Life Style

A Hallmark Christmas Film Costume Designer Shares His Secrets and techniques

A number of years in the past, Keith Nielsen was feeling lower than cheerful when a buddy instructed him about an internship alternative with the costume division of the TV collection “Mozart within the Jungle.”

After graduating from the Ringling Faculty of Artwork and Design in Sarasota, Fla., in 2015, he had hoped to discover a job that merged his pursuits in vogue design and leisure. When he couldn’t, he began working in retail. He stated he had begun to really feel depressed about his profession by the point his buddy talked about the internship.

His solely expertise in costuming had been on pupil movies, however Mr. Nielsen, who stated his grandmother had taught him to stitch, received the internship. “On the ‘Mozart’ set, I listened and discovered,” he stated.

Mr. Nielsen, now 30, labored on the present via its ultimate season, rising from an intern to a dressing up coordinator. Afterward, he began to get extra costuming jobs, together with for productions on the Westchester Broadway Theater, now closed, and for the TV film “My Adventures With Santa,” which was launched in 2019.

The film tapped into Mr. Nielsen’s longtime fondness for Christmas, he stated, and since then, he has been employed because the costume designer for a few dozen TV Christmas films.

This 12 months, he oversaw costumes for 4 movies: “Mystic Christmas,” a romance set in Mystic, Conn.; “The place Are You Christmas?,” a largely black-and-white film that imagines a world with out the vacation; “A Merry Scottish Christmas,” which was filmed at a fortress in Scotland; and “A Biltmore Christmas,” which was filmed at Biltmore House in Asheville, N.C. All have been for the Hallmark Channel.

Working with the theater helped put together him to tackle movies, he stated, as a result of he discovered the right way to higher handle fittings and deadlines whereas turning into extra acquainted with outfits from completely different historic intervals.

“Keith has a deep understanding of vogue, tradition and historical past, and an uncanny style and elegance, particularly for interval items,” stated Dustin Rikert, the director of “A Merry Scottish Christmas.” Mr. Rikert additionally labored with Mr. Nielsen on “Subsequent Cease, Christmas,” which was broadcast in 2021. Costumes Mr. Nielsen created for that film included the outfits worn by a time-traveling practice conductor performed by Christopher Lloyd.

The director John Putch, who labored with Mr. Nielsen on “A Biltmore Christmas” and on “A Vacation Spectacular,” a 2022 film that includes the Radio City Rockettes, famous his love of particulars. “Keith is into the shoelaces and socks folks don’t see,” Mr. Putch stated.

Mr. Nielsen, who lives in Manchester, Conn., stated a lot of his costume concepts originate from what he jokingly described as “my 12-year-old gay-boy thoughts.” (He declined to supply particular wardrobe budgets for movies he has labored on as a dressing up designer.) Within the edited interview under, he mentioned the aesthetic influences which have impressed his work and the methods he has conjured the vacation spirit via garments.

How do you supply costumes?

I learn a script about 4 occasions and let my creativeness run. Many vacation movies are made in three weeks or fewer, so I typically solely have a few days to get fittings achieved.

After I was costuming for theater, I began seeing previous Broadway reveals and going to warehouses that I nonetheless use. The seller Right to the Moon Alice is the place I get classic gadgets. I additionally get them from Ann Roth, an Oscar-winning costume designer, who has superb items at her warehouse in Pennsylvania.

Hallmark likes shade and saturation. To get that freshness on digicam, typically I recreate a garment so it doesn’t appear like it has been sitting in a closet for 70 years.

Do you ever purchase garments off the rack?

I store at retailers and on-line. I like J. Crew, Banana Republic and, for fits and coats, Brooks Brothers. Kate Spade has baggage in vivid reds and greens. I don’t like ugly Christmas sweaters.

One costume in “A Biltmore Christmas” began as a Carolina Herrera robe that was purchased from the RealReal. We had a number of fittings to re-drape the skirt, add a double-tulle layer and create a gathered bust that draped across the again. After I flip an present garment into one thing else, I name it Frankenstein-ing.

What has impressed your method to costuming?

I’m a sap and love nostalgia and previous Hollywood. Bill Travilla’s costumes for Marilyn Monroe are a few of my favorites, particularly these for “Methods to Marry a Millionaire.” I additionally like Arianne Phillips, who has designed costumes for movie and for Madonna. I love her breadth of labor. I by no means need to get pigeonholed.

How do places like Biltmore Home affect your course of?

I walked via the mansion to get concepts from the area. I keep in mind trying on the colours of the wooden paneling and of the limestone. Window shades are stored at a sure stage and rooms are stored dimly lit to guard the issues inside from gentle. It’s very romantic and comfortable, and I wished wardrobes that communicated heat and coziness utilizing colours in addition to purple and inexperienced.

To create a robe and a kilt worn by the celebs of “A Merry Scottish Christmas,” I pulled collectively a bunch of tartans that went with the tapestries, candles and darkish wooden on the fortress. We settled on MacDonald of Glencoe, a tartan with holiday-like jewel tones. The sample was digitally printed on the material used to make the robe, and the kilt was made with a conventional wool tartan.

What are some challenges with costuming vacation movies?

It’s the little issues. All clothes sizes have modified: Classic footwear are narrower than footwear are immediately, jackets match in another way, and girdles are gone. It’s laborious to seek out folks to do embroidery and beading.

However I like traditional and timeless seems as a result of Christmas films are watched time and again.


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