RJM Costumes
I haven’t gone away!

Whew, it has been a long time since I posted it seems! I have been so busy with shows/work, which is what I have been asking for. 

Since I was last here 4 shows and opened and closed: The Little Dog Laughed, Peter and I, and Little Shop of Horrors. Plus two more are about to open next month.  Finally it seems as if i have paid my dues and steady good work is coming my way. 

Here is a sample of what has been going on:

The Little Dog Laughed 

Peter and I

Little Shop of Horrors


Innovative Theatre Awards

I am very please to announce that the 2011 Innovative Theatre Awards have nominated my production of The Drowsy Chaperone with 7 nominations! We are all very pleased!

We were graced with Best Ensemble,



Leading Actor

Supporting Actor

Outstanding Production

and Costume Design!

The show was such a great success, we sold out the entire 5 week run, so it is nice to see it being recognized on such a big level. The actual awards are on Sept 19th, so keep your fingers crossed for me!

I Married Wyatt Earp

A great new musical is a chance that sadly dosent come along all that often. So when it does you must jump at the chance. Which is what I did when presented with this production. 


The show presents a great timeline for a designer, one in 1944, and another in 1881.  It features a cast of 12 characters, all female, which is great for a designer working in these periods! However, given the space where the show was to be performed it meant making adjustments to the clothes: a circular staircase getting from dressing room to stage level, and a very small playing space on stage meant the bustles had to be eliminated, trains had to be cut, and the construction of the clothes had to be IMPECCABLE as the audience was right up close and personal in a 99 seat theater.  


When it came to creating the look of the clothes, the idea of a photograph was thrown around. The show is constructed as a memory, reliving the “good ol days” so we decided to have those in the present (1944) to be in dull browns and tans, whole those in the past (1881) would be the color of the story. This would allow the cherished memories from the past be able to take center stage, and allow the narrators from 1944 to fade into the back ground and almost disappear into the set. This became very important when the two women were staged not to leave the playing space. 


The problem child with this show was the character of Pauline Rackam. Pauline is the director of the all female troupe that travels to Tombstone where Josie decides to stay.  The character is based on a real person, who was in fact the head of an all female troupe.  What was problematic is that she is described in the script as “being dressed as an English Gentlemen”. Given that the action tackes place in 1881, it is unheard of for a woman to be seen in public in pants.  With much back and forth, research  and compromise I decided to put the actress in pants and designed a very smart womens suit, tailored like a mans. As if she took it to her tailor and said ” Make this fit me”.  The end result was very pretty, but I am still not convinced it was correct for the character.  (And neither was one critic)


Josie I put in blue, to convey innocence, and chose an embroidered polyester dupioni (what?!) to convey wealth and strength. Faced with the challenge of dressing on stage, her clothes took the most time because the insides ha to be as finished as the outsides.  


She needed a costume to become a sailor in HMS Pinafore, and a burlesque style something for her big number at the end of act one ” Little Black Sheep” with Cora and Maude dressed similarly (she would refer to them as a pig and a chicken so they got copies of the dress in yellow and pink).


Wyatt’s common law wife is addicted opium and has the feeling of a faded flower.I found this great fabric that had an impressionistic floral pattern to it, and found a great grayed lavender linen to go with it. It gave this great feeling of a faded beauty, or a flower that has been kept out of the sunlight. Especially when her hair was changed to s soft strawberry blonde wig.  Velvet ribbons were added so that as the character begins her downward spiral she would literally come apart at the seams. 


Kate is another outsider in the cast. She is the girlfriend of Doc Holliday and a gambler herself.I needed her to stand out from the wives, who were for the most part in a pastel and floral palate, so she was designed around an other embroidered polyester dupioni that i found in a rich jewel tone. This was accented with a black corset, cranberry velvet cuffs and lapels and strong black hair. 


The other Earp wives were designed around pastels and flrorals, but constucted out of fabric that they would have had in 1881.



In the end I am very pleased with how the whole show came together. With the budget and time constraints I dont think I could have done a better job with the show. I ended up styling the wigs as well for the production, which added another lay of jobs for me, and my amazing assistant to deal with.   


This is the New York premiere of the show, and i hope that the show has another life after this. It has its problems, but i hope that it will continue to develop so I can have the chance to work on this great show again. 

Paul Brown

Playbill.com announced this week that Camrom Makintosh, the producer of basically every big hit of the 80’s and 90’s, will close the UK tour of Phantom of the Opera, and have the production redesigned. He did this with the current US and UK tours of Les Miserables to much acclaim. The idea is to give is a fresh coat of paint and help make it fresh for a new generation. While there is no plans at present to redesign the current Broadway or West End productions, if the tour is met with acclaim one can only assume that these resident productions will get a little sprucce up as well. 

Paul Brown, the Oscar nominated costume designer of Angels and Insects,has been chosen to design the costumes for the new production. I had the pleasure of working with Paul a few years back at The Santa Fe Opera.  Working with him, seeing his sketches up close, and getting to watch his process was one of the most rewarding things of that summer.  Although British, he does work in the sates quite a bit, and is one person I would love the opportunity to work closely with again.  Below is some of his amazing work:









Katya Kabanova

The Drowsy Chaperone

  This Spring I got the chance to return to my true love, musical theatre with a production of The Drowsy Chaperone. The Gallery Players have been around since the 1960’s and have a long history of producing quality productions on a smaller scale. They have an amazing following from not only actors but also from the community  (as evident by a 4 week run that sold out every performance!)

