by Bryan Willis for OLY ARTS
If Einstein were a costume designer, his shop would look like the interior of Olympia’s own costume shop downtown: Costume Atelier Masque & Pettycote. Owner and costumer Mishka Navarre enjoys watching the expression on the face of a first-time customer: “If they haven’t been here before, I can always tell. They open the door and it’s like, ‘Wow, this is so cool.’ I love that.”
The multi-leveled costume shop has the whiff of the mad scientist, but that’s only because the selection of costumes and merchandise doesn’t fit into the neat categories offered by a conventional chain store. In fact, the name itself “Costume Atelier Masque and Pettycote” indicates the breadth of the options available. Atelier comes from the French for an artist’s workshop. Masque comes from the old ritual of costumed gaiety in which designers and actors put on what was, essentially, a giant themed party centered on a patron. Pettycote is the antiquated spelling of the modern petticoat, an undergarment providing a structure for the skirt of a gown.
The eclectic costume and props collection attracts customers ranging from theater directors looking for design help, to individuals needing help with alterations to students seeking instruction. Co-worker Diana Lewis Purvine explains, “Someone may come in wanting a Renaissance dress for their prom. We can do that. If they want a steampunk flair, we can do that, too. Or a tux or just about anything they want we either have it or can make it right here in the shop.”
Mishka Navarre brings a wide wide range of experience to Masque & Pettycote. Her work includes professional stints with world-famous artists such as Paul Simon, Earth Wind & Fire, Diana Krall, Frankie Valli, the Gypsy Kings and Josh Groban.
For artists of this caliber, Mishka is often onsite wardrobe. “I do whatever they need done with clothing, mostly steaming and pressing and occasionally some mending,” Mishka explains. “Mostly I go, sit around, wait for someone to ask me to press something, bask in the glow of famous people … have a lovely dinner and get to see a great concert.”
And what brought Navarre to Olympia?
“I answered an ad for Capital Playhouse—they needed a costumer.” It wasn’t long before she was working for Abbey Players, Harlequin Productions, Tacoma Actors Guild and also running the costume shop for the University of Puget Sound.
Chris Traber, drama instructor at Lacey’s Aspire Middle School, recalls meeting Miska at one of Harlequin’s early Stardust shows: “She’s the best—I’ve always enjoyed working with Mishka.”
Masque & Pettycote provided 60 costumes for Traber’s production of Once Upon a Mattress, which opens at Aspire April 19th.
“Part of what makes Mishka so special is the way she invites students to enter the world of design.” Traber said it’s not unusual for Mishka to encourage students and their families to come to the shop to see the process and even work on the show. “It’s a rare opportunity for our students to work with a professional designer. And that connection with costuming and design is really wonderful.”
Andrew Gordon, founder of local touring company Open Road Productions, has also collaborated with Mishka many times over the past 20 years. “She’s a fabulous collaborator,” Gordon explains. “Her designs are fiercely imaginative works of wearable art and are a significant storytelling tool. Also, her work arrives on time and in the budget. These sound like the most mundane virtues, but as a small-time producer with limited resources and aggressive deadlines, they’re invaluable. Mishka makes hard work a lot easier.”
Mishka Navarre’s careful attention to theaters large and small comes out of her years of practice for her craft. “Mom taught me to sew when I was a kid and I was always artsy-craftsy,” Navarre recalls. “I took a theater class freshman year as an art pre-req and just got sucked in.” Her formal training included college in Iowa, a year in Paris, summer stock in Montana and grad school in Illinois. “When I told Mom I was going to be a professional costumer she wasn’t the least bit surprised. She said, ‘Of course you are – you’ve been playing dress up since Day One.’”
Masque & Pettycote
620 Legion Way SE, Olympia
1-7 p.m. Tuesdays, Thursdays, Fridays;
12-7 p.m. Saturdays;
12-6 p.m. Sundays