the closest I’ve come to using anything I learned from my high school chemistry class. A big thanks to the great photographer, Ryan Robinson for asking me to be part of this fun project and American Science and Surplus for lending me the all the science a girl could ever want. I would also like to credit my crooked mitts for making their first appearance in a photograph. Watch out hand models, here I come!
I can’t begin to tell you how much fun this job was from beginning to end. I love doing anything that requires research and a little bit of digging around Chicago’s great vintage stores. I even had my parents and grandma consulting me on whether a petticoat is appropriate for a 1950’s housewife. The best part was seeing it all come together on the day of the shoot with a really fun and talented female powered crew. I finally got the fake blood stains off of my hands, but this shoot will be remembered for a long time. And yes, the brain cake was COMPLETELY edible, but you do have to like a topping of bloody corn syrup.
Photographer: Lisa Predko
Model: Donna Touch
Hair & Makeup: Martina Sykes
Assistant/Retoucher: Sarah Crump
Brain Cake: Angel Food Bakery
Apron: Store B
Dress: Lenny & Me
Curtains: Night & Day Vintage
Wallpaper, Table and Fridge: Ms. Lisa’s very own.