Published: July 28, 2011
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BEHIND THE SCENES WITH...
WENDY DAVIDSON

Meet SBF Member Wendy Davidson, a former singer/dancer from Boston, who got into wardrobe supervising through the back door, which eventually lead to becoming a Costume Specialist for NCL.
Read her interview and find out about how her career has evolved to be part of the NCL Creative Team...

  • What is your role with the NCL and what does your job involve?
    Quote ...You have 30 seconds to get into your next costume and look like nothing happened. I love knowing that I can keep someone calm backstage...
    Wendy Davidson: I'm a Costume Specialist for NCL and that encompasses every aspect of costuming. I started out on NCL seven years ago as a Wardrobe Supervisor working backstage. Working on the ships I learned everything that I needed to. Now my job covers design, hiring designers and hiring shops to put together these incredible costumes. We are currently working on building a shop in Miami, as well as costume storage and I'll have my own crew. That's about a year on. So we will definitely be designing our own costumes, I may still have some shops, do certain things. For example, for the new Cinema Italiano costumes, I had a belly dance costume company make them because there needs to be so much movement in them and I wanted to make sure that I had a company who definitely knows how a dancer moves and a belly dancer in particular, so that nothing falls out. So I will continue to hire them for other installations of Cinema Italiano. Each shop has their own specialty, so if they can do something better than I can, I'll use them.

  • NCL Spirit
Elements
Wendy Davidson with 'Water'
2010 How did you get into the business?
    WD: I came in through the backdoor. I started off as a performer - for about 11 years, a singer/dancer in Boston and then moved to New York, but was mostly out on tour. At one time I was on tour and we were heading to Australia, but because it takes so long to ship the sets out there, I needed some work in between these times. The Wardrobe Supervisor on the tour suggested that I went into a theatre and say I can stitch labels on and see if they need some help. I went into one of the local theatres in New York and said: "is there anything that you need me to do?". They said: "we don't, but another theatre really needs some help backstage". I worked there for a couple of weeks with the Wardrobe Supervisor and she taught me a lot. My grandmother was a Seamstress, so I kind of had it in my blood. That's how it started, it came out of an necessity for money and grew into a love that just fits right. So when the knees gave out, a little later on in life, I said: "this is what I have to continue doing" and it was right, because I've never had to ask for a job since. I worked on Broadway for a few years and then I joined NCL in 2003 and I love every second of it.

  • Have you designed any of the costumes?
    WD: I design a lot out of necessity, not want. At NCL we have gone through such a big change and NCL in house has gone from having three ships to now having 11 under its belts. So in that time with all these changeovers, I've had to do a lot of filling in. So I'm not going to say that I design, but I do a lot of research and find what I can do to fill in all the missing pieces.
    We have gone from costuming three ship to 11 in just over a year, so my costumes have been stretched thin. Last year was 'get them dressed', this year it's 'renew and let's do better'.


  • How important do you think costume design is in a show?
    WD: Very important. The audience see the entire package, but they know when something isn't right. They might not know if the lighting isn't as good as it could be or the set isn't kept up as well as it should, but you can see when a costume isn't well made, well fit, when it's just bland - it definitely makes a difference. The whole package has to look good and costumes are very important for that overall picture. It also helps the performer to feel more confident with what they are doing and a lot of performers can't find their character until, they put that pair of shoes on or that ball gown.

  • Nickelodeon’s “Dora and the Pirate Adventure”
Wendy Davidson standing with “Tico” (Bert Rodriguez)
2005 Could you tell us about the process of getting the costumes ready for a new production?
    WD: It starts off in a boardroom with everyone sitting around the table discussing what they expect. At that point, I might come up with ideas. I'm not a great sketcher, but I can sketch an idea of what I'd like and then I'd take it to a designer and say: "make this look like it really should!". Then they will come back to me with different ideas. We will say 'yea or nay' to their sketches. We'll then hire a designer and then that designer will either use their own costume shop or we'll recommend one that we use often. The costumes are then built there. I like to play a big part in the fabric selection. Working on a cruise ship is very different from working in a theatre on land. There are so many different things to consider in the maintenance and the longevity of the costume. For example all of our water is recycled onboard, and that has a high chlorine count - that doesn't do well for a lot of lycras. The lycra will wear out much quicker, so you have to keep things like that in mind. You can't have silk onboard as there's no way to take care of it. Also with our costumes, everything stays onboard and are worn by many singers and dancers over a number of years. They have to be built appropriately, so that we can re-fit the costume. There must be enough seam allowance for someone who is 6'3" down to somebody who is 5'2". I have literally put a 6'3" man into a 5'2" man's pants. That was a well made pair of pants! I really get involved with those specific types of things and make sure that the ship is supplied with everything that they need to maintain that kind of situation.

