In the course of researching Western's 100 years in the costume business, we came away with what felt like 200 years' worth of interesting anecdotes, fun facts and little-known aspects of the company. Among them:
Military Might: On occasion, Western's expertise in military uniforms has been called into action beyond the front lines of a movie set. The costume house lent thousands of its uniforms to an unprepared California National Guard in the wake of the 1941
Cloned Clothes: In addition to manufacturing clothing, shoes and hats for the entertainment industry, Western offers the same services to the general public — provided there's a design in hand. "We don't have in-house designers to be able to design something for you," Marks says. "But if you bring us a photo or a sketch of something — period or modern — we can manufacture it. A lot of people don't know we do that."
But replicating your grandmother's favorite dress or that powder blue prom tuxedo comes with a price: cobbled-to-order shoes start at around $800 plus the cost of materials, a men's suit begins at $1,600 (plus materials) and the most basic of women's dresses starts at $400 (plus materials.)
Fashion Forward: Fashion designers have been known to rent from the stock for research and inspiration purposes, Marks says, and on more than one occasion a garment has been returned with a swatch of fabric cut out of it. When that happens, the renter is charged for damages.
Serious Dirt: Eddie Marks' brother Jeff, who runs Western's on-site supply store, is also the creator of Schmere, a line of aging crayons in shades such as "Burnt Umber," "Sweat Stains" and "Grass Stains" that are used to artificially soil costumes.
Tailor Turnaround: The men's tailor shop at Western can create a suit from scratch in about three days, "depending on how much work we have," Eddie Marks says. Tailor Jack Kasbarian can recount a harrowing 90-hour "day" that put the company's manufacturing skills to the test after a fire at Universal Studios incinerated a wardrobe trailer's worth of costumes for the 1991 period gangster film "Oscar" (which starred