Iconic and Influential: William Ivey Long on the Stage and Screen Fashion That Shaped His Career

News   Iconic and Influential: William Ivey Long on the Stage and Screen Fashion That Shaped His Career
 
In Playbill.com's latest feature series, we ask theatre artists to offer a selection of the stage creations that were influential to their own work. We launch the series with selections from six-time Tony Award-winning costume designer William Ivey Long, who shares his list of influential fashion from stage and screen.

William Ivey Long
William Ivey Long Photo by Joseph Marzullo/WENN

Long, who is also the Chair of the American Theatre Wing, is the Tony Award-winning costume designer of Nine, Crazy for You, The Producers, Hairspray, Grey Gardens and Cinderella.

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William Ivey Long: I call this list "My Heroes in Heaven." Since I could not possibly rank them in order of importance of their influence on my life and career, I chose to list them chronologically.

Click through to read Long's selections of influential costume designs from stage and screen.

Miles WhiteOklahoma! – 1943 – The St. James Theatre

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This design gives me chills every time I see a photograph from the original production. While every designer on this list is a hero of mine, this landmark musical – and Miles White’s vibrant designs – clearly resonates not only with me, but with generations of theatre audiences around the world.

2. Lucinda Ballard – A Streetcar Named Desire – 1947 – The Ethel Barrymore Theatre

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Lucinda won the first Tony Award for Costume Design in 1947. She once described to me how she personally aged Brando's t-shirt after observing workers in their stained and torn t-shirts digging up water pipes in the New York City streets. She pioneered the aged and lived-in look.

Alvin Colt – Guys and Dolls – 1950 – The 46th Street Theatre

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This is the perfect design for the perfect musical. When I had the opportunity to design the 1992 revival of this show, I was inspired by Alvin’s designs when developing a Runyonland in technicolor.

Irene SharaffThe King and I – 1951 – The St. James Theatre

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Any costume designer worth their salt worships at the altar of the great Irene Sharaff. This champagne ball gown worn by Gertrude Lawrence for "Shall We Dance" still takes my breath away for its line, color, movement, everything. Most designers pay homage to this dress in subsequent productions.

Cecil Beaton – My Fair Lady – 1956 – Mark Hellinger Theatre

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Cecil Beaton means quality and class. He told a story through clothing like nobody else. The Ascot scene from the stage production is one of my favorites, and of course Julie Andrews wore his clothes to their best advantage. His costume for the film, designed for Audrey Hepburn, takes this black and white template to the next level of perfection.

Freddy Wittop – Hello, Dolly! – 1964 – The St. James Theatre

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From the moment Carol Channing made her entrance into Harmonia Gardens in this dress, an iconic look was born – indelibly associated with Ms. Channing and her signature performance.

Patricia Zipprodt – Pippin – 1972 – The Imperial Theatre

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When Tony Walton's macramé crocheted scenery was pulled up from the stage floor in this show, and I saw what Patricia did with Ben Vereen and the players, I was overwhelmed. It was unexpected and perfect, especially the flexible latex armor – and really showed me what was possible when all the design elements worked together seamlessly.

Florence Klotz – A Little Night Music – 1973 – Shubert Theatre

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There is a reason Florence received an unsurpassed six Tony Awards for her designs. This is one of my favorites: She dressed Glynis Johns in a red dress in front of a green set. Brilliant.

Theoni V. Aldredge – A Chorus Line – 1975 – The Shubert Theatre

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I adored Theoni; and when I saw the finale of this musical, everything I thought I knew about design was turned upside down. The vision of gold and white left me speechless. I went back many times just to see the final minutes of this show.

Barbara Matera – Les Petit Riens – 1987 – New York City Ballet

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Although Barbara was a hero to me and to all of us for the wonderful clothes she made over the course of her long career, many people don’t know that she was also a great designer in her own right. My favorite piece of hers is a ballet she designed for Peter Martins at New York City Ballet.

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