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Best Costumes / Best Sets

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Here's what some costume designers said two years ago:

Designers keep their soap stars fashionably in character


Sacramento Bee

May 02, 2006

- From Pine Valley and Salem to Genoa City and Harmony, you can always count on the Erica Kanes and Jack Abbotts of the soap-opera world to steal a kiss or stab someone in the back - and look wildly attractive while doing it.

Who's responsible for making them look so good?

Well, that would be the costume designers, of course. Each of the nine current daytime dramas has one or more of them on staff. Their responsibilities include clothing the stars, those playing other recurring characters and the "under-five" roles (parts with five lines or less, such as a police officer), plus the stunt doubles.

And that means with all the clothes, accessories and jewelry that viewers see onscreen. And since we're talking soaps, that obviously includes undergarments - the racier, the better.

The designers shop for ensembles at department stores, specialty shops and online. But for the real special occasions - the fan-favorite wedding, the always-kitschy masquerade ball - they get to put their creative talents to work as well, conjuring up their own creations.

With legions of loyal fans tuning in daily (more than 23 million each week) - not to mention TiVo-ing with a passion - you can bet these designers also field such pressing fashion questions as:

- What's the label in character Victor Newman's ("The Young and the Restless") suit(s)?

- When does Marlena Evans ("Days of Our Lives") shop at Target?

- And why won't Phyllis Abbott ("The Young and the Restless") tell us where she got her black top with the cap sleeves?

Elaine G. Flores, feature writer for Soap Opera Digest, says she receives beaucoup letters and e-mails with questions much like these.

"The fashions generate a lot of fan interest," Flores says in a call from New York. "Not surprisingly, we're deluged with bridal questions. Everyone wants to know where they can buy a certain character's wedding gown." (The magazine's "Star Style" section lists where viewers can find some of the fashions featured on the soaps.)

Far from frivolous, soap-opera fashion plays a crucial role, including in character development, Flores says.

"If you're the bad girl with the low-rent background, you'll look one way," she says. "If you're the spoiled rich girl, that's a totally different look."

It's also serious stuff for the designers, four of whom were recently nominated for a Daytime Emmy for costume design. Each had to submit a tape of the outfit or outfits that best represented a year's worth of costuming.

What's it really like to dress a cast of characters five days a week, almost 50 weeks a year?

We asked the four nominees (the winner is at the bottom):

- Designer: Jennifer Johns

- Her soap: "The Young and the Restless."

- Nominated for: The wedding outfits of characters Lauren Fenmore and Michael Baldwin.

Johns has helped dress the citizens of Genoa City (somewhere in Wisconsin) for 20 years. ("Y&R" first aired in 1973.) She says she outfits the characters as if they were in a cosmopolitan setting, such as Chicago.

"It's an interesting time right now on the show," Johns says, "because the fashions are becoming a little more realistic. Back in the 1980s, for example, when one character asked another to dinner, they went formal - tuxes and evening gowns - to the Colonnade Room. Now, the clothing is more relaxed and not as over-the-top dressy."

For the more day-to-day apparel for her characters, Johns - armed with credit cards - shops at favorite department stores and specialty retailers, such as Abercrombie & Fitch and Banana Republic.

Remember actress Eva Longoria's two-year stint on "Y&R" (February 2001 to August 2003) when she played Isabella, the psycho spouse of private investigator Paul Williams?

"Now she was fun to dress," Johns says.

- Designer: David R. Zyla

- His soap: "All My Children."

- Nominated for: Erica Kane's 10th (some have been valid, some not) wedding.

Zyla is about to celebrate his second year as costume designer for "All My Children," which debuted in 1970.

"Dressing 'All My Children,' though, has been the perfect match for me," Zyla says from New York, where the soap is shot. "One reason is because the show has become known for its fashion-related themes."

The high point of Zyla's "AMC" stint has been designing the wedding gown for Kane's 10th marriage - to Jackson Montgomery (Walt Willey) in May 2005.

"It's a joy to dress Susan (Lucci) because she herself is so stimulated by fashion," he says. "But I'm biased because I believe we have the most attractive cast in all of daytime."

- Designer: Birgit Muller

- Her soap: "The Bold and the Beautiful."

- Nominated for: The Spectra couture fashion show.

Muller won Daytime Emmy costume-design honors in 2004 and 2005 for "The Bold and the Beautiful" - the "baby" among the nominees, having first aired in 1987.

Muller says she appreciates how much of the clothing she actually gets to create, from a fashion-show set in Portofino, Italy, to multiple gowns for Bridget Forrester's two weddings to the same guy.

"But, like with any business, we've had to be more creative on a tighter budget," Muller says. "I like to keep things simple and at the same time realistic. So I often rely on T-shirts and accessories, such as jewelry, and spend less on shoes."

- Designer: Richard Bloore

- His soap: "Days of Our Lives."

- Nominated for: The outfits worn for the renewal of vows between Maggie and Mickey Horton.

Since 1965, sand has poured through the hourglass of "Days of Our Lives." And for 16 years, Bloore has been the venerable daytime drama's costume designer. (He also worked on "Santa Barbara" for six years.)

"I love clothes and I love dressing people," Bloore says from Los Angeles. "And (this job) is great because it's a regular paycheck. I don't have to knock on doors."

Bloore says the "Days" setting is "supposedly someplace in Midwest 'Illinohio.' Unlike California or Florida, we do have 'seasons' on this show, so the clothing reflects that."

His nominated fashion ensemble featured not only Maggie Horton's wedding dress but also a cross-section of styles, from casual to dressy.

But dressing the character of long-suffering Dr. Marlena Evans (Deidre Hall) remains a challenge because the writers "play their cards close to the table where this character's plotline is concerned."

