Monday, September 8, 2014

My First Time In New York City

        Being fabulous in New York City is quintessential to anyone interested in fashion. My first experience in the city felt like something straight out of a Candace Bushnell story. Even writing about this makes me feel like Carrie Bradshaw.


I can't believe how friendly everyone is! I was put under the impression that New Yorkers are brazen and generally keep to themselves. On the contrary, my experience was anything, but that.  From the moment I stepped off the train at Penn Station, strange things started happening...coincidence?

I'm so use to facades, I had to keep reminding myself that the buildings are real.
(Disney Hollywood Studios NYC street facade)

Tips I wish I knew ahead of time...

1) All these real buildings, but not a lot of real bathrooms. Every Star Bucks from Penn to Time Square had a bathroom line longer than the coffee line itself. Toys R Us in Time Square was my relief. Now I know why New Yorkers walk so fast. They all have to pee.

2) There are characters walking around, they will try to persuade you for a tip. Legally, they can't ask for a tip straight up, but this isn't Disney World.

Off to my next adventure...To meet up with my friend, Autumn Cohen. She works on Broadway as a Wardrobe Assistant. She had to go into work for a bit before meeting up with me. She suggested Schmackarys Cookies on 45th Street. I think I have a famous doppelganger that lives in the city. While I was trying to overcome my indecision on what kind of sugary substance to devour, the woman behind the counter mentioned that I look familiar. I smiled & told her this is my first time in New York. A woman standing behind me then tapped me on the shoulder. She apologized for bothering me, but wanted to add that I look familiar to her as well. I think this may be a sign that I'm photo bombing too many people in the parks. I decided on a Creamed Corn Cookie. I wasn't in the mood for something too sugary. The sweet & savory combination was a great recommendation. It was like eating a sweet cornbread with bits of macadamia heaven. I took my cookie and did something I've always wanted to do...

 ...I parked my butt on a real NYC brownstone stoop.
This is where I normally watch the world go by (Universal Orlando NYC street facade). 

It wasn't long till my friend met up with me. We walked a couple of blocks over and had lunch at Yum Yum Too. 
The food lives up to the restaurant's name.

The purpose of my visit was to attend a fashion show. As the new Social Media Manager for, Fashion Hope, my first assignment was to write an article on David Tupaz showing at Mercedes Benz Fashion Week.

The mission of Fashion Hope is to build awareness about ethical fashion , while raising funds to resource front-line organizations.

 I had to juggle social etiquette and my new job. I'm extremely grateful for Autumn. She helped me stay focused & up to date. 

front row!

Posing with the Designer, David Tupaz backstage.
'modeling' one of David Tupaz's hats

To wrap up my magical time in NYC, Autumn and I went searching for a great place to eat that would be off the beaten path. It really didn't hit me that I was in New York till I was in a gown walking down Park Ave. My friend & I went on a mission to find a memorable place to eat. We happened to settle on the perfect place, Park Avenue Tavern.
Not only was the food unbelievable, but so was the atmosphere. I couldn't contain my excitement. Of course, I would be the one who would blow out the candle by accident. I followed it up with, "Happy Birthday!" The owner of the restaurant came to my table to make sure the candle hadn't blown out again. As Autumn & I were leaving the restaurant, the owner held the door for us. He asked if we were off to "tear up the town". I was too full and tired to edit my response. "No, I'm going back to her place to tear up the sheets". Autumn elbowed me, "Phrasing!" 


Designer, Linda Bruner 

Rj Ensalad & Joe Thompson for sharing your wonderful photos.

Hairstylist, Jessica Harned at J. Christine Salon & Blow Dry Bar
Thank you 

Tuesday, August 26, 2014

The Wizarding World of Harry: Diagon Alley

I've been so busy working, I wasn't able to post about this sooner. It's been a whirl-wind adventure being part of the opening team for the Wizarding World of Harry Potter: Diagon Alley. It's been two months since the grand opening and the excitement is still fresh. It's been an amazing process, watching everyone come together to make such a magical world a reality.

Hermione Granger's Yule Ball dress is available for purchase exclusively at 
Madam Mathin's.

Take a peak at a couple of shows that I work on:

Celestina and the Banshees      

The Tales of Beedle the Bard 

Sunday, June 22, 2014

What's In My Apron

To those who are unfamiliar with the world of costuming, I would like to shed some light on what I do exactly. My job requires that I stay 'on my toes', even if that means, 'hurrying up and waiting'. I work directly with the costumes and with the performers. I assist in helping the talent put the costumes on & take them off. Some of the costumes can be very intricate & require an extra hand. This is to protect the integrity of the garment and in some cases get the performer on stage as quickly as possible.

