I got to know Alexandra Welker a sort of long time ago, now that I think about it. I used to do a lot of cool fashion PR, and I was a PR director for a lot of cool indie labels. But it was more of a college job...I've always been a writer, but instead of being a waitress or working at the record store while I was in journalism school, I fell into this PR gig and it took off. One of the good things about the job was the people I got to know...a lot of them still know me to this day. One of the coolest girls was costume designer and stylist Alexandra Welker. She was one of a handful of celeb/movie designers and stylists I knew. Ten years ago, there weren't five million stylists. I ended up meeting a lot of the best costume designers and stylists while doing an event for one of the brands at Forty Deuce in Hollywood. Alexandra was very Francophile, which I love, and just a cool girl. So cool in fact she invited me to a show for one of her clients, a band, when their tour was going to be in San Francisco (where I was). The band? SPINAL TAP! (Okay...if I have to explain who Spinal Tap is, you reallllly need to rent it or else you're so young, you don't know. PLEASE>>>GO RENT IT! And then come back and tell me who says, "Have a good time...all the time.") And, like an asshole, I was so swamped with school and all the brands I was doing press for, I mixed up the dates and missed my chance. But, I am still friends with Alexandra, and although I could still kick myself for not making it to the show, I am stoked to be able to interview her, again...this time we get to see her sketches! Even her TAP sketches! This time we're going to "eleven"... ♡

This is Spinal Tap (the movie)
TAP today (L to R) David St. Hubbins (Michael McKean), Nigel Tufnel (Christopher Guest), and  Derek Smalls (Harry Shearer)
I basically fell into costume design. I have a degree in English literature, with a minor in history (British imperial history, at that!). I didn't really know what i wanted to study in college - started with architecture (my university had a good graduate architecture school), art history, economics...I even took film theory, because I have always loved the movies. I figured I would pursue a career where I could write for a living. I was living in NYC and doing public relations and fund-raising for a non-profit cultural organization (the New York Zoological Society), and basically, hated having a desk job. I was living with someone who was studying film at NYU, and started working on friends' student films doing make-up, costumes, sets, whatever. I really gravitated towards the costume stuff. With hindsight, I see that it was a perfect fit, because my dad was an illustrator and my mom studied Haute Couture design in Paris and always worked in fashion-related fields when I was growing up. I'd therefore been drawing, painting, sewing and playing with fabric since I was little. Meanwhile, my friends all graduated from film school and started working in production and seemed to be having lots more fun (and making lots more money!) than I was at work. 
So I made the switch, at first working mostly in music videos and commercials, then independent film. I moved to Los Angeles pretty soon after that, as this really was the place to be for film work. I joined the Costume Designer's Guild in 1995 and started working on studio films. I can't believe that's 15 years ago!
Below Ryan Reynold's character "Chris" from a new movie called "Just Friends" is chubby in high school, then slick as an adult. I designed his fat suit, as well as his whole look:
Ryan Reynolds wears a fat suit designed by Alexandra
with fat suit
Alexandra's design sans fat suit
For me, one of the best things about it is that it's project-oriented. Every job is a new creative experience, often taking me to a new place and working with new people. When I was fund-raising for the zoo, I hated the fact that I went to the same place every day, for the same amount of hours, to basically do the same work, over and over...! 
I do regularly go to the different costume houses, most (but not all) of which are housed at or connected to the studios. They are pretty astonishing - giant warehouse spaces with three or four levels of racks going up to the ceiling (the top tiers are only accessible by ladder, or in some buildings by forklift!) costuming is really physical work - one is constantly lifting and carrying heavy piles of clothing. I'm very hands-on as a designer and like to go into the costume houses and pull pieces myself, so I'm often on a tall ladder, trying to lift heavy leather jackets off a rack above my head (keeps my chiropractor in business!). We rent costumes from the costume houses, for a number of reasons - we need specific pieces (like vintage pieces, or Halloween costumes or such), for example. I often search for inspiration (as fashion designers do in vintage shops or at the Goodwill). We also rent "stock"–that is, the clothing that we use to dress the background characters on a film–from the costume houses, because it's much more cost-effective and time-effective to rent racks of already washed and aged clothes, in a size run, than to buy it all, wash it all, age it all and label it with size tags ourselves!
I've had an office in the Universal costume department for a number of years now, so that's my daily work environment. It doesn't seem that exciting to me anymore, which probably sounds crazy! We often get students and sometimes small tour groups coming through, and I enjoy seeing the "wow" on their faces– it reminds me of how cool my job really is! 
I do still get a thrill  here and there - like the first time I walked into the Sony costume department, and saw the Gustav Klimt inspired gold metallic, patchwork gown that Gary Oldman wore in Francis Ford Coppola's "Dracula." I remember seeing that film in a cinema and being stunned by the costumes (by the great Japanese costume designer Eiko, who also did the movie "The Cell"). They had it hanging on the wall. I saw it from about 40 feet away and stopped in my tracks! Another time, at Universal,  I rented a slim black 60s style suit for the actor Adam Goldberg. We needed to tailor it slightly for Adam, and when the tailor opened up the seams, it turned out to be one of the suits made for Dan Ackroyd in "The Blues Brothers" movie!

