"He looked at her the way all women would like a man to look at them"- The Great Gatsby, by F. Scott Fitzgerald. When reading the last page of “The Great Gatsby” script, Mrs. Theoni Vachlioti Aldredge had already made her decision.
By Mia Kollia
Translated by Alexandros Theodoropoulos
She would design the costumes of the film of the same name. Perhaps this deep "masculine" description of a man's desire for a woman was the source of inspiration to say "yes" to the proposal made to her by producer David Merrick.
All of the above is just a completely imaginary picture. But it could - why not – be a scene of a documentary about the life of the famous and award-winning Greek costume designer. Theoni Vachlioti Aldredge was one of the leading costume designers of the 20th century and was obviously born "with a star". A star that shined for many years in Broadway, cinema, TV, ballet and opera!
As her niece – who is also a successful and well-known theatre costume designer - Deni Vachlioti tells us: "My aunt loved actors and considered very important that they feel comfortable in their costumes, because they would wear them for a long time either in the play or in the shooting, as she said.
She wanted to know their taste and weaknesses, the fabrics they hated, the colors they loved. She wanted them to be happy with the clothes she would design for them. She even used to tell them that "the costume does not wear you, you wear the costume". She had 4 assistants with different tasks in her employ. The first was responsible for the shoes, the second for the hair, the third for the accessories and the fourth for the fabrics and samples.
She loved white, beige and off-white. She was a sweet, modest and low-key optimistic human being, even though she had lost her mother at a young age. She left for the US initially to study "fashion". It was only the first year of her studies at Goodman Theatre School when she expressed her desire to return to Greece, but her father urged her to stay and complete the season. She was convinced and life rewarded her firmly for her decision.
She lived with her husband in a large three-story white wooden house in Stamford. She loved bazaars, open markets, picked up antique furniture and processed it herself. It was a calm woman, with incredibly beautiful big legs, who in her youth, in parallel with her studies, worked for a while as a model. She later decided that she didn’t want to be photographed - she didn’t like it at all. She christened the rooms of her house with names of movie heroes - for example "Antoinette" or "Theodora", - and made sure that furniture, decoration, wallpapers and colors reflected the aesthetics of the time they lived.
Her first job on Broadway was in 1959, when she undertook the design of the costumes for the play "Sweet Bird of Youth" by Tennessee Williams, with Geraldine Page.
The Oscar for "The Great Gatsby" (1974) was always - gold and heavy - in her library and the 3 Tony Awards for the theatrical plays: "Annie" (1977), "Barnum!" (1980) and "La Cage aux Folles" (1984) decorated her walls. With more than 150 theatrical performances, countless ballets and many films to her credit, she was awarded for the whole of her work by the American Costume Designers Association. Her Emmy, Tony and Obie Award nominations were as numerous as the Drama Desk commendations.
In 1976 she was awarded the "Medal of Freedom" in New York and in 1990 she was included in the Theater Hall of Fame. In 2002, she received the Irene Sharaff Lifetime Achievement Award from the Theater Development Fund. She designed costumes for the musicals: "Hair", "Dreamgirls", "A Chorus Line", “42nd Street”, as well as for the films: "Network", "Rich and Famous" and "Eyes of Laura Mars".
Theoni Vachlioti Aldredge passed away in 2011. On the day of her funeral, the theaters on Broadway observed one-minute silence in her honor.