  • Quote ...People are really expecting to be entertained and to be dazzled and we want the entire production to be a higher standard....
    Does being a dancer yourself, help you in your job?
    WD: Absolutely. I think it also helps my work ethic backstage, because I know what it takes to be out there and all the thought it takes to be dancing, to be singing, to be prepared and then to have to run backstage and have everything chaotic. You have 30 seconds to get into your next costume and look like nothing happened. I love knowing that I can keep someone calm backstage and because we do anything ourselves, I also love knowing if something doesn't get done, it's our fault and I love taking care of things for the performers. It's great satisfaction to know that they are pleased with what we have done and they are going out on stage confident.

  • As entertainment is such an important element in cruising now, has the standard of costumes risen with it?
    WD: In NCL we are absolutely striving to create more of a Broadway quality costume. At one time you could get away with a lot of sequins and glitter, but it doesn't work like that anymore. People are really expecting to be entertained and to be dazzled and we want the entire production to be a higher standard.

  • Which costumes in a show have been the most challenging for you to work with?
    NCL Jade
Elements
Pali Udvarhelyi, Samee Nann, Jacinta Rich, Cameron Bull, Kaylee Olson & Laura Golcman
2011 WD: There's a broad spectrum of challenging. There's challenging in either the way that the costumes are stunning, but they weren't quite built appropriately for the show or they were built so incredibly well that when it comes to changing them for the next person, it's really difficult. We have a show right now on NCL called Elements, it's gorgeous, an absolute spectacular. The costumes were designed and built in New York City. The New York shops are used to working with Broadway and they are used to fitting one person and having that costume last for only that person. The costumes we have for Elements are hand painted and there is so much work involved in them. They were built for one specific person. They are even dyed to match their skin color. When we had a cast change, nothing fitted or matched their skin tones. We did a lot of fixing and re-worked the costumes, so that we could blend things in better. We took the costumes completely apart and rebuilt them for the new cast. Originally on the NCL Jade we had a show called Smokey Joes Café and again we used a couple of designers and shops in New York. The costumes were beautiful and such a joy to work with. Every single time I washed them or repaired them, I thought: "I'm working with the best". So not a challenge, but a love, a passion.
    Quote ...(wardrobe supervising) came out of an necessity for money and grew into a love that just fits right...
  • What do you like most about your job?
    WD: I really enjoy when there is a brand new show on: creating the backstage tracking, when the people have to run off stage, have their costumes prepped and ready to do their 30-second change. That's the part that I like the most because it still incorporates a little bit of the performer. I'm still on stage with them and I'm still excited with them. So I get the best of both worlds that way. Plus I have the confidence of knowing that everyone feels safe.

  • How do you take care of the costumes?
    WD: We have a washing rotation. Everything gets washed to the best of our ability. We have an odd situation where on a lot of ships we have to share our laundry facilities with the crew. So we have to go downstairs and hope that there is an open washer and pray that nobody decided to dye their blouse right before we put our costumes in. Luckily on this ship we have our own washing machine upstairs. I like to base the washing rotation on what I learned working on Broadway and that way I know that I'm not over washing and the costumes will last.
    Quote ...The whole package has to look good and costumes are very important for that overall picture...



  • What happens to the costumes when a show comes to an end?
    WD: Once we've built a set of costumes, they usually stay on that ship. After we have created the facility in Miami, all the of costumes will be brought there and we are in the midst of creating a second set of costumes so that we can constantly rotate and have a set being used on the ship and I'll have a set ready to go for the next cast. When the performers come to Miami, I'll do the fittings and alterations and refurbish the costumes. The new set will be sent on the ship with the new cast and I'll bring the old ones back and get them ready for a new cast in six months.

    Thank you Wendy for this interesting interview and best of luck with your career!



    Tiffany Snow
Wardrobe Supervisor onboard NCL Jade
    Tiffany Snow
    Wardrobe Supervisor onboard NCL Jade

  • Can you please tell us about your job?
    Tiffany Snow: I take care of costumes onboard. When the cast first gets on, I handle alterations and make sure that the current cast gets into the previous cast's costumes. A team will come on with a the new cast, so the alterations are done by me and 2 or 3 others. Once the team leave, it's basically just me keeping the costumes maintained. A week never goes by where alterations or repairs don't need to be done. I also work backstage during the shows, I preset, I help dress, I help with quick changes, make sure that backstage is ready to go. Then I laundry everything and hand wash all the Elements costumes.

  • Mark Borum
Singer onboard NCL Jade & Tiffany's husband What is your background?
    TS: I went to school for public relations and marketing, with a minor in fashion. I had been doing sales in New York, before my husband, Mark Borum and I got this job and this is the second ship that we've worked on together. He got the job to work on the NCL Spirit as a singer, at the time I was looking for something new and I kind of fell into it, as I'd been in fashion. I was thrown into the deep end, but I caught on quickly and kept everything maintained on the first ship and they offered me the NCL Jade afterwards.

    Thank you Tiffany for your time and best of luck with your career!