There is a time and a place for a cheap costume. If you’re going to a Halloween party, you don’t want to spend the whole evening avoiding anyone who looks like they’re about to spill a drink. But when you want to look like you’ve just walked off the set of a movie – that’s when you call The DreamStitcher.
“I can tell you exactly how I fell in love with costuming,” said Rae Lundquist, The DreamStitcher herself. “When I was growing up way up north past Duluth, I knew a boy my age who was obsessed with the classic Hollywood monsters. He liked to dress up as Dracula, and his mother even padded a window seat for him to use as a coffin in the basement.
“I was the only girl in the neighborhood nutty enough to play with him. The women in my family have always been skilled seamstresses, so I became the costume designer for the boy’s terrible home movies. There might still exist an old film of that boy chasing me around the yard while I was wearing my homemade Morticia Adams gown.”
Rae studied theater and costuming at St. Cloud State University to become Minnesota’s first female stagehand in the ’70s. She soon found the allure of “turning people into their dreams” greater than that of raising curtains and clapping thunder blocks, however, so she became The DreamStitcher in full when she moved to Minneapolis in 1980. She started out by making the costumes for the Society for Creative Anachronism, a historical reenactment group.
“As historical reenactment became more popular, it became more commercialized,” said Rae. “People could eventually order a medieval gown or a codpiece from a catalog. Fortunately for a costume designer, something even bigger came along: sci-fi and fantasy.
“With the rise of conventions came cosplayers – people who like to dress up as characters from Harry Potter, Lord of the Rings, Star Wars, Star Trek, Batman, Miyazaki films, and more anime shows than you could possibly imagine.
“Cosplay has become commercialized over the years, too, and that could have totally torpedoed my business if not for two things: Retail costumes just aren’t very good, and they’re only available in standard sizes. In my 40 years of sewing I’ve learned there is no such thing as a standard size person. If you want to dress up as Snape but have a build more like Hagrid’s, you’ll need my help to get there.
“I put intense research into every one of my costumes. Before the internet and VHS that meant endless hours at the library, ripping the covers off of every TV Guide, and going to every movie ten times to take notes. The DVD has made my life incredibly easier, since now I can pore over a movie frame by frame. For example, there’s a beautiful green pintuck gown worn by Professor McGonagall in Goblet of Fire. In only two frames where she’s extending her hand you can just make out that she’s wearing a black undergown, so I included it in my recreation.
“I have a reputation for being able to replicate just about anything. Some costumes do present certain challenges, like anime outfits that couldn’t hold up without anti-gravity devices around the bustline, but I always do the best job the laws of physics allow. For myself I made the bilious yellow and green outfit worn by Lobelia Sackville-Baggins in Fellowship of the Ring. It appears in the movie for only 30 seconds, but I studied it frame by frame until I knew everything about it. I must have gone to five or six different hobby shops just to find the little flower buds embroidered in the shawl.
“Who’s to say you shouldn’t get to cosplay as your hero? That just because you’re an adult you can’t play dress up on the weekends? I say the hell with that. Do it because you love it, whatever age you are.”
You must give Rae time to work to fully benefit from her minutia. The costumer would ideally take three months to labor over your costume, ensuring that every seam and embellishment is perfectly in place. As few greater authorities on her craft exist, Rae offers lectures and demonstrations to groups ranging in size from Girl Scout troops to comic book conventions. She is also an experienced commercial artist.
If you would like to experience the magic of the Twin Cities’ resident tailor-witch for yourself, then you may summon her at firstname.lastname@example.org.
By David Scheller