When it comes to demanding clients,Diana Ross has nothing on Jane Austen.
Imagine the pressures faced by the dressmaker Emilio Sosa, who, when he was not competing on “Project Runway All Stars” over the last year, was designing costumes simultaneously for “Motown: The Musical” (now in previews on Broadway) and a new musical adaptation of the novel “Sense and Sensibility"that opens in Denver on Friday. Mr. Sosa, who has had a long career designing for the theater and who makes custom clothing under the label ESosa, has been in nonstop demand since his nomination for a Tony Award last year for the costume design of “The Gershwins’ Porgy and Bess.”
“This is how I’ve always lived,” Mr. Sosa said during a visit last week to his sunny shoe-box studio in Chelsea. “It’s just that the projects have gotten bigger.”
They do not get much bigger than this. For the Motown show, Mr. Sosa designed nearly 400 costumes for characters including Marvin Gaye and Smokey Robinson. And, of course, he designed some dazzlers for Ms. Ross, or rather, for Valisia LeKae, the actress who portrays her. They include a red silk dress with yards of beaded fringe and a blinding white gown covered in silver and gold bugle beads, looks that were made with Swarovski crystals. There are so many beads that just one dress took four weeks to complete.
“Diana is in the most amazing dress on Broadway,” Mr. Sosa said.
As this was going on, Mr. Sosa was also juggling in his mind the Dashwoods and Middletons of the Austen novel for the Denver Center Theater Company’s show, called “Sense & Sensibility: The Musical.” The early 19th century was a period he had never really studied, and Mr. Sosa wondered: “How do I still show my personality as a designer? That period is about soft, muted pastels. I’m from the South Bronx. I like loud music.”
So while the Empire waists and scalloped hems he designed might be historically accurate, the color choices and patterns are not. The matchmaking Mrs. Jennings appears in a rust and burgundy gown with a layer of gold polka dots. The sisters Elinor and Marianne wear bright blues and pinks.
“I design as if I were a fashion designer in 1810,” Mr. Sosa said.
In his early years in New York, Mr. Sosa sold shoes for a living. He worked in a day spa. He went on tour withCeline Dion, part of a pit crew of dressers responsible for changing her shoes and jewelry multiple times during a performance, making a game of just how fast they could do it. Now he is dressing everyone in the show.
“It has been easy in a sense,” he said. “It took me a long time to realize we are put on this earth to be happy and successful, if we just get out of the way and allow ourselves to be.”
A Striped Retiree Is Back at Work
Casey Kelbaugh for The New York Times
When Steven Stolman became the president of the Scalamandré textiles company nearly two years ago, he set out to revive one of its most famous motifs, the prancing zebra from the marinara-red wallpaper of the now-defunct Gino’s restaurant on Lexington Avenue. The print, created by Flora Scalamandré in 1945, is so famous that it has decorated films of Woody Allen and Wes Anderson. Mr. Stolman wants to make the zebra a symbol of Scalamandré.
“We have put it on plates, on pillows, on tote bags and neckties,” he said. And now, the zebras appear on velvet slippers ($450 for men, $400 for women), sold at Stubbs & Wootton stores on Madison Avenue and in Palm Beach, Fla. For Gino’s nostalgics, they are also lined in red leather.