  The idea for this show came early on in the process with the director. We had the feeling that since the Broadway production was so love, and so recent, that we should do nothing they did.  From minor things like Janet being a blonde, to having the actors not  enter through a refrigerator, we wanted to rediscover the show and really make it our own. 

  While I adore Gregg Barnes, who won a TONY for the costume design of the original production, I did not want to steal any of his ideas. We decided to assign a single color to each character and that would be their through line for the show. Aldolpho: Orange, Kitty: Green, Feldzig: Yellow, George: Tan, Chaperone: Red, Janet: Blue.  With the exception of the “Encore” dress in Show Off which was specifically chosen to be red (the subplot is that Jane Roberts (Janet) is an up and coming actress, and Beatrice Stockwell (The Chaperone) is well established and on the decline). The effect was dazzling and helped to establish the large personalities of the characters.


  The final count of the costumes was 47, including 6 costumes for Janet in Show Off which she wore for around 1 min. each. Of those, around 30 were built specifically for the production.  Others were pulled from the existing stock at Gallery and supplemented by TDF.   The budget was small, as all budgets are never quite what you want them to be, but the trade off in having a stock of costumes to pull from, fabric trim and accessories in my collection and a good eye allowed me to stretch and make the most of what was available. 

On the whole i am very pleased with how the production came together, the actors, tech/design staff, producer and everyone involved were a dream to work with. I look forward to working with the amazing team again in the future. 

Shows I want to do - #2

Les Liaisons Dangerous

With a recent Broadway revival from the Roundabout Theatre Company, and a classic big budget Hollywood movie, Liaisons have never been out of my sight for very long. This show has eluded me for a number of years now. When I got to college it had been done a few years before, and many theatres have seemed to do it either right before or right after I work for them!

Set is the opulent late 1700’s, the play is a virtual fashion show for a costume designer: lots of characters (who seem to have an endless supply of money), varying times of day, multiple locations, and a stunning period that you don’t get to work in everyday. (Unless you are also doing Amadeus and Scarlett Pimpernel in your season.)

The beautiful thing about this period is that the designer can really let loose, there is no such thing as over indulgence with these characters. Printed silks, brocade, jacquard, taffeta, moire, printed cottons, lawn would all be stunning. Not to mention fur, feathers, lace, jet jewelry, shoes, hats cloves, and wigs…and then there are the women… 

This is one of the few era’s in history, and one of the fewer in the theater, that are as opulent for the men as it is for the women. Generally speaking, the men get the short end of the stick when it comes to dramatic clothes. I am sure that some will argue with me on this, but it is my opinion that mens wear, especially in the 20th century, is not as interesting as womens wear. That is one of the big factors in putting this show on my list: a chance to design and create beautiful and intricate clothes for both sexes. 

At a recent party a producer asked the group what shows we would like to do in the future. I immediately was able to list a dozen musicals I wanted to do - but among the few plays Liaisons was at the top of my list.

The Importance of Being Earnest

So i have delayed on posting this for awhile because I wanted to get the renderings painted and all done before doing so. But not having a scanner, and the camera not taking photos i liked, i decided to go ahead and post the process and just the pics. The renderings you can find on my website later (www.RyanMoller.com).  


I based the show around Bracknell, I had gotten this image of a Eagle with talons, sweeping down on her prey.  This went with the actresses portrayal and the director loved the image.  So I designed her costume colors around a Pheasant feather, Eagle feathers were not as pretty,  in golds, brown and green.  The dress is made of dark green wool, with a soft tan/beige window pane plaid. I accented this with copper silk duppione and copper lace all in homage to the Pheasant feathers. I think it gave her an imposing look, but did not keep her from being totally unlikeable.

This then lead to her daughter, Gwendolyn: and the phrase “Like Mother Like Daughter”.


Since Bracknell was based around an Eagle, i decided to base Gwendolyn around a Peacock. The Peacock is a beautiful bird, but has a much softer color palate and feel to the feather.  Peacocks can also be a very aggressive animal when provoked. These are all certainly true of Gwendolyn. She is soft, and feminine, but in the Tea Scene she certainly turns on Cecily when provoked.  Her colors became teal, black, turquoise, and royal blue with of course Peacock feathers on her hat. 

That brings us to the country characters: Cecily, Prism, and Chasuble.  The city folk I made in jewel tones, and tight fitting structured clothes, and the country characters I made the out of pastel tones and a looser cut.  

Cecily’s clothes are soft and unstructured with embroidery and lace. Prism wears a wool and velvet trimmed vest and skirt with a soft cotton blouse, and Chasuble his robes and a soft hand knit cardigan. 

