By Ozzi Ramirez
Let’s welcome Costume Designer and Wardrobe Stylist Rosemary Lepre Forman to NYWIFT! Growing up in nearby Holmdel, New Jersey, from an early age she was excited by the possibility of moving to New York City. After graduating with distinction from Wesley College in 1996, this dream came true!
Since then, she has never looked back and has contributed her artistic vision to a myriad of projects such as Woody Allen’s Deconstructing Harry, Spin City starring Michael J. Fox and Heather Locklear, Sex and the City, Law & Order: SVU, Friends from College, Red Oaks, Darren Star’s Younger, and the film Summertime. After many years of dedication, Rosemary received the NYWIFT Designing Women Award in 2011 for her contributions to the TV show Nurse Jackie and later earned the title of Head Costume Designer.
When she is not working, Rosemary enjoys playing ukulele and is an avid runner. She is also a devoted mom who divides her time between Manhattan and Windham, New York.
Read more about Rosemary as we discuss the importance of persistence, her flair for vintage clothing, and the legendary and multitalented Oscar-winning performer who she would relish being able to design an outfit for!
Describe yourself. Give us your elevator pitch!
I am a New York-based costume designer, stylist, ukulelist, and mother of twin boys.
You came to New York City in 1996 with only $500 in your pocket. That was a bold move, literally! What drew you towards this city and what advice would you give to your younger self?
I grew up only an hour away from NYC. I was a child model in my teens and made quite a few visits to the city for shoots. I think this was when my love affair with NYC began and I knew one day I would make it my home. In ’96, I got an opportunity to move to the city and pounced. I found a waitressing job while hustling to find film work.
The advice I would tell my younger self? “Great Job! You are doing this all on your own. Pat yourself on the back once in a while, and look at what you have accomplished so far and continue to accomplish!”
You received your first big break working as a costume assistant in the 1997 Woody Allen film Deconstructing Harry. Can you tell us about this moment and how you landed this job? Considering your limited experience in film and television did imposter syndrome ever creep up on you? If so, how did you address it?
I was working as a PA on Deconstructing Harry and I heard from the 2nd AD that Costume Designers Guild Award Winner, Suzy Benzinger, needed help. I called her every single day, sometimes twice a day until finally she said, “Will someone please call this girl, Rosemary, and hire her!” And that’s the truth. Persistence, persistence!
There were plenty of city stoops that I sat and cried on while living in Manhattan and working in the film/TV biz. However, you can’t let it get to you. Keep it moving!
In addition to being a costume designer, you are also a wardrobe stylist. Is it more fun to design costumes and outfits for fictional characters or real-life individuals? Who is one figure (fictional or non-fictional, living or dead) you would relish being able to dress? Can you give us an idea of how the finished product would appear?
I honestly enjoy doing both! While creating a fictional character, nothing is more rewarding than seeing them come to life. This always happens during a fitting, and it really is an amazing feeling. Once you find it, you always know.
The research process of exploring a character and carving out their path is a fun process that brings me a lot of joy and allows my creativity to flow. When you are styling a real-life individual, it is important that your client feels wonderful in what they wear. I start by going through their closets and asking them what they feel most comfortable wearing. If they are attending an event, I gather details about the occasion and consider what would make them feel comfortable in that environment, as the most confident version of themselves in their outfit of choice.
I would have loved to dress 1970’s Cher and would have made her a tailored denim patchwork 3-piece suit! As a little girl, I always admired her while watching The Sonny and Cher Show. She is such an ICON and a major fashion figure!
You have a five-step approach you implement whenever you commit to a project. Can you provide us with a brief overview of this process and tell us why it works?
My first step is to read a project’s script and focus specifically on identifying the time period, while assessing the characters, their actions, and how they change throughout each episode. Analyzing their frame of mind is important because shifts in their attitude provide me with clues about how a character’s style needs to change so it reflects their personal journey.
Additionally, much of my job involves research, which allows me to assess my vision for the overall look and feel of a project. I start by analyzing my personal collection of vintage books or visit the library to get copies of Vogue and other style magazines, and then select a famous actor or character whose look I emulate, using them as my inspiration for drawing original sketches of each character’s costume.
What is the best and worst advice you’ve received?
- My 3rd Grade teacher, Ms. Ambrosia, said to me, “Rosemary, always aim high!” I interpreted this to mean to strive to be the best version of yourself and not sell yourself short in life by being afraid to take risks. Face your fears and dream big!
- My mentor, friend, and Emmy-winning Costume Designer Patricia Field told me, “Rosie, always pay your bills!” I understood this to mean, big success is often just an accumulation of small successes, including being consistent with daily habits like being financially responsible.
- “Whatever you do, do not move to New York City.” Working hard and taking risks is what it is all about!
How did the pandemic influence your professional life?
During the pandemic, I was lucky enough to work on the television show Bridge and Tunnel, written and directed by Edward Burns. The show is set in the early 1980’s amongst the working class of Long Island, New York, and tells the story of six childhood friends who just graduated college and are stepping out into the real world while trying to hang on to the familiarity of their hometown and remaining years of their youth.
It was definitely a big change following Covid protocols, but our amazing cast and crew were all in it together, and we made some beautiful art!
What is next for you? Do you have any upcoming exciting projects and/or collaborations?
While this strike has been going on, I have really been enjoying playing my ukulele on weekends at our local farmers market upstate.
I recently styled Mary Cerasa who attended a wedding in Sorrento, Italy and wore Vintage Bluemarine (from my closet, circa 2001) and a beautiful long Lilac dress from ALC’s current collection.
It was fun to be able to style someone with an outfit I loved and wore many times for important events, including my own engagement party and the opening night of the revival of Gypsy starring Bernadette Peters in 2003. I love vintage clothing as they allow you to continue the nostalgia of an item by continually creating amazing memories and passing on the storytelling aspect of a piece, while remaining environmentally-conscious.
Next up for me is costume designing a contemporary golf comedy in 2024!
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