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Garments that Conjure the Vacation Spirit

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A number of years in the past, Keith Nielsen was feeling lower than cheerful when a buddy informed him about an internship alternative with the costume division of the TV collection “Mozart within the Jungle.”

After graduating from the Ringling Faculty of Artwork and Design in Sarasota, Fla., in 2015, he had hoped to discover a job that merged his pursuits in style design and leisure. When he couldn’t, he began working in retail. He mentioned he had begun to really feel depressed about his profession by the point his buddy talked about the internship.

His solely expertise in costuming had been on scholar movies, however Mr. Nielsen, who mentioned his grandmother had taught him to stitch, acquired the internship. “On the ‘Mozart’ set, I listened and realized,” he mentioned.

Mr. Nielsen, now 30, labored on the present via its ultimate season, rising from an intern to a fancy dress coordinator. Afterward, he began to get extra costuming jobs, together with for productions on the Westchester Broadway Theater, now closed, and for the TV film “My Adventures With Santa,” which was launched in 2019.

The film tapped into Mr. Nielsen’s longtime fondness for Christmas, he mentioned, and since then, he has been employed because the costume designer for a couple of dozen TV Christmas films.

This 12 months, he oversaw costumes for 4 movies: “Mystic Christmas,” a romance set in Mystic, Conn.; “The place Are You Christmas?,” a largely black-and-white film that imagines a world with out the vacation; “A Merry Scottish Christmas,” which was filmed at a fortress in Scotland; and “A Biltmore Christmas,” which was filmed at Biltmore Home in Asheville, N.C. All have been for the Hallmark Channel.

Working with the theater helped put together him to tackle movies, he mentioned, as a result of he realized easy methods to higher handle fittings and deadlines whereas turning into extra acquainted with outfits from completely different historic durations.

“Keith has a deep understanding of style, tradition and historical past, and an uncanny style and magnificence, particularly for interval items,” mentioned Dustin Rikert, the director of “A Merry Scottish Christmas.” Mr. Rikert additionally labored with Mr. Nielsen on “Subsequent Cease, Christmas,” which was broadcast in 2021. Costumes Mr. Nielsen created for that film included the outfits worn by a time-traveling practice conductor performed by Christopher Lloyd.

The director John Putch, who labored with Mr. Nielsen on “A Biltmore Christmas” and on “A Vacation Spectacular,” a 2022 film that includes the Radio Metropolis Rockettes, famous his love of particulars. “Keith is into the shoelaces and socks folks don’t see,” Mr. Putch mentioned.

Mr. Nielsen, who lives in Manchester, Conn., mentioned a lot of his costume concepts originate from what he jokingly described as “my 12-year-old gay-boy thoughts.” (He declined to offer particular wardrobe budgets for movies he has labored on as a fancy dress designer.) Within the edited interview under, he mentioned the aesthetic influences which have impressed his work and the methods he has conjured the vacation spirit via garments.

How do you supply costumes?

I learn a script about 4 occasions and let my creativeness run. Many vacation movies are made in three weeks or fewer, so I typically solely have a few days to get fittings carried out.

After I was costuming for theater, I began seeing outdated Broadway reveals and going to warehouses that I nonetheless use. The seller Right to the Moon Alice is the place I get classic objects. I additionally get them from Ann Roth, an Oscar-winning costume designer, who has wonderful items at her warehouse in Pennsylvania.

Hallmark likes shade and saturation. To get that freshness on digicam, typically I recreate a garment so it doesn’t appear to be it has been sitting in a closet for 70 years.

Do you ever purchase garments off the rack?

I store at shops and on-line. I like J. Crew, Banana Republic and, for fits and coats, Brooks Brothers. Kate Spade has luggage in shiny reds and greens. I don’t like ugly Christmas sweaters.

One costume in “A Biltmore Christmas” began as a Carolina Herrera robe that was purchased from the RealReal. We had a number of fittings to re-drape the skirt, add a double-tulle layer and create a gathered bust that draped across the again. After I flip an current garment into one thing else, I name it Frankenstein-ing.

What has impressed your strategy to costuming?

I’m a sap and love nostalgia and outdated Hollywood. Invoice Travilla’s costumes for Marilyn Monroe are a few of my favorites, particularly these for “The way to Marry a Millionaire.” I additionally like Arianne Phillips, who has designed costumes for movie and for Madonna. I like her breadth of labor. I by no means wish to get pigeonholed.

How do places like Biltmore Home affect your course of?

I walked via the mansion to get concepts from the area. I bear in mind trying on the colours of the wooden paneling and of the limestone. Window shades are stored at a sure stage and rooms are stored dimly lit to guard the issues inside from mild. It’s very romantic and comfy, and I wished wardrobes that communicated heat and coziness utilizing colours moreover pink and inexperienced.

To create a robe and a kilt worn by the celebs of “A Merry Scottish Christmas,” I pulled collectively a bunch of tartans that went with the tapestries, candles and darkish wooden on the fortress. We settled on MacDonald of Glencoe, a tartan with holiday-like jewel tones. The sample was digitally printed on the material used to make the robe, and the kilt was made with a conventional wool tartan.

What are some challenges with costuming vacation movies?

It’s the little issues. All clothes sizes have modified: Classic footwear are narrower than footwear are immediately, jackets match in another way, and girdles are gone. It’s onerous to search out folks to do embroidery and beading.

However I like basic and timeless appears to be like as a result of Christmas films are watched again and again.