Dear Readers:
The photos, sketches and swatches in this article are all drawn from the personal archive of the brilliant Broadway designer William Ivey Long.  They can be seen nowhere else. We've sized the images large for your enjoyment. Here's a look behind the scenes of the making of a Broadway musical extravaganza. I know you'll enjoy it.

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William Ivey Long's most recent
Broadway and off Broadway productions
are Epic Proportions, Contact, and
opening soon, Swing.

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William Ivey Long, one of Broadway's pre-eminent costume designers, has won two Tony Awards for costume design; one for Nine, and one for Crazy For You. He has been nominated three times: for Lend Me a Tenor, Chicago, and last year for Cabaret.

In 1992, Long designed the costumes for the Broadway revival of Guys and Dolls. His creations for the characters were as dazzling, bold and fresh as anything we had ever seen. We recall sitting in the theater as the musical began, and just being blown away by the array of COLOR! To design a fuchsia and teal windowpane suit, a red and pink pinstripe suit, a royal blue, red and white pinstripe suit, and pair these with boldly colored shirts and ties, some solid, others patterned, was a brilliant, daring and fabulous decision. It all worked, and it was sleek and chic. We were totally knocked out by it all, and the visual impact of the designs is unforgettable.

Guys and Dolls
was originally a collection of short stories by the writer and journalist A. Damon Runyon. Humorous and touching, these stories told of the world of New York City's Broadway denizens and underworld characters. Written in a rakish idiom, a lingua franca, of the people who populated this world, many of Runyon's words and expressions became known as Runyonese. The Broadway of Damon Runyon was populated by gamblers, promoters, fight managers, race-track bookies, burlesque dancers, and Salvation Army ministers. Characters like Joe the Joker, Apple Annie, and Regret the Horseplayer (our favorite moniker), became familiar to many thousands of people.

In 1950, a musical version of Guys and Dolls premiered on Broadway with book and lyrics by Frank Loesser. The beautiful Robert Alda starred in the original, and the production was directed by the legendary George S. Kaufman. It was an instant smash forever hit.

In 1955, a movie version of Guys and Dolls came out. Directed by Joseph L. Mankiewicz, with a star-studded cast (several of whom reprised their Broadway roles) including -- more beautiful men -- Marlon Brando and Frank Sinatra.

Fashion Finds had the marvelous honor and privilege to pay a visit to interview Mr. Long at his brownstone studio.

FF:  What do you think the essence of the show is, Guys and Dolls, the key element?

William Ivey Long:  It’s a love story. And it’s a wonderful love story about two quirky, lonely, unique people (Nathan Detroit and Miss Adelaide) who sort of stand out and don’t fit in, and have found each other. And then lose each other and then find each other. Sort of like real life. And that’s the major appeal.

Nathan Lane and Faith Prince

It’s not a soap opera with a young chickey and a young handsome boy and you go "Aw!" It’s real people. And ironically, in this Technicolor production we created, I think the soul of it was, you found those real people in the middle of all this, and because all this was so heightened, the fact that you found truth, it hit you and just -- hit you in the heart. Because it was unexpected in this jungle of color and jungle of prose, the Damon Runyon prose. And then the total, magical engulfings of that music, that Frank Loesser music. And he wrote book and -- I mean lyrics -- music and lyrics.

So you’re talking about a vision of love and companionship, and, you know, understanding of each other. And ultimately they understood each other. I shy away from calling it mature love, because that sounds like it’s The Gin Game. But, you know, Romeo and Juliet probably would have broken up. You know at fourteen -- what do you know, you know?

So I think it’s just a great love story. And those people old enough to be able to afford to buy tickets to Broadway shows have lived enough to know it.

FF:  When you saw the first dress rehearsal of Guys and Dolls, what was your reaction?

William Ivey Long:  I’m going to show you. This is how I watch my first dress rehearsals. I’m scared to death. I have to take my glasses off, because otherwise I would just weep from fear. And so it was quite awful. I hate dress rehearsals because nothing is ever what you want it to be.

So everyone was very kind and understanding. We cut out three suits that were just unwatchable, and thank God there were only three. But it was pretty frightening.

FF:  But didn’t you have a feeling that you had really nailed it?

William Ivey Long:  Not at all. And scared to death. And in fact the show, the entire show for the first two weeks, Jerry Zaks, the director, was going around with his head bowed. The performances had not become the level of performing that Jerry wanted. And during the first week he was so glum. During the second week he was even more glum.

It’s only when the director smiles that you dare smile. Trust me. You don’t dare smile until the director smiles. So not until the third week did I have a clue. Because Tony Walton, the set designer – our designs were in Technicolor. And here we have actors uncomfortable in their Technicolor clothes. And the worst thing on earth that you can do as a costume designer is have the costumes wear the person. Big time no, I wasn’t happy until I saw my director smile.

Director Jerry Zaks and the Hot Box girls.
Next, the design process begins....