CDG - The Costume Designer

Summer 2017

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50 The Costume Designer Summer 2017 SCRAPBOOK Born in Lead Hill, Arkansas, Costume Designer Rita Riggs landed in California at age 13. She had always been interested in art and fabrics. At 14, when she designed and constructed a production of The Twelve Dancing Princesses for her high school, she decided she wanted her own studio as well. Riggs fulfilled both dreams dur- ing a lengthy and successful career. Initially, she worked on Alfred Hitchcock films such as Psycho, for which she is uncredited. However, her main collaborator was producer, mentor, and friend Norman Lear for whom she designed many classic comedies, including All in the Family, The Jeffersons, and Maude. In an interview with the CDG last year, Riggs told aspiring young designers, "I generally think in the pos- sibility of line, color, and material. Material is very important in creating a character because you may do some- thing soft and diaphanous or you may do something that is very hard-edged, and that has everything to do with the character." An example of this is her design for the family on The Jeffersons. As they "moved on up" from their middle-class home in Queens to a Manhattan high-rise, Riggs transformed Sherman Hemsley's character into a "dandy" by putting him in conservative yet colorful three-piece suits. In 2003, the Costume Designers Guild awarded Riggs a Lifetime Achievement Award for her work in televi- sion. In 2016, the Costume Designers Guild Legacy Committee awarded her its Career Achievement Award in Film and Television. Riggs was a member of the Academy of Motion Picture Arts and Sciences. The CDG interview with Rita Riggs is available at The Costume Designers Guild on YouTube. Rita Riggs 1930–2017 Photo: The Jeffersons, CBS; Photo Archive, Getty Images.

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