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Western Costume, woven into Hollywood lives

Costume designers remember their first impressions of a Hollywood legend.

June 17, 2012|By Adam Tschorn, Los Angeles Times
  • Costume designer Colleen Atwood.
Costume designer Colleen Atwood. (Alex J. Berliner / Universal…)

Colleen Atwood

("Alice in Wonderland,""Dark Shadows")

"The first time I went to Western Costume, it was in the old building over by Paramount, and I had a really low-budget movie but I was dying to get something from Western — it was the place you really wanted to go — so I was able to make one blouse there. It was for "Critical Condition" [1987] and it was a pink silk blouse that Rachel Ticotin wore.

"It was the biggest thing I'd ever done, to have something actually made there, because the place was such an institution back in the day. The old guy, Al Nichol, who used to run it — he's long gone now — was always so nice to all the new designers. He was a very special kind of guy in the business; he was kind of an institution in his own right."

Deborah Nadoolman Landis

("Indiana Jones," "Animal House")

"My first experience with Western was right out of school in '75. I'd gone to UCLA for my master's, and I interviewed with Al Nichol, who became my mentor. He interviewed me, said I was too smart to work there and that it would be a big mistake.

"About half a year later, in 1976, I was 24 years old and my boyfriend John [future husband and director John Landis], whom I was living with, got the money together to do the first promotional part of 'The Kentucky Fried Movie' [1977], so I went over to Western and saw Mr. Nichol, who said: 'See what I told you? You're already designing a movie.'

"I met with Max Adler, who, if he wasn't the president was the general manager, and we got along so well that he gave me all of my costume rentals for 'The Kentucky Fried Movie' for free. That may not sound impressive, but Western Costume essentially underwrote the cost of the costumes on my first movie."

Eduardo Castro

("Once Upon a Time")

"I started at Western Costume — cleaning the muddy boots from 'Apocalypse Now.' It was in July of 1977 and it was horrible. When I arrived they handed me a hose. But I did end up working with Edith Head and I got to see Bette Davis in her dressing room."

Janie Bryant

("Mad Men," "Deadwood")

"My first visit to Western Costume was probably sometime before I started designing 'Deadwood,' which I think I started working on in 2001.

"I remember being overwhelmed by the size because before I came to L.A. I'd been a costume designer in New York City, where they just don't have the kind of costume shops that are in Los Angeles because of the amount of square footage required. I remember walking into the women's period-costume area and it sort of took my breath away. It was this feeling of: 'Oh my God, I have arrived!' It felt like going to the mecca of costume shops."

adam.tschorn@latimes.com

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