WESTERN COSTUME COMPANY HAS BEEN AROUND FOR NEARLY AS LONG AS THERE HAVE BEEN MOVIES
After a century in the business, the stockpile of clothes, accessories, and references is the costume design equivalent of a dragon’s hoard — if dragons rented out their treasure. For the past 15 years, President Eddie Marks has been buying up entire collections. Most of these purchases were of period garments ranging from the 1800s to the 1980s, with an emphasis on the 1930s. The finest pieces from these acquisitions have been set aside into their own section dubbed, ‘The Collection.’ As the goodies piled up, space became a premium. In a repudiation of downsizing wiz Marie Kondo, the company embraced maximalism and expanded their facility to include the 20,000 square foot space next to their building.
The new space has been dubbed ‘The Annex’ and houses the uniform department with the company’s extensive collection of military, police, and fire department gear which range from the 1700s through modern day. From historically-accurate epaulettes to the latest iteration of dress uniforms that military intelligence barely knows of, Western Costume is keeping its inventory up to the minute. Along with the expansion, Gilbert Moussally has been bumped up to Vice President of Costume Operations and Head of the uniform department.
With the Military Department moved into the new space, the supply store has relocated to the back of the building, making it more convenient for customers and leaving enough room for seven more prep cages. Getting into the new section is just a matter of going through the old parking area into the new facility. “The expansion is part of us, so it’s not traveling very far. It’s literally next door,” Marks explains.
COVID-19 restrictions have impacted how costume designers and their teams go about their jobs, and Western Costume is staying on top of these concerns. “We’re temperature checking everyone at the door and putting a wrist band on them for the day,” says Marks. “We’ve got Plexiglas up, wash stations and sanitiser everywhere. Everybody’s wearing face masks and shields when needed. The place gets cleaned every day. On the weekends, we fog all the offices with disinfectant.” For ultimate COVID safety, Western also has an extensive website where rentals can be checked out beforehand.
The on-site research department has also been reorganised. More than 15,000 books, periodicals, and photos are an invaluable resource for the costume department. Now the collection distinguishes between historical references and fashion images to help teams reach new levels of authenticity. “If we don’t have something, we’ll either build it or buy it.”