MPC 705 members Melanie Miranda-Sinclair and Glinda Suarez worked as Personal Costumers to Mindy Kaling and Oprah Winfrey on Ava DuVernay’s buzzworthy new film, A Wrinkle in Time. The elaborate costumes designed by Paco Delgado were challenging, not only for the actors to wear, but for the costumers to dress them — the effect, however, is simply stunning. We sat down with Melanie and Glinda to learn more about their careers in costuming, what it was like to work on this historic film, and what a day on the job was like.
What got you interested in your costuming field?
MMS: I became interested in costuming only because many of my coworkers at my corporate entertainment job at the time told me I should. Apparently I was always dressed up a little extra at work and they knew how much I enjoyed shopping!
GS: Fashion. I’ve always loved clothes so I attended FIDM with aspirations to become a fashion designer but after attending one of the Art of Motion Picture Costume Design exhibits while I was going to school there, my interest shifted towards a career in costumes for film and TV. I even applied to their Costume Design for Film & TV graduate program the first year they offered it. Unfortunately, I was not accepted but that’s ok because I still figured it out and here I am, a proud 705 costumer.
How long have you been a part of 705?
MMS: I have been in Local 705 for over fifteen years now. I was hired on A Wrinkle in Time to assist dressing the “Mrs.” I helped Glinda with Mindy the first day. By the second day, I was assigned to help Lori Harris dress Oprah in her elaborate costumes. By the last few weeks of filming, I was assigned to only Oprah.
GS: I’ve been part of 705 for about eight years but I have been Mindy Kaling’s costumer for the last four years. I started on season three of The Mindy Project.
What does your work normally consist of?
MMS: I usually work as a set costumer. As a day player, however, that can mean working with principals one day and/or background the next day. With principals, it’s setting the actor’s room with the costume chosen by the Costume Designer. I make sure the actor has anything they need to be comfortable with the day’s work. On set, I keep track of their continuity from take to take and scene to scene. In AWIT, we had a tent set up for each “Mrs” because of the elaborate costumes that would make it difficult or impossible for them to walk through their trailer doors or down trailer stairs. So we would set up in their tent with the costume and necessary undergarments so we could have twenty to thirty minutes to get them dressed.
GS: These days I’ve switched gears a bit and I’m the Key Costumer on Get Shorty so getting the clothes through the works after fittings and approvals and to the set costumers is what my day consists of.
As Mindy Kaling’s costumer, my day was spent going over Mindy’s changes with her Hair and Makeup so they knew what her looks were for the day. Or I’d send photos. (Sometimes the actor wants to be reminded what they are wearing and I prefer they don’t sit in the chair in costume.) I’d be in constant communication with the designer and would let him know when Mindy was close to being invited to set, in case he wanted to be there to establish.
Mindy is very active on social media so often she liked to post the outfits Sal Perez selected for her (on The Mindy Project) on Instagram. So before going to set we took time to take pictures.
What is the hardest part of your job?
MMS: Honestly, the hardest part of my job is the early call times! Costumers, along with hair/makeup and transportation, are the first to come in and last to leave.
GS: Trying to keep both your actor and Costume Designer happy when there is a disagreement about a costume.
Of the pieces we’ve seen from A Wrinkle in Time, which ones that you worked with are you most proud of? Did you find that experience difficult?
MMS: Paco’s designs for the “Mrs.” are so spectacular it’s hard to pick a favorite piece. I would say my most favorite costume for “Mrs. Which” (Oprah) is Uriel. It takes your breath away when you see it in person. It’s such a stunning piece. Poor Oprah, however, was unable to sit in it when worn so we had a leaning type post for her to rest on in between takes. The skirt would come off during lighting setups.
The costumes weren’t necessarily difficult to put on, just time-consuming. The only difficult piece for Oprah was what we referred to as “the donut,” which is the bottom piece to Mrs. Which’s Earth costume. Lots of hooks and eyes and you had to almost contort yourself to attach it to her skirt.
GS: Paco Delgado designed beautiful and intricate costumes for Mindy for all the different planets in the film. I attended all her fittings and there I learned how to piece all her costumes together. My favorite and most difficult to dress her in was for the planet Orion. It had about seven separate pieces, which included a couple of cumbersome panniers. The difficult part was that Mindy couldn’t sit or relax in her costume and she wore a heavy wig. I wanted to keep her comfortable but also not hold Camera so between the two of us, we figured out a way to get her in and out of it whenever she had a small break or between setups. I made the shoot much easier for the both of us!
When you began working for A Wrinkle in Time did you have any idea it would be a film everyone would be buzzing about? Did it feel important and big at the time?
MMS: I definitely knew there would be a buzz over AWIT because of how popular the book is with young adult readers. (At least it was when I was in middle school many, many years ago.) The star cast attached to the film (Oprah, Reese and Mindy) is the second reason. Third, the director, Ava DuVernay, was getting a lot of buzz already in Hollywood while filming AWIT for her film, 13th. Finally, Ava is the first black female to direct a film over $100 million dollars.
GS: I did because people love the book and with strong women like Reese Witherspoon, Mindy Kaling, and Oprah playing the “Mrs” roles it was sure to get people talking and excited to see the film.
Do you have any advice for people interested in getting into your costuming field?
MMS: I was very fortunate to have been given the opportunity to dress Oprah. I have Lori Harris (Key Set), Stacy Horn (Supervisor), and Carol Quiroz (Key) to thank for that. They trusted me in the position and I am forever grateful.
It’s difficult for me to give out advice on how to become a Personal Costumer to an actor because it was my first time experiencing it. I would have to say, though, that you need a good attitude to even be considered for such a position. You need to be attentive and get an understanding of what your actor needs in order to do their job. This, of course, comes with experience.
As a costumer what is your favorite part of your job? What inspires you to get out of bed each morning and get to work?
MMS: My favorite part of this job was the amazing crew I got to work with. Paco, Stacy, Carol, Annie, Glinda, Natasha, Mustapha, and my girl Lori were a dream team! Working with Ms. Oprah wasn’t bad at all, as well! Are you kidding me? Oprah is a presence unlike any other I have ever experienced.
GS: As a costumer I love that every day is not routine, how I get to go places (locations) I would not normally go to on my own but can visit briefly, the camaraderie of the cast and crew. I’m inspired by the people I closely work with and how every single person in our costume department, from the PA to the Designer, work so hard to be part of transforming an actor into the character they are portraying on the screen. I feel very lucky to work in this industry.
You can follow Melanie on Instagram at @belizican. You can follow Glinda down the yellow brick road on at @glin_glin.