Secretary Hillary Hillary Rodham Clinton recorded a video message in support of the theater community, in which she recognized the Costume Industry Coalition (CIC).
In the video, Clinton shared her love for live theater and how the theatergoing experience of seeing sets and costumes helped immersed her. Clinton credited the artisans, the “group of people, you may not have heard of, but their work is a huge part of what brings stories to life.”
Clinton went on to recognize how far that work of costume design extended as she recognized not just the costume designers, but the milliners, the stitchers, the painters and the hand beaders among those who help tell the story. “If you’ve ever enjoyed a show here in New York, or a touring production in your hometown. If you’ve had a blast at a concert or watching a hit TV show, if you’ve ever gone to a theme park or on a cruise ship, you’re already a fan.”
The CIC was created in June 2020 to advocate for the survival of their vital but fragile ecosystem of small businesses — that employ over 500 artisans, craftspeople and costume experts — to ensure their employees will have an artistic home to which to return once the pandemic is over.
The custom gown designed by Sarah Phillips for President Clinton’s inauguration in 1993 was built by Barbara Matera, Ltd., previously one of NYC’s largest costume shops was one of the costumes Clinton recognized in her message. The shop closed after Matera’s passing in 2001, but many of her employees branched out to create their own individual companies, many of whom are now members of the CIC.
Katherine Marshall, owner of Tricorne costume shop, worked on the gown and still has a picture of herself and her young son standing next to it on a dress form at Matera’s. “Working on the gown for the inauguration was a definite highlight for everyone working at Matera’s at that time” said Marshall. “It was a top-secret mission shared amongst the staff, which we were all so very proud to be a part of.”
Thomas Schumacher, President and Producer of Disney Theatrical Productions, said, “All of us at Disney Theatrical stand proudly with the Costume Industry Coalition and the shops and businesses they represent.” He added, “Their contributions to our industry are gigantic and too often unsung. But just try to imagine Beauty and the Beast without its massive Tony-winning cutlery costumes, “Aladdin” without Genie’s dazzling blue suit or “The Lion King” without Mufasa’s majestic African patterns and beading. All those works of art and thousands more are possible only because of the glove makers, milliners, drapers, cutters, beaders and the scores of artisans of the CIC.”
“That was an email I never thought I’d write, but when we thought of her love of live performances coupled with the inaugural gown — we had to take advantage of the opportunity,” said Blythe. “To have her respond was definitely thrilling.”
The Costume Industry Coalition estimates a loss of over $25 million in gross revenue in 2020 due to the shutdown. They have started a recovery fund, with the goal of raising $3 million toward the debt they collectively incurred in 2020. Timelines for the reopening of entertainment venues continue to shift, and CIC Members recognize their survival remains in jeopardy.
“The vaccine release and the passing of Save Our Stages — which helps many in the theatrical community — have given us some hope we can make it through the shutdown,” says Blythe, “but until we have sustainable orders, we know we still have a long road ahead of us.”
Having Clinton’s support has motivated the Members of the CIC to continue on their path. “For Secretary Clinton to recognize the Costume Industry Coalition is the highest of honors,” adds Marshall. “We are so grateful for her devotion to the arts and her shout out on our behalf!”
Watch the video below: