Photographer credit: Steven Silverstein.

Mary Rose’s Legacy

April 22, 2015

By Diana Eden

We have much to thank Mary Rose for. She has been an ambassador for the Costume Designers Guild both here and abroad and for costume designers’ work in film and in television. For this we, the Legacy Group of the Costume Designers Guild, honor her at our annual event, and in the pages of the magazine and website.

It wasn’t that long ago when costume design was barely noticed by the general public as an art form or given exposure in the media as a major part of the filmmaking process. Some of us remember the days when the Guild desperately tried to get PR firms interested in us, even though they told us we were a “hard sell.” Newspapers and magazines were not interested in writing about costume design unless perhaps a big star was involved. The idea of a Costume Designers Guild Awards event was in its infancy. We were SO under the radar.

But thanks to the tireless efforts of costume designers such as Mary Rose, our work is now regularly featured in the media, our annual Costume Designer Guild Awards are among the most popular of the award season, and exhibits of costumes draw huge crowds both here and abroad.

Mary Rose has spent a good deal of her latter career mounting and curating costume exhibits in Los Angeles as well as overseas. Her exhibits in Japan came about when she met a woman from the Hanae Mori Foundation who had taken fashion exhibits to France and Italy but was looking to do something different. Rose suggested costumes and for the next four years curated exhibits which ran for the entire month of August, each one with a movie-related theme.

Twenty five years ago, a woman named Maggie Murray at FIDM asked for Mary’s help in contacting people in the movie industry, as she was trying to branch out from FIDM’s collection and find items that would make for a successful exhibit. Rose said that they should exhibit things that people remembered, and that she had access to Fantasy Island costumes as she had designed the show. She was also able to get All In The Family costumes, and it grew from there. Rose says she was able to predict which costume designers would likely be nominated for Oscar Awards and the studios gradually became less reluctant to lend pieces for exhibition. Now they call her first!

What Rose is really proud of is her role in promoting TV design. The annual exhibit at FIDM showcases the best of television design and the openings are among THE events of the fashion and design social season! She says FIDM has been very generous with her, allowing her to make all the creative decisions, but that it is still stressful and hard work, requiring lots of volun-teers to help. The ninth annual exhibit this year opens on July 18th.

Rose has also been a pioneer in allowing the next generation of designers to learn the art and craft of costume design on the sets of professional TV sets.

It was in 1998 that Al Lehman, one of the early members of the Guild suggested that Mary Rose run for one of the governors of the Television Academy of Arts and Sciences. He told her “there is very little to do, and the dinners are excellent!” Rose agrees with the latter, but not the former. The indefatigable Rose went to work furthering a program that had been initiated by Price Hicks, the Foundation’s then director of educational programs and services, a program to find and place outstanding students from all over the US in an eight week summer internship program in TV shows in Los Angeles.

The summer Internship program was received with skepticism by many costume designers, and definitely Local 705 was not on board, fearing that interns would be doing the work that paid costumers should be doing. Mary Rose made many calls to costume designers to see if they would be willing to take someone on and gradually the program began to be accepted.

“The level of students submitting portfolios for a chance to be chosen has gotten higher and higher,” says Rose. Students have come from all over the country, from Carnegie Mellon to University of California, Irvine. Rose still runs the program, and stays in touch with many of the former interns, many of whom have gone on to successful careers in the business.

She loves hearing the success stories!

JR Hawbaker was an undergrad at The Theatre School at DePaul University in Chicago in 2005 when she won the costume design internship and was placed at Muto-Little, 24, and That 70’s Show. Of her experience, JR says:

“The benefits were beyond what any freshly-minted costume design graduate could hope for…an inside look at an industry that can seem mystifyingly impenetrable when one is first starting out. The internship and Mary Rose showed me those proverbial doors.

That distinct Mary Rose style is more than any shade of hair color or memorable ensemble. Her style is her unabashed exuberance for life and education about costume design. That spirit spills over to her mentorship of young people.”

Imogene Kilar came to the program in 2010 from FIDM, with the encouragement of Mary Kay Stoltz, and was placed in True Blood and on Big Love. Of her summer experience she says:

“Mary Rose was lovely, took me to lunch on my first day, and stayed in touch throughout the eight week program. I had never been on a union television show and I learned how a TV show runs and what each member of the costume department does. I took the costume illustration path, which got me into the Guild when Audrey Fisher asked me to do a sketch. I also was hired by Lou Eyrich on Glee, Dana Pink on Burt Wonderstone, and Jill Ohanneson on Revenge. I have no idea where I would be today without the internship program.”

At 81, Mary Rose shows no sign of slowing down. “I need to be out doing something,” she says.


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