Today, I want to share with you the tools of my trade. It's very important to come prepared to work. Each day can be different in the set of tasks that's performed. However, the job is always to make sure the costume & the performer looks good.

What's in my apron....

My apron, at the moment, has the bare necessities. These are the items I use on a regular basis. If I don't have these items readily available, it could mean making a performer late for their queue.

Be prepared for anything to happen. When you're not prepared, then the worst could happen. Your next project / job could reflect how well you're prepared in the job you're currently performing. Having an apron is essential. I'm constantly stuffing things in my pockets. I only have two hands. Having an apron allows me to carry bits and pieces on top of hauling an arm full of garments. 

These are just a few items I use on a daily basis. 
  • Small notepad and pen (pencil can be great because you don't run the risk of accidentally marking a garment) Having a sharpie & highlighter on hand is essential. 
  • Safety Pins. I keep them pinned at the bottom of my apron for quick access. Nothing is more aggravating than digging in my pockets for a pin.
  •  Multi-tool.  Pliers & small knife can be useful for stubborn zippers and faulty hardware.
  • Small extra sharp scissors. I have an extra sharp point on my scissors. It's served me well in last minute situations where I need to make a small snip on a costume that a performer is wearing. It's very important to develop safe habits. When you're not using the scissors, even for a second, always put the safety cap back on. No one likes blood, especially on the costumes. It's also good to have clear communication with the performer you're dressing. They may not be aware that you have a sharp object pointing at them. 
  • Seamstress tape and measuring tape. That may seem redundant, but I assure you, having both is helpful. I like having both options because measuring tape is stiff, where as seamstress tape is flimsy. It's important to NOT roll or fold seamstress tape because it'll curl & crease easily. Take care of your seamstress tape and it'll be easier to work with. It's not a cliche' to have your seamstress tape hang from your neck like an open scarf. In fact, it serves two purposes being there. It's easy access and protects the tape. Always remember safety. Depending on the task, having something dangling from your neck can be dangerous. 
  • Seam Ripper. This may seem redundant to the small sharp scissors. There's been plenty of times where I've found myself using my small scissors instead of a seam ripper. However. a seam ripper is still a tiny blade. There will be times where a seam ripper is needed because the scissors are too big.
  • Pin Cushion / Pins / Needles: I love using a curved needle on everything. It's my personal preference because I'm able to work faster with one, especially on buttons. Be mindful of how much is in your pin cushion & how you're sticking them in. Again, safety first. Also, it's good practice to not have a lot of needles with thread still attached stuffed in the cushion. That's a good way of making a tangled mess. You'll spend more time fumbling with a nest of pins & thread than performing the needed task. 
  • Flash Light: I have two lights. I carry a head light. You can find these in sporting good section. I also use a small hand held flash light. Having good lighting can speed up the process of a task. Even if I'm in a well lit room, sometimes a flash light is used if I can't see down into a garment, especially if I'm having to look for something that is tiny or hard to reach. 

Of Course, there are more supplies needed for the job. A lot of the stuff I use is supplied by the show. It's good form to always be prepared, even if you suspect that everything will be provided. It'll show your level of professionalism in demonstrating good habits. Good habits can mean better opportunities. 

Wednesday, October 23, 2013

The Psycho Seamstress

Meet Gina Van Epps, AKA: Psycho Seamstress. Armed with a wicked sense of style and the skills to go with it, this New Yorker has created quite the name for herself. I got the privilege of sitting down with the A-list designer at her studio in Orlando to discuss her work. 

"As a professional "A List" wardrobe seamstress, I am grateful to say, I am living my dream! It sounds like a glamorous job, I get paid to play in the touring closets of some of the top names in music. Realistically, my job includes everything from doing laundry, steaming, ironing, picking lint, cleaning and polishing shoes, repairing and altering costumes, taping boobs and butts to prevent wardrobe malfunctions, helping sweaty people peel out of soaked costumes and cram them into the next one, in fire drill fashion and spraying worn garments with vodka while resisting the urge to add orange juice and drink the leftovers. I can't lie, it's a blast!"

Q: When did you get your start as a professional seamstress? 

