Alexandra Welker, “Grimm”

Costume Designer

By Rachael Stanley, December 2012

If you need a break from the CSI, Law and Order genre of crime shows then Grimm just might be the ticket. This police procedural episodic set in Portland is anything but run of the mill. The synopsis: Detective Nick (David Giuntoli) of the Portland police finds out he is a descendant of the brothers Grimm, who were less storytellers and more ancient crime profilers who were able to recognize the supernatural creature world. Nick has inherited this ability and begins to recognize creatures in the modern world. As he balances his pledge as a police detective to uphold the law and his ancient responsibility to destroy evil creatures, the audience goes along for a ride that is suspenseful, scary, and sometimes tongue-in-cheek.

Each episode is shot in eight days and with all of the creature story lines, it is a challenge that Welker has dived head first into. The show is not only set in Portland but is actually shot there and Welker is cognizant of representing the flavor of the area in her characters. With brands like Levi, Pendleton, and Filson she reflects the essence of the woodsy mountainous area. “The city is a character itself” says Welker “and we try to be true to it.”

Welker has given each character their own palette. Nick, cool tones, greys, blues, cool greens and charcoal while his partner Hank (Russell Hornsby) wears harvest colors such as mustard, browns, olives rust and burgundy. Monroe (Silas Weir Mitchell) plays a reformed Werewolf and has the flair of old world charm. His look centers on roll neck sweaters, flannels and flat front pants done in warm earthy tones.

The weekly creatures are a constant challenge. In a recent episode Welker created a character of a weeping woman who kidnaps children based on the La Llorana legend from the 16th century. Supposedly based on a real life character whose children drowned, this creature is shown at first in an “angelic” costume that later become decrepit and ragged. The character is seen both on land and in the water so Welker needed to find a way to have her gown go into the water without floating up around her head. To achieve this she made the bodice made from a boned corset that she covered in white chiffon and a skirt with flowing panels of cotton and chiffon and ruffled sleeves. Two panels of chiffon were attached to her shoulders so when the wind blew the gown floated out all directions around her and in the water the panels floating on the water. Then when the gown need to deteriorate Welker made a second version which was dyed a nictotine yellowish grey and shredded and aged. She had four days to create seven of the angelic version and two and a half days to make four of the rotted dress.

Welker uses local talent whenever she can. For the character of the Police Captain she designed specialized cuff links and had a local jewler cast them. When she had a fire dancer that morphs to a fire-breathing dragon creature that uses copper as its power source she had the same jewelry maker cast the dragon themed copper jewelry that Welker designed.

In another episode Welker needed to create a masked character who hunts and tortures children. She was inspired by the Comedia del’Arte style of mask. She hired a local artist to carve and mold the mask and then had it covered in black leather. By adding a very flowing black cape to the costume it all had a hint of the Spanish Inquisition to it which gave the effect needed.

Welker loves her job and the art of Costume Design and Grimm has given her a unique venue to feature her talent on a weekly basis. She is enjoying Portland and her crew of eleven costumers including a seamstress help her create the world of Grimm each week.


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