Connie Vandermay, Forum Communications Co., Published April 23 2012
Perham native a costumer for ‘Hunger Games’
From May through August 2011, in long 12-hour days, Lee’s detailed work changed the look of fabric to match the various scenes in the movie that’s based on the very popular book series.
She dyed material for the district jackets, faded new denim overalls for the coal miners and painted the boots of the tributes. Under the direction of the designer, Lee and the rest of the costume department added blood, dirt and even burn marks on clothes to emphasize the film’s action.
It’s an interesting stop on her career path that’s had several unexpected destinations.
Lee started her education in the Perham schools, but spent her final years of high school at the Perpich Center for Arts Education in Golden Valley, Minn., where she studied music.
After graduation, Lee shifted her focus and began studying fashion photography at the University of Minnesota. But Lee soon realized she wanted to design clothes instead of photographing them. She transferred to Savannah College of Art and Design and graduated with her Bachelor of Fine Arts in Fashion Design in 2009.
Those skills are applied in various ways through movie costuming work.
For example, the coal miner’s overalls in “The Hunger Games” were crisp new denim when purchased – a look that wouldn’t accurately depict hardworking, coal-stained miners. That’s where Lee came in. After repeated washings, she added dirt, mud and strategically-placed holes to make the pants look like they had been worked in for five years or more.
Another aspect of Lee’s job on “The Hunger Games” was replicating costumes.
She painted, scuffed and dirtied multiple versions of the knee-high brown books worn by the film’s central character Katniss. Multiple costumes are necessary in the movie business so that production isn’t stalled because of something like wet boots, Lee says.
Altering clothes to fit the actors also fell within her job duties. Once, after realizing Katniss’ brown boots were too narrow for actress Jennifer Lawrence’s feet, Lee wet the boots down and wore them around camp to help stretch the tight leather before they went to set.
“Working on ‘The Hunger Games’ was an amazing experience,” Lee says from her home in Charleston, S.C. “It was a challenging movie to work on because it was like three movies in one. We did all of the reaping scenes first, then the games in the woods, and then we worked on and shot the capital scenes.”
After the production of ‘The Hunger Games’ was over, Lee went back to work on the Lifetime Television Network’s popular series, “Army Wives.” It’s her fourth season with the show.
From now until mid-June, when the “Army Wives” season wraps up, Lee will help dress the extras on set. After that, she’s not sure yet where she will be next. That not knowing, she said, is one of the hardest parts of the business.
She plans on applying for a job with the upcoming film, “Ironman III.” She may also take a trip back to Perham to visit her parents, Ronald and Joyce Lee.
Vandermay is a reporter for the East Otter Tail Focus, which is owned by Forum Communications Co.