Friday, October 17, 2014

Interview of Author Betty Kreisel Shubert

Betty Kreisel Shubert enjoyed a career in theatrical design spanning several decades, starting at the age of thirteen, when she sold her first design to a manufacturer. By eighteen she had two hit Hollywood shows to her credit. Betty has designed clothes & costumes for stage, screen, TV Specials, ready-to-wear, Las Vegas musicals & Disneyland. She chronicled her unique experiences in an equally unique book, “Out-of-Style: A Modern Perspective of How, Why, and When Vintage Fashions Evolved”, which Kirkus Reviews named to BEST BOOKS of 2013. Betty and I chatted recently about her fascinating career and the book that documents it. JF: How did you get into such an interesting business, and at such an early age? BKS: At Beverly Hills High School, I designed & made costumes for all our shows for four years. A producer who always came to see his son perform told me, “The next time I do a show I’ll let you do the costumes”. Good press reviews for “Meet the People” led to my designing costumes for Ken Murray’s Blackouts, a “must see” in Hollywood that enjoyed a 6 1/2 year record-breaking run JF: You must have met many famous people. Who stands out? BKS: The Blackouts played at the original El Capitan Theatre at Hollywood & Vine. The theatre was owned by Sid Grauman , who also owned the Chinese Theatre nearby. Grauman was often a backstage visitor arriving in a chauffer driven limo. He lived at the Ambassador Hotel, home of the famous Coconut Grove nightclub. One night after the show, he invited me & my mother to a late supper where he told us the story of his life…from nickelodeons in San Francisco to Hollywood. I was entranced, aware that I was listening to history directly from an icon. JF: What made you decide to write “Out-of-Style”? BKS: The need to simplify the understanding of how clothes evolved so that genealogists can easily time-date old family photos, costume designers can be inspired, theatre companies can dress actors in time-appropriate attire, and vintage collectors can knowledgeably buy & sell. And now writers can accurately choose and describe their characters’ clothes! JF: Your book has garnered great reviews. What makes it different from other design books? BKS: It was written by a designer who contracted to deliver finished costumes in time for opening night. as opposed to being written by a scholar who sees clothes in museums as specimens. My over 700 sequential illustrations are not designs; they are “composites” of style clues that place garments in their correct decade. A major reviewer said, “A fabulously, fascinating FUN book to read!” When was a history book ever FUN to read? JF: Your book is in countless libraries, even a museum of American History. How did you manage this? BKS: I had my book displayed at various book shows such as The Combined Book Exhibit and American Library Show. I gave out beautiful sell sheets which were quickly taken by visiting librarians. JF: Why do you think every author should have this book, and how can they obtain it? BKS: “Out-of-Style” illustrates & describes clothes for men, women & children from the 19th- 21st centuries. If you are writing & need inspiration about how your characters should look & dress, being able to access this information immediately is invaluable. I received letters from authors, artists, and illustrators about how helpful this has been to them. For more information, please see my website

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