By Maddie Orton
There’s a shiny gem of an exhibit at Art House in Jersey City that cuts through the winter fog with a twinkle. All That Glitters allows visitors to zoom in on the bead-work that makes costumes masterpieces.
“I think there’s an old saying: ‘Scenery sells seats,'” says Polly Isham Kinney. “And I think people take binoculars. I know I do.”
Polly Isham Kinney is a beading and embroidery designer currently working on Aladdin on Broadway, and James Crochet is the designer behind Leading Lady Costumes. Between the two Jersey City residents, they have years of Broadway, TV, and fashion campaign experience. So when Crochet took on guest-curating a costume exhibit at Art House, he knew who to call for an inside look at the glitz that makes the gowns.
“We sat on her floor and dug through her samples,” Crochet says of his work with Kinney, “and started to pull things out that she responded to or that I responded to. Things that we could remember where they were from.”
Crochet complemented Kinney’s samples with pieces from his company’s collection–some that he built and some that he bought–like these iconic items from the original Broadway production of A Chorus Line.
“A lot of the other costumes are on loan directly from the designers,” Crochet says.
Heavy-hitters like two-time Tony Award-winning costume designer Gregg Barnes. While you may have seen these costumes on Broadway, there’s nothing like seeing them close-up. Crochet remembers working on Beauty and the Beast:
“There is so much beading detail in that show, that working there, I was loving getting to work on it, but at the same time I was thinking, ‘Nobody’s going to see this level of detail and this level of crazy!'” he says. “But seeing it onstage…you may not have been able to see the detail, but you were aware that there was something dimensional there.”
And while the audience is a big part of the equation, Kinney’s mentor used to remind her that other parties are involved…
“The actress or actor would see it up close,” she says. “The producer would see it up close. So you had to make sure that they felt they were getting their money’s worth, and that the actor or actress felt good about what they were wearing.”
Then there’s the matter of marketing.
“The Jasmine wedding costume has to be spectacular because it’ll be on the side of every bus in town,” says Kinney. “With Victoria’s Secret, this has to be perfect because they’re filming it in HDTV.”
All That Glitters illustrates various styles of beading and the process through which a design goes from sketch, to sample, to final product. And Crochet and Kinney invite others to get in on the act. Art House will host a beading and embroidery workshop on Jan. 9 before the exhibit closes on the Jan. 10.