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Costumers Make Ends Meet

Eve Troeh

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Records were sold at the Local 705
(Paula Kaatz)
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"Having a fire sale! A dollar for everything on the table for the welfare fund for 705!"

The Costumers Local 705 is a union for wardrobe workers in Hollywood. Members gathered on a Saturday morning to sell pieces from their collections. Beaded gowns, work shirts, bouffant wigs. All costumes left over from previous jobs.

I walk up to a man who's browsing the racks of clothes with his wife.

"I've got three, four bags here," he says. He points to his wife. "She's getting more there. We've got more in the truck."

I notice that his wife has her checkbook out, ready to buy something else. She proudly displays some of the items she has bought. "I got some wonderful stuff. And original dress with the flapper bottom. Normally probably $200. I got it for 20 bucks."

Some of this money will go into the union's welfare fund. It provides low-interest loans for out-of-work costumers. Loan applications have tripled since the writers strike began in November. A few dozen people wander through the racks of shirts and dresses that line the parking lot. One of the big selling points is who wore the clothes.

"I worked with Jimmy Kimmel for about eight years on 'The Man Show,' and I'm selling vintage ties, vintage pants and vintage scarfs," says Lisa Snee. Snee's done costume work for talk shows, dramas, indy movies. She's been in the business about 30 years. "Both my husband and I are in the entertainment industry. He's a teamster and I'm a costumer, and he's been out of work since November, so I'm doing what I can do."

With both of them out of work, money has been tight. To make her costumes easier to sell, Snee has redesigned them. "I have the vintage pants. I cut the waistband out of the pants and lower 'em, and I can make capris out of the pants."

Some 705-ers have had to take non-union gigs to pay the bills. A woman stands at a table with her friend selling clothes. She didn't want to give me her name. "We're both out-of-work 705 costumers," she says. "But I'm working elsewhere to make ends meet. I'm currently working in a sidebar business also doing costuming but for a Disneyland resort."

Even though the strike is over and the writers and producers are back to work, she is not. "The executive producer for the show that I work on told me it would be 11 weeks from the time that the writers started writing until we had enough scripts to start working again."

Since most of their work is freelance, a majority of costumers don't have a steady gig to go back to. But Simone Williams sees events, like today's costume sale, as a way to meet people and maybe land her next job. "I'm networking. I figure a lot of costume people are out here and I need to get my resume to them and meet them," she says. "Hopefully some really really good creature movie, monster, special effects movies will get started. That's the kind of work I like to do."


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