As a 2015 Dryel Ambassador, I had the opportunity to interview Dan Lawson, costume designer from “The Good Wife” on how to create effortless style, take care of clothes, and how to use clothes to bring out our best. I initially thought that costume design was the same as being a stylist. (And by the way, the fashions on “The Good Wife” are amazing!)
Little did I know. Even though they both influence personal style, Lawson as a costume designer, designs costumes based on story and characters usually regardless of current trends while a stylist utilizes current trends and fashions to dress people for their personal appearance.
The rest of the interview is equally interesting and informative!
What are your rules of thumb for how long to keep undergarments?
When they’ve stretch out, get rid of them! I can’t tell you the number of incredibly stretched out bras I see in my fitting room worn by actresses who don’t seem to realize that their bra is so stretched out that their chest is no longer in the place it’s supposed to be. Sometimes I won’t see it right away, and I’ll have a garment on that just doesn’t seem to fit right. And then it will occur to me that it’s the foundation garment that’s the problem. Happens all the time.
I recommend using Dryel, too, for keeping undergarments lasting longer. Dryel won’t stretch, fade or shrink garments, which is especially key for undergarments especially bras.
When traveling, what are must-have travel essentials for women?
Comfortable shoes that are versatile enough to go dressy with a dress for evenings out. A dress. A nice scarf is key for dressing up an outfit. A good bag for daily use.
How do you treat stains like wine and grease when you are on the go?
Have that Tide pen handy. It really works. Dryel too! A purse size packet of Wet Ones are good too. If you don’t have any of that, I’m afraid the best thing to do is put seltzer water on the stain as quickly as possible.
Tell us about your trend-setting workday designs.
On “The Good Wife” I create looks for my women that are elegant, powerful and feminine. It’s important to me that the women, as well as the men, look believable as lawyers with an extra little something. They need to look neat and clean and well put together.
How can we select the best office attire for our own wardrobes?
You need to look in the mirror and be honest with yourself about what looks good on you. What shapes work best on you? Are you good in a pencil skirt or better with an A-line? Do dresses flatter you more than a suit? Pants or skirt?
You also need to build a strong closet of staples that support your look. These staples will be the workhorses in your closet: the perfect skirt that goes with everything; that blouse that is the perfect compliment to your suit; a good pair of pumps that are comfortable and have a heel that give you a little extra stature and good posture; a well maintained bag that carries your important papers and personal items without looking stuffed or like a backpack.
Remember, these good pieces will probably cost you more in the initial purchase because you want them to last. They need to be cared for properly and stored properly, i.e., don’t put a knit on a hanger. Things like that.
You need to set aside part of your clothing purchase budget for alterations. I’ve said it a million times. The most expensive garment will just look so-so or worse if it doesn’t fit and an inexpensive garment will look a million times more expensive if it fits you well. Find a good tailor and make him or her your best friend. Once they get to know your body, alterations will be a snap and you’ll look great.
I also would like to say that it is important to not go head to toe trendy with your looks. Certainly, current trendy pieces are great and can become useful pieces in your closet, but you should avoid making a full outfit out of them because it will end up just looking thrown together and, oddly enough, not relevant.
How do you keep the clothes you work with on set looking their best?
Our actors at TGW wear a lot of clothes as well as wearing the same outfit for days. Quite often they will have to wear a costume until the end of the day on day and then the first thing again in the morning. Everything gets steamed or ironed daily. We always run a lint roller over the clothing. We check for any small repairs that might need to happen. We check the buttons to make sure they are tight and perky – nothing worse than a drooping button on a suit, blouse or coat.
Using the proper hanger is also very important. I usually like to have pants hang long rather than folded over a hanger to avoid creases right at the knee. We will also turn garments inside out to allow them to get air to the inside which helps freshen them up. We depill the knits.
We also dry-clean but try to dry-clean as little as possible since the process can be quite wearing to clothing. We use Dryel a lot in the dryer to remove daily grime from all day wearing or stains. We also use it for freshening up blouses, dress shirts, skirts. It’s a great product too for rejuvenating vintage pieces or already worn pieces we pick up from the second-hand stores.
Are there any alternatives when it comes to garments that are dry-clean only?
As I said above, Dryel is actually an excellent alternative to dry–cleaning. Besides the terrific smell you are left with when you are done, it removes stains and body oils as well as freshens up the garment while letting the garment maintain it’s shape and color.
Financially, we find that using Dryel decreases our cleaning budget and allows us to keep pieces “in-house” more which is great since our shooting schedule changes regularly and my department looks amazing when there’s a change and we’re asked if we can provide wardrobe for a scene not originally scheduled for the day and we can! Keeping the day rolling is key for any set – much like at your home. You have to keep the day moving along and not going to the dry-cleaner all the time really saves time and makes you the master of your own schedule rather than the dry-cleaner’s schedule.
How do you keep the various fabrics you use from fading, shrinking or stretching?
Certainly proper hanging/storing/folding are key. Keep the knits off the hanger!!! And remember, the less cleaning you do helps keep away “the evil three” – fading, shrinking and stretching! Whether dry-cleaning or washing, your clothes suffer the consequences of regular cleaning. A product like Dryel keeps your clothes from suffering the effects of “the evil three” while saving you time and money.
If you could only pack 5 items in your fashion survival kit, what would they be?
Women: the perfect skirt (pencil or “A”); a versatile blouse; a well-heeled pump that is comfortable (not an easy thing to find, but well worth the effort of looking!); a nicely maintained bag – not a backpack; a simple, elegant earring that goes with everything.
Men: a well fitting suit; a white dress shirt with a nice crisp collar; a good leather belt; a classic dress shoe that is comfortable; and, like the ladies, a nicely maintained bag – not a backpack.
A Little More about Dan Dawson In His Own Words
“I studied at Northwestern University in Evanston, IL. It was a dream to get to attend that school. I started out thinking I was going to act, but that quickly went away when I realized that I just got way too nervous any time I had to be on the stage.
Then I discovered that as a costume designer, I kind of get to play all the parts in my head and think about all the characters and their feelings and situations and story arcs, etc. I had a director once tell me that he loved working with me because I paint using fabric and clothing. I love the idea of that.
Anyway, I then got my MFA from Rutgers University in theater design. I spent the next couple of years designing very off-Broadway and regional theater productions. I got to assist one of the great legends of costume design, Patricia Zipprodt during the first season of Tony Randall’s National Actors Theater in NYC, which was an amazing experience. Eventually, I had the opportunity to assistant costume design on ABC’s “One Life To Live” and although I had no TV experience, the designer hired me because I was enthusiastic and very willing to learn. From there I went to designing indie films and assisting in prime time TV. Finally, while I was associate costume designer on NBC’s “Third Watch”, I was promoted to costume designer and that was pretty much that.
I did have the incredible luck and opportunity to assist, in my opinion, one the greatest costume designers of all time, Albert Wolsky, on “Across the Universe” and “Revolutionary Road”. Albert really changed the way I thought about costumes and how I approached design. He continues to be my mentor and idol today”.
I am a compensated Dryel Ambassador. All opinions expressed, however, are my own.