JEZE April 2011 : Page 57

fashion Tailor Made W the stage at this year’s Grammy Awards in a huge feathered costume complete with tail plumes and a breastplate, it was only the beginning of a rollicking performance that included pup-pets and an Oscar-winning actress (Gwyneth Paltrow). And although the Atlantan made a habit of wearing costumes when he performed with DJ Danger Mouse as Gnarls Bark-ley, this particular costume, along with his puppet back-up singers, gave music-lovers of a certain age a major case of déjà vu. And that was no accident—Cee-Lo used his per-formance to pay tribute to sometimes Atlantan and music icon Elton John’s performance of “Crocodile Rock” on a 1977 episode of The Muppet Show. And with one Atlanta resident paying tribute to another, it seems only fitting to throw another Atlantan into the mix of this now-classic Grammy moment: the brains behind the costume, designer Maria Harper. Harper learned to sew when she was only 8 years old. Although she loved the craft and quickly proved she had an intrinsic talent for making clothes, it never occurred to her she could make a living with her hobby. Then, some 25 years later, she suffered a serious injury, and was unable to continue working. It was at that critical crossroad in her life that a friend asked what her dream job would be. It was a simple question and received a simple answer: “I said I would sew,” Harper says. Upon that realization, the rest of Harper’s life began. “My friend bought me a sewing machine, and I started sewing for myself, and everywhere I went, people would ask me where I got my clothes,” she says. Soon, Harper’s reputation and craftsmanship led to a full-blown career making everything from blue jeans to bridesmaid dresses to custom suits. As a result, she converted her basement into a workshop, complete with a cutting room, a fabric room and her primary workspace, which boasts six industrial machines (“I hop from machine to machine—it saves me time from having to constantly rethread them,” she explains). Harper’s first foray into costume design was updating Costume designer Maria Harper in her studio the now-famed fat suit for one Madea—the larger-than-life character who helped propel entertainment titan Tyler Perry to fame. In fact, Harper went on Perry’s 2001-2002 tour of Madea’s Class Reunion as the show’s costume mistress, and she credits Perry for helping to shape her into the woman she is today. “I learned endurance and how to A local seamstress takes sewing to the next level. hen performer Cee-Lo Green stepped onto push from Tyler,” she shares. “He really groomed me with his work ethic and his drive. He expects the same from everyone around him, and I appreciate that so much.” But how did Harper meet her career mentor? “I used to sew for the R&B group 112, and I made curtains for Q’s wife’s twin sister,” Harper begins. “Tyler went to their house and asked about them, because he needed new curtains, too. While I was at his house fitting his curtains, he told me he was having problems with his show’s wardrobe and asked me to go on the road with him.” Talk about a fortuitous set of curtains! Another interesting client on Harper’s resume is the WWF’s Marlena, a member of the league’s Diva Division. “The WWF showed up at my door and asked me to start making the costumes,” Harper recalls. “They saw someone walking through the airport in one of my designs and asked who made it. Of course, I have no idea why they came to my door instead of calling!” That was 1995, and, for the next five years, Harper created four to six gowns per week for the performer. “All the gowns had to be gold, because she was Goldust’s wife, and they all had to be different,” Harper says. “Eventually, I had to quit, because it was so time-consuming I didn’t have time for other clients.” Those other clients include Vivica A. Fox and Jen-nifer Hudson, and several of Harper’s pieces were worn by actress Wendy Raquel Robinson on the television show The Game. But as Harper talks about her various heavy-hitting clients, she remains modest and gives God the credit for her success. So what about that Grammy costume? “When I got the phone call from Lo that he wanted to do a tribute to Elton John, it was a week before the Grammys,” Harper recalls. “I told him I didn’t know anything about feathers, but I started doing the research and calling feather compa-nies and sketching and figuring out exactly how to create it.” Seven days later, she was in Los Angeles, meeting with a welder to get the chest plate stretched to fit Cee-Lo’s proportions. But when it came time for the performance, Harper watched from her living room just like everyone else. “I had a meeting with a bride the next day, so I had to get home,” she says. And when not even the Grammys can slow someone down, the real question seems to be when does this hard-working designer ever find time to step away from her sewing machines? Harper laughs. “I have insom-nia anyway, so it works out,” she says. –Emily l. FolEy j e z e b e l 57 m a g a z i n e Maria Harper photo by Sarah Dorio.

