Fabric to Fashion with Barbara Gregusova | Super Channel

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Fabric to Fashion with Barbara Gregusova

Fabric to Fashion with Barbara Gregusova

Thursday, January 30, 2020

Desiree D

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From the standard daywear to the dazzling dresses, Barbara Gregusova is the leading lady behind the incredible wardrobe on When Calls the Heart. She has woven together fabrics and characters that have left their mark since she first started as costume designer for Season 3. The iconic pieces that Hearties have discussed at length, including Lee’s plaid pants, the Mountie Christmas ball gown and Elizabeth’s wedding dress can all be credited to Barbara and her team. With a love for period costumes and always an eye out for the perfect fabric, Barbara is a natural fit for When Calls the Heart. As Hearties await season 7, Barbara pulls back the curtain to share more on the intrinsic details and incredible time invested, before the costumes appear on screen.

Fabric to Fashion with Barbara Gregusova From the standard daywear to the dazzling dresses, Barbara Gregusova is the leading lady behind the incredible wardrobe on When Calls the Heart. She has woven together fabrics and characters that have left their mark since she first started as costume designer for Season 3. The iconic pieces that Hearties have discussed at length, including Lee’s plaid pants, the Mountie Christmas ball gown and Elizabeth’s wedding dress can all be credited to Barbara and her team. With a love for period costumes and always an eye out for the perfect fabric, Barbara is a natural fit for When Calls the Heart. As Hearties await season 7, Barbara pulls back the curtain to share more on the intrinsic details and incredible time invested, before the costumes appear on screen.

SC: You were born in Slovakia and moved to Canada to attend university. Did you always want to move to Canada for that program?

BG: I moved to Canada with my parents and it wasn’t my intention to come to study anywhere in particular here. It was my dad’s dream to move to Vancouver for two decades and one day in March of 2004 we were on the plane flying to Canada. The immigration process took almost three years before we left so I researched potential universities while I was still in Bratislava and scheduled meetings with them. The university I ended up going to I actually didn’t find on internet at that time, but Capilano University had a textile program and they had an open house one day, so we went to check it out. It was an amazing program but they also offered a Costuming for Stage and Screen Program and after meeting with Kim Bothen and Jane Still (now my former teachers), I knew after a long search it was perfect for me.

SC: What drew you into costume design?

BG: I come from a very artistic family going all the way back to my grandparents. Art was always part of my life and I grew up around three fashion designers: my mother Elena Gregusova, her twin sister Jana Maderova and my dad’s sister Zuzana Sujanova. All three had very different styles and I always admired their work and textile techniques they were using. My father, Martin Gregus studied photography at FAMU in Prague and in 1992 my parents started the first Czechoslovakian kids’ magazine called Babaco, so I got to model in it. By age fifteen I was reading and collecting classic literature including Shakespeare and my grandmother was always taking me to the theatre. Originally, I wanted to study architecture but one of the entry requirements was to draw a perfect cube free-hand and once I realized that it was something I could not do I decided to pursue creative arts - jewellery making, fashion and costume design.

a piece of fabric

SC: Can you share more about what the process would be in designing costumes? How do you make it all come together? Do you have an idea of the story ahead of time? Do you see pieces when not on set that you feel would work well for specific characters?

BG: Let’s start with the last question first: I am always collecting inspiration, from clothing to fabrics to buttons and trims. The thing is that if you see something perfect, and you know it is going to work for the character, you know you will never find it again once you are in production. So, yes, over the years I’m collecting pieces or fabrics before we are even shooting and every time I travel I have to stop in at least one fabric or button store because I want to know what’s out there. I am really lucky that my partner has lots of patience. :)

The When Calls the Heart production is a very fast paced environment. For our main cast I know what they have in their closet and what they might be missing for the new scripts. For ladies I am in search for those perfect fabrics in their colour pallet or an interesting blouse with gorgeous detail. It’s lots of searching and sometimes I get lucky (and I have definitely been lucky over the years with the timing of finding some perfect pieces). I work with fabrics a lot so depending on the print, if it is solid or not and what its weight is, I decide what I want to make from it.

When it comes to the story, I do not have an idea too far in advance, but I wish I did. We shoot two episodes per block with two shooting and simultaneously prepping the next two episodes. It’s a constant whirlwind.

SC: How long in advance of filming When Calls the Heart would you start to plan the wardrobe?

BG: For season 7 I had four weeks for pre-production before we went to camera. We started by moving all the costumes from the previous season to our office and going over everything we had and start talking to the cast. I always get on a phone with Erin (Krakow) to discuss her ideas for the new season. For example, in season 6 we discussed short sleeve blouses because we knew we would start during the hottest weather in Vancouver. We ended up making some short sleeve blouses with some beautiful details for her.

SC: How many people are part of your wardrobe team on When Calls the Heart?

BG: It’s changed over the years but now there are usually nine of us. People change each season, but I’ve been working with my family; mother, father, brother since season 3 when I started.

My mom, Elena, is the head cutter. She also does all the intricate alterations, for example, Rosemary’s wedding dresses, Elizabeth’s wedding dress, her long blue coat (that one was a handful) and builds special pieces for our leading ladies. She worked on all the walking suits for Elizabeth, Abigail, Rosemary, and the special green one for Julie.

My father, Martin Gregus, assisted me in season 3 and then moved up for three seasons as the set supervisor. For this current season he’s been assisting me again. He is my right hand - both on and off set - I know when he is there everything will be taken care of - plus I’m only a phone call away if needed. He is the best.

For rest of the team I had wonderful cutter/seamstress, Jennifer Bond, with us for four seasons and there is usually one other full-time seamstress in the office.

On set we have a main truck costumer, an assistant truck costumer, a background costumer and the set supervisor.

