Laura Cox is somebody you won’t forget after meeting her. Her engaging personality, bubbly spirit and bright blue hair are just three reasons.

Laura completed her associate’s degree in Theater Costuming at Cañada College in 2014. Today she is working in the industry, including as Costume Designer for San Carlos Children’s Theater. We recently attended another of her productions during the City of Redwood City’s sesquicentennial celebration and the historic fashion show Laura produced in honor of the occasion.

Laura’s models were high school and college students, found primarily through the National Charity League. The girls wore clothing pulled from the San Mateo County History Museum’s archive as well as Laura’s own collection of vintage garments. The remarkably well-preserved period pieces ranged from the late 1800s to the present.

This pagoda dress, so called because of its flared shoulders, most likely dates to the 1870s. Part of the San Mateo County History Museum’s collection.

One extra fun touch at the end of the show was when the girls modeled their own prom dresses. Carmen Blair, Deputy Director of the museum and emcee for the show, pointed out the similarities between the contemporary gowns and those of the past. Laura explains that this demonstration helps the models and audience members ask the question, “What era does this reference?” about each gown.

“It is such a history lesson for them,” Laura declares about the models who participated in the show.  “They’re putting on corsets and really feeling that. This is an experience they’re really going to remember.” Learning experiences like these mean a lot to Laura, who also holds a teaching credential and looks for educational opportunities in all her work.

Models from “150 Years of Fashion” model their own prom gowns as well as vintage designs. Many elements in the modern-day dresses can be found in their predecessors.

In her role doing costuming for San Carlos Children’s Theater, Laura helps mount two shows each summer and outfits as many as 50 kids for each. Starting with sketches and Pinterest boards, she brings her vision and that of the director to reality. “I put my own twist on it,” she adds. “I love that part.” “It’s a lot of work,” she admits, but she clearly loves doing it. Laura describes her first meeting with the rest of the team at SCCT: “Sitting in a room with all these creative people, I felt like ‘I’ve made it!’”

Laura is dressed as Rosie the Riveter, one of the many heroic women who built ships and performed other traditionally male jobs during WWII.

The settings of the shows have ranged from the 1920s to the present day, which poses a challenge for even the most experienced costumers. Laura attributes much of her success to her fashion studies at Cañada, confessing “Judy [Jackson]’s [History of Fashion] class pulls me through!”

Laura demonstrates for the audience what it took to get a lady of the late 19th century ready to go out. Because of all the layers of undergarments, it took roughly 10 minutes for Laura get her model fully dressed.
Two of the models wear “bathing costumes” (aka swim suits) of the type worn by women of the 1920s and 30s. Can you imagine wearing wool to the beach?!

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