Tailor Made

A local seamstress takes sewing to the next level.

When performer Cee-Lo Green stepped onto the stage at this year’s Grammy Awards in a huge feathered costume complete with tail plumes and a breastplate, it was only the beginning of a rollicking performance that included puppets and an Oscar-winning actress (Gwyneth Paltrow). And although the Atlantan made a habit of wearing costumes when he performed with DJ Danger Mouse as Gnarls Barkley, this particular costume, along with his puppet back-up singers, gave music-lovers of a certain age a major case of déjà vu. And that was no accident—Cee-Lo used his performance to pay tribute to sometimes Atlantan and music icon Elton John’s performance of “Crocodile Rock” on a 1977 episode of The Muppet Show. And with one Atlanta resident paying tribute to another, it seems only fitting to throw another Atlantan into the mix of this now-classic Grammy moment: the brains behind the costume, designer Maria Harper.

Harper learned to sew when she was only 8 years old.Although she loved the craft and quickly proved she had an intrinsic talent for making clothes, it never occurred to her she could make a living with her hobby. Then, some 25 years later, she suffered a serious injury, and was unable to continue working. It was at that critical crossroad in her life that a friend asked what her dream job would be.It was a simple question and received a simple answer: “I said I would sew,” Harper says. Upon that realization, the rest of Harper’s life began. “My friend bought me a sewing machine, and I started sewing for myself, and everywhere I went, people would ask me where I got my clothes,” she says. Soon, Harper’s reputation and craftsmanship led to a full-blown career making everything from blue jeans to bridesmaid dresses to custom suits. As a result, she converted her basement into a workshop, complete with a cutting room, a fabric room and her primary workspace, which boasts six industrial machines (“I hop from machine to machine—it saves me time from having to constantly rethread them,” she explains).

Harper’s first foray into costume design was updating the now-famed fat suit for one Madea—the larger-thanlife character who helped propel entertainment titan Tyler Perry to fame. In fact, Harper went on Perry’s 2001-2002 tour of Madea’s Class Reunion as the show’s costume mistress, and she credits Perry for helping to shape her into the woman she is today. “I learned endurance and how to Push from Tyler,” she shares. “He really groomed me with his work ethic and his drive. He expects the same from everyone around him, and I appreciate that so much.” But how did Harper meet her career mentor? “I used to sew for the R&B group 112, and I made curtains for Q’s wife’s twin sister,” Harper begins. “Tyler went to their house and asked about them, because he needed new curtains, too.While I was at his house fitting his curtains, he told me he was having problems with his show’s wardrobe and asked me to go on the road with him.” Talk about a fortuitous set of curtains!

Another Interesting client on Harper’s resume is the WWF’s Marlena, a member of the league’s Diva Division.“The WWF showed up at my door and asked me to start making the costumes,” Harper recalls. “They saw someone walking through the airport in one of my designs and asked who made it. Of course, I have no idea why they came to my door instead of calling!” That was 1995, and, for the next five years, Harper created four to six gowns per week for the performer. “All the gowns had to be gold, because she was Goldust’s wife, and they all had to be different,” Harper says. “Eventually, I had to quit, because it was so time-consuming I didn’t have time for other clients.”

Those other clients include Vivica A. Fox and Jennifer Hudson, and several of Harper’s pieces were worn by actress Wendy Raquel Robinson on the television show The Game. But as Harper talks about her various heavy-hitting clients, she remains modest and gives God the credit for her success.

So what about that Grammy costume? “When I got the phone call from Lo that he wanted to do a tribute to Elton John, it was a week before the Grammys,” Harper recalls. “I told him I didn’t know anything about feathers, but I started doing the research and calling feather companies and sketching and figuring out exactly how to create it.” Seven days later, she was in Los Angeles, meeting with a welder to get the chest plate stretched to fit Cee-Lo’s proportions. But when it came time for the performance, Harper watched from her living room just like everyone else. “I had a meeting with a bride the next day, so I had to get home,” she says. And when not even the Grammys can slow someone down, the real question seems to be when does this hard-working designer ever find time to step away from her sewing machines? Harper laughs. “I have insomnia anyway, so it works out,” she says. –Emily l. FolEy

Read the full article at http://trendmag2.trendoffset.com/article/Tailor+Made/679865/65186/article.html.

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