episode 411 – January 26, 2009
Good Faith. Bad Faith. No Faith. Wedding Gowns. Good Gowns. Bad Gowns. No Gowns. Will Brenda and Fritz walk down the aisle and become an old married couple or not? Will Brenda wear white, or cream, or ecru. A suit? A dress? A gown?
I was given an advanced notice that a wedding gown would be needed for this episode and that it might have been Willie Ray's Wedding Gown from 1959. Now when a costume designer is given the opportunity to design a wedding gown, for the leading lady of a hit TV show, most designers jump at the chance. But not this me. Why? Willie Ray, her gown, the very gown she married Clay Johnson in 50 years ago. For the writers of The Closer and all of you fans out there this was not going to be just any old gown, this was "mama's"! Due to the time constraints and budget worries I knew I couldn't do a custom made gown justice and since I just adore the reality of vintage...well, eBay here I came! I started placing every gown that had some 50's detail on my watch list. Full skirts, tulle, ballerina length, peplums, boleros, crinolines. It was dizzying.
Then I received an email from the writer, Adam Belanoff -- ummm, we don't need one gown, Brenda is going to choose from her cousins gown, her sister in laws gown and Willie Ray's. What eras I asked, oh...just pick some, anything. So again I got so excited I nearly wet myself. My watch list brimmed over with high necked silk satin gowns from the 1800's, with the most beautiful hand made lace imaginable. Flirty flapper knee length dresses from the 1920's dripping with beads. Bias cut charmeuse slip dresses from the 1930's. Padded shoulder wedding suits in champagne and beige that echoed the war years of the '40's. Every imaginable shape and style from the 1950's. Empire dotted Swiss with appliquéd daisies, very Haight Ashbury of the '60's and explosions of polyester, off the shoulder Hustle inducing nightmares from the era of no fashion the 70's. And every-bride-should-look-like-Princess -Diana of the 1980's.
That's where I stopped. I was in a Bridal Gown Frenzy. It was a fascinating experience to bid on and win over a dozen gowns to whittle down to 3. One gown came with the original cake topper and a pair of gloves, an aged and yellowed silk tulle veil and a faded photo of the bride in the dress, it was a little creepy that I was holding onto and buying someone else's memories. There was lace and polyester and chiffon and embroidery and sequins and satin and tiers and flounces and all of those crinolines. I needed a storage room just for the gowns.
Late one Friday, when we were shooting for the 12th or 14th hour, I needed to bother Miss Sedgwick for a fitting, it was 10:30 p.m., we were all tired and this was to be one of the most important fittings of the season. She tried on a lace and satin 1950's creation with a fitted jacket that sported a peter pan collar, very Elizabeth Taylor in Father of the Bride...but not Brenda. Then we zipped up a cake topper of a gown in silk tulle that all but swallowed Kyra whole...too fluffy, and noisy! The last gown was in the original box from Saks 5th Avenue, dusty and spattered with 50 years of life in an attic. The dress itself was gorgeous on the outside but it's underside had suffered from years of mold and mildew, there was even a memorialized shoe print of someone who had stepped on the gowns train, undoubtedly during the reception some 50 years ago, as Kyra pulled the gown over her perfect figure and I secured the back buttons, something magic happened in that fitting room. Kyra as Brenda became Willie Ray's daughter wearing her mothers dress some 50 years later. I can't be sure, but I think Kyra's eyes filled with tears, I know mine did, and I shivered seeing the perfection reflected in the mirror. That was THE gown.
Now granted, I'm a talented designer, but I never could have designed the magic that happened that special Friday night. This is not the end of the wedding gown story. This particular gown has taken on a life of it's own. We are grateful to be back on the air after a few months of Closer-less Monday nights and this is only the first of several stories that I will tell about this magical wedding gown. Good faith. Good gown. Good show!
The opinions expressed are solely those of the writer/speaker and do not necessarily represent the opinions of Turner Entertainment Networks, Inc.