We had the distinct pleasure of sitting down with POTUS costume designer Ivania Stack to talk pantsuits, Crocs, and sad cardigans. She walked us through every character’s design, her real-life inspirations, and some of her favorite costume pieces.
What has been the most fun part of working on POTUS ?
POTUS is a really fun play (partly) because it includes mention of Crocs, which was such an exciting thing for me to learn all about!
What’s there to learn about Crocs?
For instance, I learned when you push the strap to the back of the Croc it’s called “sports mode” so that you can run around—say if you’re acting in a play and you need to be able to run across the stage. I did not know that. I also didn’t know that the things that go in the holes of Crocs are called Jibbitz.
In the show the Crocs are worn by the First Lady. She got a little bit of flack because she showed up at a homeless shelter with stilettos on, so now she’s wearing Crocs to show how “earthy” she is. For anyone else they could be the most ordinary Crocs in the world but, of course, she is always going to be extra. So these Crocs needed to be leopard print. And then when she is going to a gala, she’s got these high heel Crocs. Not earthy at all.
It’s really fun pulling all our research together and then going through it with the director and figuring out what the final vision is for each character.
Were there any real-life inspirations behind your FLOTUS designs?
First Lady Michelle Obama definitely, Vice President Kamala Harris, there’s a little Secretary Hillary Clinton for sure, but also…at least the incident of the stilettos might be specifically referencing the former president’s wife…
I also tried to really look at people who actually work at the White House to gain inspiration.
Could you walk us through your designs for each character?
Something that was exciting, but also daunting, about this show, is the playwright was so specific in describing the clothes in her stage directions and dialogue. We really wanted the costumes to work well for actors while also bringing in the heightened color scheme. Plus, we also knew that there was blood and other special effects in the show that might affect the costumes. A lot of things needed to be either built or just bought specially because everything needed to be tailored a lot.
I’m really lucky here because folks at Arena are so talented and game. It’s a dream come true to design a show here.