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“I can’t change into sweats fast enough when I get home,” says Cameron Dale, the costume designer responsible for the upbeat, luxe contemporary looks seen on Hart of Dixie, which returned to The CW Monday night after a holiday hiatus. “I love Nike’s vintage-style sweatpants and an Alternative Apparel soft T-shirt and slippers and I’m good to go”.
While loungewear may be saved for her downtime, Dale has plenty of party dresses hidden in her closet — both at home and in the wardrobe trailer of her hit show, which stars Rachel Bilson and Jaime King. After assisting major costume designers including American Hustle’s Michael Wilkinson for the last few years, she finally stepped out on her own and currently helms the sartorial tone and voice for the Southern-set favorite.
We caught up with Dale to find out about her workday style, among other pressing matters.
You studied gender studies at U.C. Berkeley and then went on to study at Parsons. How did you transition to the arena of costume design?
At Cal I studied art and costume design as well as gender studies. I always knew I wanted to move to New York and study at Parsons and pursue costume and clothing design. While at Parsons, I interned on The Nanny Diaries with the wonderful costume designer Michael Wilkinson and the equally wonderful designer Catherine George, who was assisting Michael. I began working as an assistant designer to Catherine George soon after. I worked with Catherine for many years as her assistant designer on projects including We Need to Talk About Kevin, Red Dawn and Rampart.
It’s rare that people are able to say they love what they do for work – but clearly you’re the exception to that rule. How do you keep the stamina and passion alive?
Every day is so different and unique it’s impossible to ever be bored. Reading a new script every week and considering the challenges and how to overcome them and create something beautiful is exciting. My day can include such a broad spectrum of activities, from a trip to Barneys, fitting Gladiators, to sketching out molecular cell costumes for a musical.
Where do you get your style?
While studying at Parsons in New York, my eyes were opened to such amazing and unique friends and fellow fashion enthusiasts that inspired me. I love thrifting and shopping estate sales and when I find an amazing vintage piece that is inspiring in itself. When I’m on a location film, my free time is spent seeking out vintage and thrift stores.
Are there any specific sources of inspiration you have?
It depends on the episode; if we’re doing a 1920s party, I will watch old 1920s movies like The Great Gatsby. Life Magazine has a wonderful photo archive on Google, and Pinterest has great street style pictures that are fun to browse after work. Personally, I am inspired by the 1960s and style icons such as Jane Birkin. I have a love affair with denim and can always make room in my closet for a great pair of jeans, the perfect T-shirt and boots. Los Angeles is a casual city and my cocktail dresses and gowns are now reserved for the many, many weddings I attend.
You started off in L.A. and then moved to New York, where you were working on costume design for a few films. What films did you work on?
I assisted on super-interesting independent films as I worked my way up, including Life During Wartime, The Messenger and bigger films like Rampart and Snow Piercer. I designed the quirky comedy Splinterheads and a super-cool artsy film called Rosencrantz and Guildenstern Are Undead directed by Jordan Galland with music by Sean Lennon. It was about a group of vampires that we follow from medieval times, the Renaissance, the 1960s, to present day. It was incredibly fun!
Ultimately you headed back to L.A. – couldn’t keep away from the sun?
I’m a California girl at heart, and I’m very close with my family, who are in the Bay Area. I have three older sisters and many nieces and nephews that I wanted to spend more time with. I also met my now husband in New York, who was visiting from Santa Monica, so that made the move pretty painless. It is so great to pull up to the mall, valet and run into studio services in Los Angeles. I’ve spent many days and nights unable to get a cab in New York and ending up on the subway with my arms full of garment bags and shopping bags. It’s a tougher job in New York but the best training ground.
Now, you’re the head costume designer for Hart of Dixie. When it come to conceptualizing the outfits that we see on TV, where do you look for inspiration?
Rachel and Jaime and our other actors have such great style in their personal lives that it inspires me to wow them, and I love getting excited about amazing finds with them. Leila Gerstein‘s imaginative scripts and Hart of Dixie‘s whimsical storylines are such a great inspiration.
What’s one item you could never throw away? Why?
For myself, I live in my Fiorentini and Baker boots. I’m on my feet all day and they’re comfy and stylish. On cold L.A. nights I wear my baby blanket around my neck as a scarf much to my husband’s dismay, and I wouldn’t hesitate to grab my blankie before my purse in a fire. For the show, Zoe (Bilson) has an amazing Chloe purse I found at T.J. Maxx that is so, so good! She can wear it with everything.
What is your approach to shopping?
I love seeking out a good deal. If we have a fitting coming up with Rachel or Jaime, I sneak out to the Camarillo Outlets and find amazing designer pieces at great prices. Also, I love the T.J. Maxx designer section for great discounts. I do a lot of online shopping if I need to be close by set, and it’s great when we have to do multiple outfits and for tall sizes for some of our men. Also, more bargain shopping online at The Outnet and Yoox! I love supporting independent designers on Etsy as well.
What are your favorite spots to hit up? Both personally and for professional reasons?
Personally, I love Reformation on Melrose Avenue in L.A. and Zara and of course vintage. Anthropologie and J. Crew (for men and women) is so amazing for our show. I also love Nordstrom Rack; they have a great shoe selection and such a wide range of sizes.
What’s one movie or TV show that you love for the costumes? Why?
I’m obsessed with the costumes in Troop Beverly Hills. They are genius! When Shelley Long shows up in that amazing troop leader cape I knew I wanted to be a costume designer.
1. Isabel Marant dress: “I wandered over to Nordstrom after seeing a movie at The Landmark. Shopping malls attached to movie theaters are dangerous for me! Two of my guilty pleasures –afternoons at the movie theater and shopping.”
2. Zara jeans: “Zara is my go-to for affordable trendy clothing. I bought this pair of coated denim as an alternative to leather leggings, which can get hot in L.A. weather. I love wearing a classic pair of pumps and a T-shirt with these to grab a cocktail.”
3. J. Crew necklace: “I usually stick to small, delicate jewelry but this piece stood out to me. A statement necklace can elevate a simple look so easily.”
4. Rag & Bone boots: “I snapped these babies up at Loehmann’s and I wish I had gotten every color they had. They are the most comfortable boot with a heel I’ve ever found.”
5. Rolex: “This watch was a gift from my father on my 21st birthday. He made the mistake of giving my oldest sister one for her 21st and so set the precedent for the three younger sisters. Whoops! It’s my favorite thing I own.”
See Dale’s work on Hart of Dixie on Monday nights at 8 p.m. ET/PT on The CW.
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