Fabric Buyer Laura Wong began her career studying costume design, gaining hands-on experience as a PA on the set of a period film. Since that time she has discovered a passion for the prep side of costuming and honed her skills building new costumes, scouring costume houses, and sourcing materials from vintage to modern. Read on to get her advice for aspiring costumers and to learn about her love for the art of kimono dressing.
How she got educated in costuming: by working as a PA on a period film.
Her most memorable experience: working on the set of Key and Peele, where the schedule could call for everything from barbarian to church ladies costumes — all in one day.
Her advice for aspiring costumers: take care of yourself, travel, and experience other cultures.
What do you do as a costume professional?
I work primarily on the prep side of costuming, which involves everything that happens before the costumes get to set. This involves everything as diverse as shopping for modern pieces, pulling from costume houses, or building new costumes from scratch. Most recently, I’ve been working a lot as a Fabric Buyer. When I’m working in that position, I discuss with my designer their vision for what they’d like to build, and then I source and purchase all of the materials that are necessary to make each costume. This involves knowledge of vendors all over Los Angeles and beyond in order to find all of the fabrics, trim, buttons, zippers, and anything else that could go into an actor’s clothes. I love learning new sources for materials, and have had the chance to do some really interesting things, such as using fiber optic fabric in order to make a costume that can light up, or sourcing vintage imported fabrics from Europe and Asia in order to add a sense of authenticity to a costume.
In addition to my normal work as a costumer I’m currently working towards my certification as a Kimono Dresser. It started as a hobby but as I learned more and more about kimono I really fell in love with it as an art form. I hope that when I complete my license I can incorporate my kimono knowledge into my costumer life more by being able to consult on shows that need kimono.
What are some of the shows and movies you’ve worked on?
Most recently, Westworld, The House with a Clock in Its Walls, A Wrinkle in Time, Twin Peaks, Guardians of the Galaxy 2.
How or why did you get into costuming?
I’ve always loved storytelling and I love clothing’s capacity to create character. I think most people don’t realize how much they are saying about themselves every day just by getting dressed. It’s fascinating that you can tell so much about a person without them even opening their mouth.
How did you educate yourself or get enough experience to get into the union?
I majored in costume design in undergrad and went on to get my MFA in costume design at UCLA. Upon graduating, I got hired as a PA on a film and learned so much by completing that project from start to finish. It was a period movie and I worked with an incredibly talented group of costumers who were very generous in sharing their knowledge with me.
Tell us the most creative or original thing you’ve ever done to pull something together on short notice to build or procure a costume. Think McGyver!
Honestly it feels like just about every job these days requires miracles to happen with no notice!
What is your most memorable experience working in the business?
It’s so hard to chose a MOST memorable experience, but I will say I had a great time working on the final season of Key and Peele. We would shoot two different sketches per day, one before lunch and another afterwards, and it was so much fun seeing Jordan and Keegan transform into all of the different characters each day. Often we’d have days where we’d be doing Game of Thrones inspired barbarians in the morning and church ladies in the afternoon. It was really fun to put together all of the different looks, and it definitely kept us on our toes having to do so many different time periods and genres all the time.
What do you love most about your job?
I love that every day is completely different. I’ve been to some beautiful places I would have never been if not on a film set. Also, I enjoy that I’m never done learning and each job is something new.
Do you have any advice for someone starting out who wants to be a costumer?
I think life experience and education are so necessary to be successful as a human and as a costumer. It’s important to keep yourself grounded and have a life outside of work in order to stay sane in this crazy business. Take the time to take care of yourself, travel, and learn about cultures different from your own. Education and empathy will go a long way.