Dressing The Part: Exhibition Celebrates Alumnus’ Artistry

Barry Sellers '81

For three decades, Barry Sellers ’81 has brought costume designers’ sketches to life. As the Hartford Stage’s draper, he has created more than 1,000 costumes for almost 200 productions.

Now the Connecticut theater shines the spotlight on Sellers’ theatrical artistry with an exhibition that will continue through April 29. Costumes, photographs and commentary tell the story of “one of the premiere theatrical drapers in the country.”

“The not-so-secret ingredient for making astonishing and memorable theatre at Hartford Stage was – and still is – Barry Sellers,” says Michael Wilson, former artistic director.

Adds Darko Tresnjak, Hartford Stage’s current artistic director: “Barry is something of a legend.”

This exquisitely detailed dress is among the costumes featured in an exhibition celebrating the artistry of SMU alumnus Barry Sellers.

Hartford audiences are familiar with Sellers’ work, but they may not know exactly what he does. A draper takes a designer’s sketch and develops a pattern for the garment. Patternmaking involves draping and manipulating muslin on a dress form until the desired shape is achieved – hence the term “draper.” The draper’s work is particularly important for period costumes.

“I have designed nine shows at the Hartford Stage and am always eager to return because the artisans there are of the highest caliber and carry a great commitment to the art of theatre,” says designer Susan Hilferty, who won a Tony Award for costumes for Wicked. “Barry Sellers is a master!”

Sellers earned a Master of Fine Arts in design from SMU’s Meadows School of the Arts, where he studied with Rosemary Ingham, an award-winning costume designer and author of two well-known texts on the subject, and theatre designers Bill and Jean Eckart, three-time Tony nominees.

While living in Dallas, Sellers worked with costume designer Irene Corey; Alberto Cerconni, former head tailor of Neiman Marcus; and such performing arts organizations as Dallas Theater Center.

Sellers recalls being hired by Hartford Stage 30 years ago while in New York City at an SMU-sponsored conference of the League of Professional Training Schools.

Photos by The Defining Moment/Courtesy of Hartford Stage

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