"I get in a bind if I'm trying to figure out whether she's evil or not," Bloore says. "If I'm guessing, the audience is guessing. ... An evil person wearing pastels is an interesting trick."

(And the Emmy winner was ... for the third year in a row, "The Bold and the Beautiful's" Muller.)

(Leigh Grogan can be reached at lgrogan(at)sacbee.com.)

(Distributed by Scripps Howard News Service, www.shns.com.)


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AMC always does a great job with costumes when it comes to big events. Mardi Gras, Crystal Ball, Costume party, etc...

I've always liked the majority of the ATWT sets. At least on that show they use real doors - I hate it when characters on the ABC soaps slam doors and you can see the brittle pieces of sh!t rattle.

Although I must say - I've really been enjoying the location shots on AMC this summer. At least you know that sh!t is real.

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BTW, Richard Bloore (DOOL) was fired, according to that topic in spoilers subforum, and replaced by Chic Gennarelli (Indiana 4, Charlie Wilson's War — key costumer, Sunset Beach, Angel — costume designer, 3 nominations and 2 Emmy wins for Homefront).

His resume and e-mail are available at IMDB. :D

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And you can totally tell!

Some of the sets are getting a little old and worn around the edges.

I do think the GCAC dining room is impressively faux-wood-panelled, though.

Still, compared with AMC or OLTL? I think Y&R is better.

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They are really, really getting old. Besides, it's not just that, it's that I never understood why people found those sets so special.

B&B has terribly ridiculous sets, like the Forrester mansion, although I adore the vista on LA! :lol: And Brooke's house with that fake Libyan Sibyl on the wall... :rolleyes: It's so cluttered and awful, it gives you shivers!

P. S. JamesF wrote extensively on the cr*ppy B&B sets.

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The reason I have always loved them is because I love that combination of wood with plants, dark brown, dark green, they're roomy, some cluttered, some less, it just feels to me very homey. I've also always felt that they were very imaginitive with the designs for the sets. The Newman house has that hall and then next to it that little area with the plants, loved the Penthouse, with its view, the stairs, Victor's office, the Jabot boardroom. I really, really love them! :lol:

I do think they're old--but there is something wonderfully comforting in their constant presence.

Now, B&B's? Those are from mediocre to terrible.

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What I think of set design show by show.

AMC - Absolutely ATROTIOUS. The bright colors and horrible white lighting doesn't help things. I can't help but roll my eyes when I see the travesty that is the Fusion set and how badly designed the Chandler Mansion set is these days. AMC had some of the most soapy looking sets in the 90's, it's a shame to see where it is now.

ATWT - Pretty decent for a East Coast soap, the limited number of sets they use are passable, but some could use some touches.

B&B - Ugh, some sets are OK, but others are tacky as hell. B&B needs to revamp some of their sets, and I know they have the budget to do it.

DAYS - Nelson Branco recently said the sets look so "80s" and I have to agree. Some sets are horribly tacky, horribly lit (the sets weren't made with Ed Scott's lighting in mind). Overall, they're ok, but could use some revamping

GH - Blah, the sets are cheap looking and the horrible dark lighting doesn't help things. I laugh everytime I see the nurse's station set, which is awful and unrealistic.

GL - The less said, the better. :rolleyes: It's sad to see how far this show has fallen from a production standpoint. GL used to have some of the best sets for an East Coast soap ever.

OLTL - Some of the set decorations are absolutely vile, the sets could use a fresh coat of paint as well. They need to revamp some sets, but OLTL has good sets by ABCD standards.

Y&R - Probably the soap that uses the most of their veteran sets. Some sets cold use a fresh coat of paint, a little more detail, and some better decorations. Overall, compared to the rest of daytime, Y&R's core sets look plush and big on screen. Some revamping could be useful. The Chancellor livingroom is just dying to be redecorated, it looks so tacky, but I guess that's Kay's style.

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I happen to think that Y&R has the best sets bar none. They look big, are lit well, have detail and colour and have aged well. Certainly, some sets like the Chancellor mansion look 'dated' but I think that's a good thing, the sets look lived in and they match the tastes of their inhabitants (after all, Katherine's house was basically antique 1970s from the very beginning)...B&B has some good sets and some bad sets. Considering how much the Forrester mansion set is used it should be made much larger and the pool should be used more often.

GH and GL have the worst sets. The GH hospital set is really insulting, it's beyond unrealistic. GL just looks like sh*t. AMC's sets are so cardboard and cookie cutter. They don't look Main Line Pennsylvania, they look like hell.

Costume wise, however, AMC is an A+. Everyone always looks great and individual. Y&R is also very adept at giving each character a 'look', everyone looks polished and appropriate...B&B used to be good. But those identical suits Susan Flannery wears irritate the hell outta me. She needs better jewelry too.

GH and GL, again, look like sh*t.

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Did anyone else notice the ligths at AMC have been "turned down" this week? Is it something Pratt did now that he's a consulting producer?

B&B is sooo dated in general. Their fashion shows, etc are a joke but in general it still reeks of a cheap attempt at Dynasty era glamour it seems to me.

I miss how AMC looked under Behr. maybe cuz that's how I first watched soaps, or whatever... All the NEw York ABC soaps looked class then--Loving for all the ways it wasn't rewarded by soap press often got comemnts from SOD about how great its sets were--and OLTL under Gottlieb was a wonderful, dark sensual set (she purposefully went the opposite of Rauch's bright sets)

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The white lighting is just hideous on AMC, I don't know why Julie lights the show that way. That coupled with the sets, and film look of the show makes for a very bad combination.

I haven't seen change in AMC's lighting this week, but the show could definitely use some darker lighting, in fact, a better Executive Producer too while they're at it.

I don't recall AMC being lit this way pre-JHC, but I could be wrong...

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