Heading West. Again.

Heading West. Again.

It’s been almost four months since my last movie ended and tomorrow my next begins.  Because it will be another Western, I’m dusting off the boots, packing jeans, flannel shirts, and straw hats, preparing for three months of wind, sun, and dust.

When I chose to base myself full time in New Mexico, instead of LA, I resigned myself to the fact that I would spend most of my days outdoors, working in the elements, rather than on a soundstage. When I do end up on the occasional stage movie, I am amazed at how much easier it is than what I am used to, if for no other reason it involves pavement, which makes rolling a wardrobe rack exponentially easier.  But, alas, I end up working on Westerns the vast majority of the time.  They are beautiful, dirty, and everything about working on them is more difficult than any other type of movie.  The locations are in places where no roads, cell towers, or power lines are visible, thereby making them hard to get to and hard to work from.  The cast and crew are at the mercy of the weather and the light, which makes the completion of a day’s work a real feat.

I know many costumers who avoid Westerns like the plague and I understand why. I spend my days dealing with leather, wool, fur, fake blood, and dirt when I could be dealing with the cute, latest styles if I was working on a clean, romantic comedy somewhere. Chaps, corsets, and detachable collars are just a few of the clothing items I have become an expert on and each makes me so happy that our styles have evolved. Many of the costumes I set in actor’s trailers weigh more than a small child and when people ask me if I work out, I laugh. No, I work on Westerns and lug wet wool through the dirt.

But, I also get to be around really interesting costumes, horses, to see beautiful sunrises and sunsets almost every day, and to get a really great tan. On my last day of freedom for the next few months, I am dusting off the boots, finding the dust goggles, and packing the bandanas.  And it all seems so normal.

A Workroom

I recently remodeled my house and part of the reason was to create a studio out of my old bedroom. I needed a room in which to store my fabrics, books, miscellaneous collections, typewriter, and tools. My pre-remodel house had a laminate wood counter which served as workspace, office, dining table, and I was tired of having to put away my current projects, just to make dinner.  My new studio has a door that can be closed, so the mess can just hang out, waiting until after dinner when I will return.  I installed four track lights in the 120sf room, so it has a lot of light, in addition to a large window.

The room has a great, creative vibe, but the strange thing is that I don’t actually work in there. It has become more of a display case and I still find myself at the dining table, drinking tea, at the computer, sitting right in the middle of my small house.  Initially this realization bothered me, I wasn’t sure why I had just created this new room if I wasn’t going to use it. But, then I saw that I actually was using it, I just wasn’t sitting in it.  It has become my stage, my backdrop, and my place where anything goes. I get inspired when I walk in and spend hours arranging the photos and images on the wall or repositioning the photos on top of the bookshelves.

I think the weather may also have something to do with it. In these early spring days, it is still quite chilly out, and my body craves the light and warmth which the southern facing windows in my kitchen let in. My studio faces north and as the days get hotter, I think I may find myself escaping the sun and cooling off in there more often.  But, either way, who cares? If it is only ever my display case room, so be it.

Clothing as Costume and Uniform

Working as a costumer on films, I am frequently reminded of how clothing helps us convey who we think we are, or want to be, to the world. While working on a film, the costume designer, actor, and director bring their different visions together in order to best relay who the character is through clothing. The actor will arrive at a fitting in their customary uniform of expensive T shirt and designer jeans and will transform once the uniform is replaced with the costume. It is my job to then care for the costume, keep it looking as it should, and deal with a multitude of issues involving the actor’s comfort while wearing it.

While working, I have a uniform of my own, built around ease and functionality. Often working on location, out of a suitcase, at the whim of the weather, and on not enough sleep, I rely on jeans, boots, and layers of shirts in cooler weather. The heat presents more problems, because in the end all I really want to wear is a sundress and flip flops. I spend my days squatting down to tie shoes, climbing through odd, small spaces to get to actors, holding coats, fixing zippers, taping down lapels, soothing actor’s blistered feet, and dealing with any number of problems arising from uncomfortable clothing. The last thing I want to do is add myself to that fray. I have to be prepared for the unexpected dust storm, rain, and to be in mud up to my knees at any moment. When people hear what I do for a living and tell me how glamorous it must be, I laugh. While working on The Lone Ranger in Moab this past July, I finally embraced shorts to keep from turning into a puddle. Scarves soaked in ice water and wrapped around my head and shoulders were another necessity. It is a feat to try to look decent while working on what is really a dirty job site all day long. My life is too fussy for fussy clothing.

When I am not working I have another uniform of sorts, with moccasins in place of work boots and blouses instead of T’s, but jeans and leggings are a constant. I try to remember to wear the jewelry I forgo while working. Recently I was going through my closet, trying to see it as a costumer looking at a character’s line on a wardrobe trailer. Did it look cohesive and like it was one person’s closet? Or, were there pieces that had been bought on a whim, with the hope of becoming someone else for a moment, but had been hanging there ever since? After getting rid of several bags, I liked and related to the person I saw revealed in the clothing. She was someone I would like to be.

Dear Mom,

Dear Mom,

Dear Mom, will you please make German pancakes? I love you, Love Claire
A note left on my parent’s bedroom door circa 1985. Further proof that I have always been slightly fanatical about brunch.

German Pancake Recipe
1/4 C butter
1 C all purpose flour
1 C milk
6 eggs lightly beaten
1/8 t salt

Preheat oven to 350. Melt butter in medium baking dish, a cast iron skillet works great.
In a medium bowl, mix flour, milk, eggs, and salt. Pour the mixture into the prepared dish.
Bake until puffy and golden, usually 30-40 minutes.
Serve with lemon and powder sugar, syrups, fruits, jams, anything.
Really easy and delicious, serves 4-6.
Can substitute gluten free flour and your choice of milk. And can use coconut oil instead of butter.


On December 31st, 2012, I filled out a worksheet that a friend emailed me.  It asked me to look back on the previous year and forward to the next, answering questions and making lists about where I was and where I wanted to be.  About half way through, it asked me to choose a word for 2013 and to think of what my word for 2012 would have been.  Happiness, Confidence, Adventure, Love, Balance, and Fun all came to mind for both. 2012 had been one of the more amazing years of my life, full of weddings, a home renovation, new friends, a job that took me to five states in nine months, and a confidence I hadn’t felt in years.  I looked towards 2013 with excitement and anticipation, but also slight trepidation because I really had no idea where it might take me.  After some thought, I decided my word for 2012 was Confidence and, after much deliberation, settled on Centered for 2013. It didn’t sound exotic, but I realized that it could encapsulate all those more exciting sounding words within it.  What I really wanted when it came down to it, was to feel grounded in my life but the keep the spontaneity I had become so comfortable with in 2012.  I wanted happiness that couldn’t be taken when outside conditions changed.  I yearned to feel the lightness I’d felt as a gypsy without the weight of not knowing when I would next be able to open my mail.  I wanted to let go of the parts of myself I’d only just realized were outgrown and to feel solid in what remained.  It has been over two months since I chose Centered as my new word and once again I am reminded to be careful what you ask for. You will without a doubt be given situations in which to practice that which you say you want.  Nothing has gone how I thought it would as I sat writing my list on New Year’s Eve, but at the same time I know, without a doubt, that I am exactly where I need to be.  We’ll see where I am on December 31st, 2013, before deciding if it was the appropriate word choice for the year.