Overall I have to say what I am most proud of with this production is the product that I was able to deliver given the budget. All of the mens clothes were rented from TDF  and the 4 womens costumes were built with the $500 budget I had.  Whew, that alone was an exercise in creativity!  All in all I, the director, the producers, and ultimately the audience was very happy with the show, so onto the next one…As You Like It

Shows I want to do - #1

Someone the other day asked me what show would be my dream to do. This threw me off for a sec, there are SO many I want to do for a wide range of reasons! So I decided to make a list - and on going list - in no particular order - of shows I would one day like to design…are you ready, here is the first one:


My Fair Lady is one of the movies I was brought up on. Since I was a wee young lad, I have had an obsession with the movie, and when given the chance to design a small community theatre production in my home state of MN, I jumped at the chance! Not wanting to copy Cecil Beaton’s stunning creations, but feeling that a small community would want something they could identify with, my production started to look very similar to the original production, as well as the classic movie. Being that I was 17 years old, and this was before the advent of digital camera’s (isn’t that a weird thought) i cant share with you what I came up with. However, I do have to say that with a budge of $500 (including dry cleaning at the end) and a cast of around 30 I think I did a pretty good job!


With that behind me, I wold love the opportunity to revisit this show. I LOVE the period it is set in, the teens is a period that is not done often and like the idea of being able to use authentic silhouettes and re tell the story.

 What draws me to the story so much is the variety of characters found in it:There is Eliza - the low class girl with high class dreams.   She famously transforms over the course of the show into a lady.  Her clothes help tell her story: flower seller, student, Ascot, Embassy Ball, and finally dressed as a lady.  


Aside from Eliza, Higgens and Pickering offer two different looks at mens wear of the period. Eliza’s Father, Higgens Mother, Freddy, the servants, the Ascot scene, the Embassy Ball..the opportunities for amazing clothes are endless!  


  If and when I get the chance to do this show on a large scale, I hope to be able to do justice to the fans of the piece, while being able to give them a chance to rediscover the beauty of it.  

The Show That Never Was

The Show that Never Was

About two years ago I did an “amazing” show:  Jonah! A Whale of a Tail, An Exciting New Musical.  I cant make this shit up.   Well the show was for a Christian Dinner Theatre - that quickly closed a few months after the show. Well, it was the story of Jonah and the wale, but we set it a la Pirates of the Caribbean.

Well the show went great - and as is the goal of every job - I made a great contact with the director.  Cut to 2 years later and to my surprise i get a all from the director. He is now the director of summer entertainment for the Gaylord National Resort and this summer they were planning shows and wanted to have roaming characters to interact with the guests: sort of like at Disney.  So I was hired to build a male and a female pirate. 

I had 5 weeks, a huge budget and it was going to be an on going project, when new actors come in or things needed to be replaced, I would be making the replacement clothes as well. Great gig!Then a few days later I got another call - another costume designer had dropped out, and they wanted me to make two more characters: Skip (a surfer dude) and Skittles (his bratty little sister)
Great  - more money! And who wouldn’t love that?!
So I plunged ahead, swatched fabric, started making  patterns, budgeted for shoes, wigs, and accessories. I was set for a fitting the weekend of Mothers Day, so needless to say I was working like a dog days and late into the morning to get things ready.  And I have to say - this was some of my best work. All garments were very well made, and I thought looked great!
Well then I get the call. The whole event has been CANCELED! Yep all that work up in smoke. Well, after I stopped freaking out, I discovered that the Gaylor is actually owned by the Grand Ol’ Oprey which was under 11 feet of water.  The flooding in Nashville had effected this project. They needed to redirect the money for the summer programs to help in the drying out of the theatre. I stopped all production and sent them what I had compleated. They agreed to pay me a third of my salary, and reimburse me for all the materials I had purchased - which so far was over $900.00. I manged to style the costumes in the shape they were in so I could at least have a record of what it was that I had done thus far.  With any luck the project will be remounted next year and we can pick up where we left off….Until then, here are the pirate couple. I really hope one day I can revisit this project and see it through to completion. 
Adam - the male pirate - got a striped cotton “poet” shirt, blue/grey silk vest with real wooden buttons, black twill pants with a slight pattern to it and a coat of burgundy velveteen. NOTE - this was made to the point of fittings, so that is why it has no lapels, and only one sleeve. 
Morgan - the female pirate -  got a green cotton petticoat, and a great brown tweed wool overskirt. Her blouse was made of a light weight textured cotton. It is off the shoulder and I gave it elongated sleeves and tucked around the bust. The highlight of the costume is the corset. It is made of 2 different colors of pony ultra suede, backed onto denim and them boned. I wish I had gotten the chance to finish it with the trim and all that I had planned…hopefully next year I can post about that!!

Babes in Toyland

  A lot has been happening with me and i have not been good about getting here to post things. Lets get back to the clothes!

Here are a few  more things that were made for Babes in Toyland. Mistress Mary I wanted to have a pretty “girly” dress as she is out ingenue. The girl cast was not a very feminine so I felt she needed as much help as possible!

The dress turned out pretty cute. I am very pleased with how it came out!

In the course of the play she runs away from home and I decided that she should have a cloak to wear when running away from home.  Still in the girly pink, the cape is a beautiful tweed with lace details.