And then there is me. :)

SC: You are often shown by the actors on social media during fittings. These appear to be done a very short time in advance of filming. Can you describe the hours that are involved with being a costume designer? Are you also on set while filming?

BG: They’re very long hours. My brain starts working from the time I wake up until it goes to sleep at night. If there are night shoots my days still start early and can get interrupted after I go to sleep. Season 6 was very exhausting because we are a very small team for a stylized period show.

When it comes to set, I am mostly in the truck. I have to set line-up for our cast for every shooting day and only go to set when we have major scenes involving the costumes. If there is a problem my team gets me on the phone so I can do my line up and do what I have to do to keep things moving.

I still remember back to season 3, when I first started, I was doing the alterations on the truck because my truck costumer didn’t know how to sew.

SC: Your beautiful work has been part of WCTH since 2015. What has the process been like to be able to utilize and evolve the costumes over these several seasons?

BG: The men are the easiest. We add and omit pieces that work or don’t throughout the season.

For kids, they grow, so they can be tough. This is where the luck I talked about came in. When I was hired to design season 3, we were lucky that the boys fashion in the kids stores were carrying a trend of pieces we needed like pants with suspenders and band collared shirts. For the girls we rented their dresses to start with and as they grew, we’ve built up their own closets. The kids’ clothes get passed down from oldest to youngest and since it’s a small town that is what they would do at that time. You do not throw anything out until it is completely worn out.

For the ladies we refit everything every year. We build for them the most, so we eliminate pieces which do not work, that mostly applies for Erin, and then we expand their closets for what is needed for that particular season starting with each new episode. We never know what’s coming until we have scripts in hand.

SC: It has been noted that period piece costumes are your area of preference or specialization. What do you enjoy most about stepping away from modern day and working with these period costumes?

BG: I’ve always loved period costumes. I think it’s the intricate details, fabrics, and the cut of the clothing. The first coat I ever designed and made for myself was inspired by ‘Brotherhood of the Wolf’, a movie set in the 18th century France. I like creating things and I always have: creating something from scratch, from your imagination or based on research and then tweaking it to your needs. Seeing my pieces come to life with somebody wearing it and working with it is amazing to me.

SC: What is the most challenging aspect of the work that you do?

BG: The biggest challenges are time, budget and people. But it’s people - everyone will have differences of opinions and tastes that try to wiggle their way into my work. I have to say that on WCTH I’ve been very lucky, and I have always been allowed to do my job.

wcth christmas special actors

SC: Do you have a favourite piece that you created specifically for WCTH or a specific character?

BG: There are lots of pieces we created for WCTH over the past five seasons that I love so it would be hard to pick just one. I really like all the walking suits which we created for our Ladies of Hope Valley. A few standouts costumes are Rosemary’s Fortune Teller outfit, the Bridesmaids’ dresses, the Girls’ dresses, Elizabeth’s ballgown, and Fiona’s ankle length skirts. There are more than few special outfits in season 7 which turned out amazingly well, but I cannot talk about them yet.

SC: Where do you find inspiration for your designs?

BG: It depends. I get inspired by the fabrics I find in stores which is probably why I have collected so much. :) For WCTH if there is something specific we need to build I do my historical research, going through my library of books, and then I either tweak it or do something completely different based on my research. I do not like cutting up the fabric unless I know exactly what we are going to build out of it. Once it’s cut, I cannot take it back.

SC: If you could share a message with the Hearties, what would you want them to know?

BG: I would like to say, ‘Thank you for your support and for watching the show’. I’m especially loving when they follow me on Instagram, and I wish I could post and share more but usually I am too busy working on the next episodes.

SC: You were also the Costume Designer on Love on the Air, A Cookie Cutter Christmas, June in January, A Ring by Spring, & Paper Angels, which are all available on Super Channel Heart & Home On Demand. Do you have any special wardrobe stories from any of these movies?

BG: June in January was my first movie I designed for Hallmark. I remember we needed a wedding dress and we found few perfect options on eBay but there was the one particular dress which I loved and wanted to use, and it almost didn’t arrive on time. A Cookie Cutter Christmas - it was the first time I worked with Erin Krakow and Genea Charpentier. I actually had fittings with Genea in my apartment. A Ring by Spring - I was so excited to work with Stephanie Powers, we made her Fortune Teller outfit from scratch. Paper Angels - this was one of few movies (maybe the only) where the leading man, played by Matthew Settle, had more costume changes than the leading lady. Love on the Air - during our first fitting with Alison Sweeney we tried on what felt like sixty outfits and only four made it to the movie because we ended up changing the direction for her costume story.

SC: Is there anything else that you would like to share about your work or involvement with When Calls the Heart?

BG: For WCTH I just want everyone to know that this is a stylized take on the period.

For the contemporary shows I think some people have this perception that the costumes just magically appear. I always imagine this scene where you go shopping for a character and all the clothes just pop up and call out “this is what you need to buy” but it’s never that way. Every item of clothing or costume is found, chosen, fitted, altered and finally approved. Our team puts a lot of thought and imagination into every costume that ends up in front of the camera. Sometimes there’s a bit of luck but it’s not just a happy accident. :)

SC: Barbara seamlessly joined this series and has been creating countless costumes ever since. Her eye for fabric and gift for finding the perfect look transitions flawlessly from idea to screen. With season seven drawing near and Hearties hopeful for future seasons, she will no doubt be part of the fabric of Hope Valley for years to come. To see the latest styles, comment on your favourite character’s clothing, and perhaps even a sneak peek behind the scenes, follow Barbara on Twitter and Instagram.

Social Media:

IG: barbaragregusova
Twitter: @BGregusova
Website: www.barbaragregusova.com