Costume makers are the unsung heroes of Broadway, but now their work can be seen up close at Showstoppers! Spectacular Costumes from Stage & Screen. Renowned costume maker Eric Winterling has been behind making some of the most memorable costumes on Broadway from the stunning costumes of Wicked to the iconic looks of TINA – The Tina Turner Musical. Many of these costumes including the fabulous costume of Aladdin’s Genie, worn by Michael James Scott on Broadway, can be found at the exhibit.
Showstoppers! Spectacular Costumes from Stage & Screen is open through September 26, 2021 at 234 West 42nd Street. Designed by the award-winning international exhibition firm Thinc Design, the 20,000 square foot space spotlights the incredible and oftentimes under-recognized costume contributions to the entertainment industry, pulls back the curtain on the hundreds of costuming experts who create, supply, and care for them, and infuses much-needed vitality back into the Theatre District.
Eric answered 5 questions for Broadway Direct, where he reveals his costume-making inspiration, his interesting costuming clientele, and the hobbies he pursued during the Broadway shutdown.
1. What inspired you to become a costume maker?
I must have already been sewing and making things for my sister the first time the movie of My Fair Lady was shown on television. I remember when Audrey Hepburn arrived in her Ascot Gavotte costume, seeing that a tiny ribbon had been sewn to the lace of her dress. I remember thinking, “I want to be the person who does that.”
2. Who in your field inspires you?
I am inspired daily by the designers who show me new and different ways to tell stories and by the people who work for me and are always game to try something new.
3. What will audiences be most excited about seeing at Showstoppers!, as well as in your work?
When I was young, there was a variety show on Sunday nights called The Jackie Gleason Show, and the opening always featured a production number with the June Taylor Dancers. I remember one week the dancers had one red shoe and one blue shoe. I couldn’t figure out how they did that, if they bought each dancer 2 pairs of shoes, which seemed wasteful. It never occurred to me that shoemakers would make their shoes. Shoes come from the store! What I think is most exciting about the exhibit is that I don’t think people realize that so many things are made — that there’s no “costume store.” Even Cyndi Lauper asked Gregg Barnes when he first presented his Kinky Boots design, “Where are you gonna find all this stuff?” He said, “I’m going to have it made.”
Costumes have to contribute to the story being told. They have to reveal the character. What’s better than Midge Maisel (The Marvelous Mrs. Maisel, designed by Donna Zakowska) wafting into the Fountainbleu Hotel in Miami Beach wearing that wonderful, crazy, caped, floral sheath dress or Elsa (Frozen, designed by Christopher Oram) finally able to break out of the confines of the spell that embody her to celebrate that everything she touches turns to ice? I have an interesting clientele.
4. What are some things you’ve always wanted to do that you’re able to spend time on now?
Several months before there was any thought of a shutdown, my husband and I were fortunate enough to purchase a house in upstate New York. I have many varied interests in photography, landscaping, and decorating that I have been able to pursue.
5. What NYC spot are you missing most now?
I think the spot I am missing most is the spot of normalcy that has been taken away. Everything from going to the grocery to scheduling a fitting has to be reviewed and reimagined into something complicated and peculiar.
You can catch Eric Winterling’s work in Showstoppers! Spectacular Costumes from Stage & Screen, and follow him on Instagram @ewinterling.
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