Becky Farmer is a talented woman with an impressive passion for fashion. Her love of what she does led her from becoming the National Winner of Dancing with the Stars Costume Design Contest to the sets of Glee and American Horror Story and, now, The Real. Her amazing talent and personality shines bright. She owns a confident approach that can serve as an inspiration to us all.
Farmer did not get to where she is today, overnight. Her story teaches us a lesson of staying true to ourselves and our beliefs, because perseverance and self-love are the keys to achieving anything we put our minds to. Strength and determination brought her a far way and it still has many more places to take her.
When did you realize that you wanted to pursue a career in the fashion industry?
My pursuit of fashion started in elementary school. By middle, I was sketching ootd (outfit-of-the-day) illustrations on an oversized calendar so I didn’t wear the same look twice in a month. It was always seen as a hobby and cultivated from the corporate side. I was encouraged to study economics and approach a career on the business side of fashion. Run a company or own one of my designs. My parents always called us doctor, CEO, and professor as nicknames. Now I realize, it subconsciously encouraged us to know no limits. My Econ grade quickly let me know that wasn’t going to work out for me. I literally went to a computer lab and Internet searched (I don’t know if Google was a search engine then) Fashion Jobs. Fashion for TV. Costume Design college programs. All combinations of fashion, costume, design, and TV/film. Until I found out that costume design is an actual career, with degree programs, and jobs available after graduation. And most of the jobs were located in my dream city, New York. I pitched it to my parents (who funded my education and therefore got the majority vote) and they supported it 100%.
How did you get your start?
I got my start through internships with my graduate school professors. They gave each design student an opportunity to intern and work for them after graduation to gain work experience. When I moved to Los Angeles, I knew one person, Michael Crow. He is one of my dearest friends and guardian angels to this day. He shared tips with me and passed my resume on to his contacts. I prayed quite a bit. I wrote down a vision of how I saw my career, short term and long term. And then, I wrote a ton of letters, emails, and made lots of phone calls to people I did not know. Asking them if they would look my resume over, if they would meet to share advice, I had no family nearby, no job, and a push of make it or go home. Someone who had received my resume called me and asked if I could come in for an interview that day, and be there in an hour. I left my groceries right where I was standing and drove to Paramount Studios. That was my first major job in LA, a sitcom filmed at Paramount.
The first show I worked on was filming on a neighboring stage on the same studio lot. Stages are like little homes and the Lot is akin to a neighborhood. I was introduced to the Supervisor and Designer of Glee one day during work on the lot. Weeks later, I got a message to send my resume over and interviewed for the position of costume assistant. The crew there became my family and I learned critical skills there that have built my work ethic. Lou Eyrich, the Costume Designer of Glee is also the designer of American Horror Story. She hired me and several others to go with her onto American Horror Story. Many work opportunities come from word of mouth, a colleague or friend’s recommendation, or being re‐hired by the same company to costume their next project. It’s basically a career of building blocks. The newest block is placed on the one before it. All of these experiences have been and still are humbling blessings. I always feel grateful because work in this business is not consistent.
Is there a difference between styling for scripted characters and styling celebrities?
There is a HUGE difference between scripted and styling. Creating a look for a scripted show is based off of the characters on the page. My job is to dress them in a way that communicates their personality to the audience. The clothes are my paint and the actor is the canvas. Because I am creating a visual from scratch it’s called, Costume Design. Costume Design involves, breaking down the script so I know the number of actors, how many times they change, and where they are in each change. Scripted is also filmed out of natural time order so the ending could be shot first, then the beginning, then the middle. For that reason detailed photographs have to be taken to maintain continuity. Otherwise, during a scene shot over 3 days, someone’s shirt could change color. Styling is based on the actor’s personal tastes and the image they want to project. There are also factors that come into play like partnerships with certain labels, if another celebrity has the look already, and budget allotted for each outfit. For that reason many items are borrowed, only worn once or twice and the pace is much faster.
The Dinner Table is all about multidimensional women of color. Working on The Real you’re dealing with women who literally embody that motto! How do you incorporate their individual (and multidimensional) personalities into their style for the show?
On The Real there is a team of 6 stylists lead by Jeni Elizabeth. We all are in tune with the personality of each host as we work so closely together. It’s a collaborative process of making sure the clothes align with their personal brand. Each host has their own fan base and connections as well. So we make sure to incorporate their favorite designers and brands they have relationships with. To create a look I first talk about their likes and dislikes. Then we trade visual references of inspiration for their looks from Pintrest to Fashion Blogs. We have fun with it! When I have a fitting there is a rack of clothes full of options within the style range. I’m having a blast mixing prints and textures on Jeannie Mai.
Do you consider yourself multidimensional? What would you bring to our table?
Yes, but as women we all are. I am a daughter, a sister, a niece, a girlfriend, an aunt…those relationships alone require us to tap into a different dimension of ourselves. I am a Style Architect. I use clothing as a tool to craft an image and that image makes my clients, relatable to their audience, beautiful, and more confident. But I also see and use style as a counselor. The feeling of self‐love is healing. That healing motivates my clients to connect more with their spouses, project more authority on their jobs, and for the first time in a long time, value themselves.
Who are some of your greatest influences and inspirations when it comes to fully being the woman you were meant to be?
Some of my greatest influences are family. My mother, Dr. Barbara W. Farmer. She was raised in the Jim Crow south and went to graduate school and earned her Masters and Doctorate when I was going through high school. She’s now a retired Diversity & Leadership Educator. Her wisdom encourages me to know I am more than enough.
Any advice for upcoming fashionistas who wish to follow in your path?
I want everyone to know, there is more than one way to get into entertainment styling. Going to Fashion School specifically is beneficial but not necessary in order to succeed in styling. But no matter what you do, study your craft. Read about fashion history, current fashion, and study the industry’s top costume artists by visiting sites like the costumedesignersguild.com.
Someone will help you if you ask, and if you are clear about what it is you need help with. My advice is to be open to all possible areas of styling and fashion. Job shadow or intern so that you can see what you like and what you don’t like. Knowing what you don’t want to do is equally important. Bring a small notebook and write down notes. Take the card or info of every person you meet and follow up with them with sincere gratitude. Create professional relationships so you can begin to build a network. My number one piece of advice is, give yourself grace. Don’t be hard on yourself. It’s tough when you have wanted something for a long time and “it” hasn’t happened yet. But just do a little each day towards your goal and “it” will come. Be patient and know a part of your destiny is actually happening right now.
Written By Krystal Bailey
|The Dinner Table Documentary|