Clint Ramos Discusses Designing Keri Russell's '80s-Inspired Costumes for the First Revival of Broadway's Burn This
Tony Award winner Clint Ramos is one of New York's most in-demand designers right now, working at the top of his game in both scenic and costume design. This year alone, he's been behind the design of the buzzy productions of Slave Play, Torch Song, BLKS, White Noise, Happy Talk, By the Way, Meet Vera Stark, and the first Broadway revival of Lanford Wilson's Burn This.
BroadwayBox recently caught up with Clint to talk a bit about designing the costumes for Burn This, specifically his costume arc for the play's only female character, Anna (played in the revival by Emmy nominee Keri Russell).
We're right smack around 1987, and the first time we see her, she's mourning for her best friend. She's literally wearing the funeral clothes. So, the first costume is this kind of off the shoulder, jersey, shirt dress. It's pretty plain but it's very, very chic. It's a YSL [Yves Saint Laurent] vintage piece that we used for that. Then we eventually had to create a double because of the two show days. We tried a couple of other dresses on her that were really great, but that was the one that we landed on because it gave her a relaxed, "dancery" feel, but also it made her look like she had just gone to the funeral. Towards the late ‘80s and early ‘90s, a lot of women matched their hose to the color of their outfit, so she’s wearing black opaque hose for that. And we found some vintage pumps that were really cute. She never wears them, but it's there on the set.
Then she goes through the kimonos, which are all vintage Japanese kimonos that we got from Japan. We altered them though, because a lot of them were really oversized, so we used the fabric to create our own kimonos.
Next, she goes into the formal wear. We built that dress, and it's based on the popularity of color blocking in the late ‘80s/early ‘90s when everybody was color blocking. It’s an old trick—it's really opera shading—where you have black panels sandwiching a really bright color, and the color that we chose for that is fuchsia. It's made of velvet and duchess satin. It's a bustier dress and it's got a lot of architecture in there. It has a train, but she wears it sitting down. The only time you actually see it is when she stands up and unzips the dress. They had just come from a New Year’s part, and David is in a tux and she's in that dress. The idea there was that they're this perfect-looking couple together, and that at some point during the evening, he will propose to her.
Then, she changes into something really comfortable, and it's one of my favorite pieces that we did. We created this bias-cut, slip gown in this dark blue steel that she's basically in for the rest of Act II. It's a very sexy, exposed low back number. For that, we had to magnetize that to her underwear, so it didn't move around a lot, and she would still feel safe and secure in the back.
Then, she puts on high-waisted jeans and a black turtle neck when she’s going to her studio. We found this really awesome houndstooth gray, black, and white winter coat that she just slings on. I love that look because it's so quintessentially early ‘90s/late ‘80s—that high-waisted, acid wash with a little metallic belt. It's just so ubiquitous. She just slipped into it and it was like, boom, done!
The last dress is based on an Yves Saint Laurent dress that I was obsessed about, but I didn't like the proportions of that dress, so I did my own thing. It's basically a wrap green dress with giant shoulder pads. It has a little kimono tie and an asymmetrical skirt. It's one of my favorite dresses of the show too. I also wanted to evoke that she's been wearing all of these kimonos throughout and really that's where she ends up, in this wrap kimono-ish dress with a bow that could also be easily tugged and the dress falls off. It's a very sexual dress. Part of the whole journey with Keri was just really leaning in on her sexuality—a very secure, knowing sexuality that just oozes from her. There's something contained, but right on the surface is that bubbling sexuality.
Hurry to Broadway’s Hudson Theatre before July 14 to see this Tony-nominated revival of Burn This.