Costume Designer Alexandra Welker in a rad jacket (score!)
this is her sketch for David St. Hubbins' Live Earth concert outfit (7/7/07)
I've been Spinal Tap's costume designer since 2000. Though the movie came out 25 years ago [1984], the "band" still has a following, so every so often the guys break out their wigs and their guitars and make an appearance. When I met them, they were about to play their first live concert in almost ten years, and they realized that they needed new stage wear. Someone who was familiar with my designs in leather introduced us, and we hit it off. I've been working with them ever since.  It's pretty much the best thing that I've ever done.  
Derek Smalls (sans cucumber? I forgot to ask Alexandra) Live Earth outfit
They are so smart and collaborative (and of course incredibly funny), and nothing is too outrageous. I style them for all their public appearances and have toured with them, including trips to England and Canada. The funny thing is, once we're up and running, it's just like working with a real band, especially in terms of designing the clothes– I have to build things that can stand up to a concert performance (they work hard up there on stage!), and yet hopefully be able to be washed out in my hotel bathroom sink afterward, as we are usually packing up and flying out the next morning! "Live Earth"– the concert to raise awareness about global warming in 2007– was particularly challenging. Wembley Stadium, outside of London, in July...the heat and the humidity were amazing. I'd actually designed some new leather pants for Derek, but they were so uncomfortable in the heat that he had to switch to black jeans. And David St. Hubbins forewent his usual elaborate layers (I've done brocade coats and velvet vests and so forth) in favor of a lightweight pirate shirt with an iridescent scarf. When we're doing publicity stuff, we can get a bit more elaborate, like the classic country western outfit that  I made for Nigel, for the "Back From The Dead" DVD!
Another David St Hubbins Welker design

you'll see her sketches realized in the photos she's provided...exciting! (that 4th dude is Rob Reiner...he directed it, on and off screen)
Will have to think about the coolest wow story for you...so many different adventures! Designing the pilot and the first season of "The O.C." and having it blow up big and my costumes setting fashion trends was pretty darn cool... designing clothes for the "chipettes" and the chipmunks and learning all about CG 3D animation in the process, was pretty awesome, too!
Here's a (very tiny portion) of the sketches that I did for the studio and the CG animators to work with. The silver tracksuits are the "inappropriate stage wear" that the chipmunks were forced to wear by their evil manager, in "Alvin and the Chipmunks." Then the three chippettes' main costumes from "The Squeakquel" (they also had rehearsal clothes and stagewear and nighties, too!) and one of the animators' 2D renditions of what my clothes would look like when rendered in 3D.

Chipette 1
Chipette 2
Chipmunk tracksuit
Alexandra's chipette 3 outfit and...
her outfit rendered in 3D!

all images except first film still provided by Alexandra Welker 
(so don't steal them, plz)
Spinal Tap film still from my computer...it's been on here for a million years and  I'm sorry I don't have a proper credit for it.

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