When Cynthia Settje walked down the Red Carpet on Saturday night at Costume College, the Los Angeles costume makers’ conference, I was standing next to the person who made this video, so I’m the one you can hear cheering louder than anyone, right into the mic. (Sorry, Ali.)
Luckily the video stops after ten seconds, so you can’t hear me literally losing it in public, bursting into overwhelmed, happy tears as I thanked Cynthia for giving us all this wonderful gift.
The magic of costume making, for me, is the magic of time travel. To watch a famous historic gown step out of the glass case and live again, moving, turning, walking, sitting, dancing, on a living body, is an experience that makes me weak at the knees, and I think the Internet is in universal agreement that Cynthia nailed it on an epic level with ALL the velvet hand applique, perfectly planned and executed in a stitch perfect reproduction of Worth’s famous 1900 evening gown. Yes, she really did cut all the black swirls and handstitched them down to recreate the fabric exactly.
Before the costuming world left the hotel on Monday I was lucky enough to have lunch with the maker, so I got a chance to hear more about Cynthia’s work. While her classmates headed to New York and LA as expected by their college, Cynthia forged her own path and set up her business Redthreaded in Colorado. Many of those friends find themselves without jobs now, but Cynthia has New York theaters knocking on her door because she has great skills and reduced overheads, which I can only admire. Any person who goes against the grain and forges their own path is my kind of nutcase.
So I was pretty surprised when Cynthia told me that among all the effusive praise she heard on Saturday, someone said to her, Cathy Hay must hate you, because you’ve taken the Worth thing.
Nothing could be further from the truth, and I’m not even saying that because I’m trying to be gracious in the face of someone else’s success. Cynthia’s triumph, and the visibility she’s gained from it, really is the best thing in the world ever. I wasn’t blubbering like an idiot when she walked up to me because she’s taken something from me, but because she has embodied and strengthened the message I’ve been trying to send all this time.
What Cynthia just did was exactly what I hoped would happen. I have been asked in the past when I would be making this dress, and I held back; I couldn’t see how it could reasonably be done, so when Cynthia hitched her cart to it, I was right there on the cheerleading squad, wanting to see the solution that I hadn’t seen (and wanting to see her blow up the Internet with the finished article.)
Since the Oak Leaf dress broke my brain open and showed me what was possible, nothing I have done has been about me. I never wanted to do this alone; I’m not trying to be the only rock star here. I want to take others with me. Cynthia took up the challenge, and now Cynthia will lift more people and take them to that mind-blowing daze she’s in right now: “Holy shit, did that just happen?” and “If that was possible, then what else could be possible in my life?”
Give it a little while to sink in, and I bet you’ll start to hear her say, “Guys, come with me. You can do this too. You can do more than you think you can.”
So drink some abundance juice, friends, because a rising tide lifts all boats. There’s room for us all to be amazing in whatever way and at whatever level we choose, whether that’s about crazy amounts of handwork or whether it’s just about doing better than last year. And that’s why I was cheering louder than anyone on the Red Carpet on Saturday night. Well played, Cynthia, very well played!