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Costumer Angela Wendt Talks about Rent in the Age of H&M

Photo via <a href="">Rent</a>
Photo via Rent

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After a groundbreaking 12-year run on Broadway, Rent recently returned to the stages of New York, setting up shop at New World Stages, an off-Broadway theater in Hell's Kitchen. When it first launched, the East Village show made headlines dealing with the issues that hadn't been presented in a musical format before: AIDS, sex, gender identity, drugs, and gentrification.

Times have changed, but the costume designer hasn't: Angela Wendt, who helped create the iconic outfits for Roger, Marc, Mimi, and crew, has come back on board. We caught up with her to find out about the Alphabet City shops that inspired her designs, where Marc's jacket was originally found, and why Angel, of all characters, has undergone the most noticeable revamping.

You were responsible for creating the costumes for both the original Broadway production of Rent, and now the off-Broadway revival. What updates did you make to the costumes?
I've tried to look at the show with a new perspective as if I've never designed it before. It was definitely a challenge. It was helpful to design it for a small theater? going back to the roots of Rent in a way. This time around, the designs are more detailed?more accessories and pattern and more gritty and distressed.

Where did you look for inspiration?
I had to go back to the original time period and look at photos of the East Village in the late '80s and early '90s and reference visuals of the club culture of the time like Pyramid Club, Limelight, and the World. I also looked at magazines like ID and Paper and I was very observant of contemporary fashion and youth culture.

Where did you find the clothes from the original version of Rent? What about for the update?
Remember Domsey's in Williamsburg? That's where I found the original Mark coat. I also went to places like Screaming Mimi's, Patricia Field, Canal Jeans, Trash and Vaudeville, Daffy's, Salvation Army, as well as different vintage shops. I also had a costume shop where we made a lot of the clothing. This time around we found things at some of the same old places like Screaming Mimi's, Trash and Vaudeville, Daffy's, Salvation Army, plus Beacon's Closet and Housing Works, and we also made a lot of things in our costume shop again. We also found some things in some of the global chain stores that didn't exist the first time around, like Zara, H&M, and Forever 21.

Alphabet City provides the location for the antics that take place on stage. How important was it for you to reference the styles found on Avenue A, B, C ?back then—and now today?
It was important both times, however, the first time around Alphabet City was still less gentrified. Now, young broke artists live in other areas like Bushwick. But the globalization of youth culture also changed things. You can look at a DJ In Berlin and he could be wearing the same clothes as a musician in Istanbul or New York.

Who would you say has had the most drastic updates to their characters wardrobe? Why?
I'd have to say Angel. His character is now more boyish and edgy and represents more of a club kid.

· Rent [Official Site]

Beacon's Closet - Williamsburg

88 North 11th Street, Brooklyn, NY 11211 Visit Website

New World Stages

340 West 50th Street New York, NY 10019