A: My little Italian Grandmother started teaching me how to knit, sew and crochet about the age of 8. 
The ONLY official sewing class I've ever taken was in High School Home Economics class.
Everything after that was self taught and learning by watching and working with others, 
doing research on techniques and reading books. After High School I started making my own clothes,
when other people asked where I got my outfit, when I told them I made it, they wanted me to make something
for them. Then, it was by word of mouth. In about 2009 I started using the name Psycho Seamstress and started
a MySpace and later a Facebook page. I also started advertising on Craig's List, which remains a steady source
of work. My first A List wardrobe gig was when AEG needed a seamstress for a week of rehersals when
"So You Think You Can Dance" was launching their tour from Orlando. After that I began picking up all of the 
A List Artists that came through the Amway Arena and then also started working at other major concert venues on request. 

Q: How long did it take for you to become established?

A: I really began making a name for myself in late 2011 on the A List circuit, by 2013 I was getting enough work
to quit my day job. In June, I found studio space near downtown Orlando and opened the only Fashion Design House in 
Orlando, to my knowledge. By October I became booked thru January and had enough work to fund a partner full time. 

Q: How would you describe yourself as a designer?

A: I am not so much a "sit around and doodle stuff, then make it" type of Designer. My entire career thus far has
been about taking the concepts of my clients and working with them to create the design they have in their mind. 
Everything I do is custom and made to order. I don't really aspire to have factories making 1,000's of my designs, 
I would rather have 1,000 people wearing the one thing I made special for them. 

Q: How many hours is a 'typical' work day for you?

A: On an average day, I try to be up and dressed and in my studio by noon and I will often work until about 2 in the morning. When there is a time crunch, deadline or concert tour, I my average work day is about 16 hours.

Q: What are your responsibilities on any given day? 

A: On a daily basis I meet and talk with clients, designers & seamstresses, work on design concepts and measure people I am making garments for. I spend time figuring out the engineering on how certain projects will need to be constructed, which sometimes requires some trial and error. I am frequently shopping for fabric and notions. I also do a lot of research and update my social media late into the night, For example, right now it's 1:20 am. The late hours of the night are really a very creative and productive time for me. During the day I get a lot of phone calls and interruptions that don't happen as often at night except from my other night owl friends!

Q: Other than sewing, what are some important skills to have when doing this line of work?

A: For me, it has been fortunate that I have spent a great deal of time in Sales and Marketing which has allowed me to become shameless at promoting myself. My background in Management of everything from projects to personnel helps me choose the right clients, coworkers and keep projects on timeline and budget. I have also done accounting, managed contracts and worked a lot in customer service, retail fashion, visual merchandising and I am also an artist, so I do paint a lot in my fashion. My 27 year background in the music business has also come into play. I have been able to combined many of the things I love to do in serving my clients.

Q: Your job requires you to work with all types of people, including celebrities. What sort of problems do you face & how do you handle them?

A: I would have to say that the biggest thing to remember when working with celebrities is that contrary to popular belief, I can't just stroll up to them and ask for a photo, autograph, tickets to their show or other perk. In fact, I would likely get fired on the spot. A lot of things happen backstage that expose you to their personal life, their friends, their family and so on. You've been allowed to get close to someone who thousands of fans would pay big money to experience. You've got to respect that celebrities confidence in you. In doing that you can earn a reputation as being trustworthy, once that has been established in conjunction with a being able to provide onsite services, then you've got yourself a career. 

Q: What advice would you give to someone who is interested in pursing a career in wardrobe, but doesn't know where to begin? 

A: I would say learn some basic sewing skills and then get in contact with your local school, college or theater program. You may need to start out as a volunteer, but get all the experience you can. Once you have accomplished that start using social media to highlight your work.

Q: What is something you would share about your job that most people wouldn't know about?

A: I would have to say that living their dreams is not something many people are willing to choose for themselves. I got to a point in my life, when I realized how easy it was for me to make money for other people. How easy it was for me to believe in their company, their skills, their products and sell to their customers. I had people telling me how talented I was, I saw people making money doing what I wanted to do and realized there was room in there for me. Taking a leap of faith, quitting my day job and investing in my own hopes and dreams was the best decision I have ever made in my life. Finally I am doing something on purpose with intent and not just letting life happen to me. 2013 has been an amazing year for me. I am surrounded by people who are talented, creative and inspired by my vision. I wake up every morning excited about my day and I look forward to being in an environment that brings art, music, dance, performance, acting, props, set design and entertainment to a higher level. I like being a part of that. It is artistic expression and fulfilling to help someone else bring their vision from concept to creation. 

If you would like to know more about Gina's career, follow her @Psychoseamstress

Tuesday, September 17, 2013