Blog Tours / Indie Film / Interviews

Horror and Her Makers: Interview with costume designer Tammy Gibbens

Today’s post was part of a month long series celebrating and investigating women creating horror, past and present as part of the international Women in Horror Month celebration. You can see all of the great events by checking out womeninhorrormonth.com

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Tammy Gibbens – Costume Designer and Wardrobe Supervisor

Tammy is one of the most unflappable on-set personalities you could ever meet. She rocks the wardrobe department in whichever position she is placed and has an incredible eye for detail. She’s done some great work in the horror genre, and so I wanted to talk to her about her experiences as a wardrobe supervisor and costume designer for film.

What first inspired you to want to work in Film?

Raggedy Man – 1981

My inspiration came from the cast and crew of the movie Raggedy Man (1981). My dad was a Teamster, and would drive the actors back and forth to set along with the wardrobe and hair and makeup teams. He introduced me to everyone in the wardrobe trailer, and they dressed me up to be an extra. I got to meet Sissy Spacek, Eric Roberts and Henry Thomas on set. Everyone was so nice – I was hooked – and I got a fake fur rabbit coat with my paycheck! Sadly, my father passed away a few years later but I think he’d be proud of me today.

Was costume design and wardrobe supervision always what you aimed to do for film?

I actually went to school to be a Make-Up artist. Gradually I was asked to do more and more costuming and supervising. Both jobs involve making people feel good about themselves, and that is what it’s all about for me.

Can you describe what a wardrobe supervisor does for film compared to a costume design?

Every project and team is different, but basically the costume designer visualizes the costumes, resources them, does fittings and creates each character head-to-toe after reading the script and consulting with the director. Wardrobe Supervisors sometimes have creative input, but are mainly there to ensure costume continuity is correct, supervise the rest of the team, handle finances, daily organization, emails, etc… and most importantly, the wardrobe supervisor helps the costume designer’s vision to remain intact while shooting. It’s a ton of responsibility.

How did you first get into the industry?

Right out of make-up school I was asked to intern for a off-off Broadway theatrical production called Cedar Creek. In return, I was able to also do the child actors’ hair and make-up. I think I was paid $100 total for the 4 week run. Soon after, a friend asked if I would do makeup for a few days on a NYU film she was producing and starring in. My first day was gunshot wounds and gallons of blood. I was so intimidated and nervous, but everything turned out great. Ten years later, it won awards at the SXSW film festival – crazy.

What was your first horror project? What kind of research or prep work did you have to do going into it?

My first horror project was Old 37 starring Kane Hodder and Bill Moseley. Many hours of pre-production was spent making sure we had enough multiple costumes for all the blood and gore. We also had to outfit all the stunt men and women – and they can be very superstitious when it comes to wearing other people’s clothing. The storyline takes place in the summertime, but we shot the movie on Long Island in the dead (pun-intended) of winter. I don’t want to give away any spoilers, but the many young actresses were wearing very little clothing while covered in blood, being tortured. Old 37 was where I also met SPFX artists Brian Spears, Pete Gerner, and Steve Saturn. I worked closely with them during most of the shoot, and worked with them again the next year on Deep in the Darkness. I love those guys! I was also nicknamed The HumanCoat because of all the hugging for warmth in between takes. It was a bit intimidating hugging Jason Vorhees and Otis, but by the end of the shoot they were all asking where I was if I wasn’t on set. Kane is still one of the sweetest horror actors I’ve worked with, but I’m not sure he wants anyone to know that about him. And Bill is highly intellectual, while still friendly and patient. I’d like to mention Rick McCallum, who was our Double Stuntman and an all-around calm, funny, and kind gentleman. Rick, Kane and other famous horror actors are the founders of Hollywood Ghost Hunters, and I hope one day to go on a hunt with them!

Do you enjoy working on horror films? What about them is the best or worst aspect?


I enjoy it immensely! The best aspect is having fun with the cast and crew, and sometimes being in questionable, dark and spooky locations. I’ve been to many haunted homes, woods and graveyards. It gets the adrenalin going for sure. I’d say the hardest part is blood continuity because we rarely shoot anything in storyline order. Another challenge is getting blood out of the costumes if we have to wash them for another scene. I still stress out every time, but fortunately I’ve worked with all talented SPFX artists that use the right blood, and I’ve never had a problem.

You did the costume design for the SyFy movie “Dark Haul,” can you tell me a little bit about your design process for the characters in that film?

Evalena Marie  and Tom Sizemore on the set of Dark Haul

After my first-read of the script, I spoke with director Colin Theys, and collected all his wants and not-wants. He did not want a goth lead actress or military look for the “soldiers”, but wanted them to have some kind of secret uniformity in their costumes. I was also in contact with the Production designer 🙂 about colors of the locations – most importantly, the 18 wheeler where we shot many of the scenes. The costumes couldn’t be too dark because they would blend in to their surroundings and they couldn’t be too bright either because the storyline was gritty. Tom Sizemore in a pink suit wouldn’t have fit his character. Wink.

[Fun fact dear readers, I’m the production designer she’s talking about. I was super obsessed with color palettes while in pre-production for this film.]

How did you decide on the final design for the lead character, Zib? Was there anything special you had to do to account for the digital enhancements her character acquired?

Zib was the most complicated to costume. She is tough and has been alive for 300(?) years, but there is a gentle and caring side to her as well. We also had to make sure we had multiples of her costumes, since she goes through so much in the story. We ended up with 5 stages of her shirt and jacket and three pairs of jeans. I can’t give the ending away but we did have to fit foam “prosthetics” into some of her costume so the after-effects team could digitally chase it and add on more “parts”. She (and others) also had stunt doubles for several scenes which involved rigging under their jackets and coats which pretty much ruins the clothing for any scenes that happen earlier in the storyline. Everyone had to be fitted with nude warming undergarments as well because we were shooting in a Polar Vortex. Several thin silk top and bottom thermals and nude bodysuits had to be inconspicuous under her costume.

What was your favorite project to work on? What about it made it so enjoyable?

I have so many favorites, for different reasons. I can’t pick just one!

Do you feel that being a woman has effected your experiences in the industry?

Being a woman in the film industry has definitely effected my experiences. Fortunately, I’m noticing more and more women in roles that were once dominated by males (gaffers, cinematographers, directors, spfx artists, etc.etc.). I recently had the chance to work with Reed Morano Director and Cinematographer on the feature “Meadowland”. I think she is a leading inspiration for all women in this industry. If you haven’t read her story you should. She is an amazing woman, director and cinematographer, and I hope to work with her again.

What have you been up to lately? Are there any new projects coming down the turnpike for you? (horror or otherwise)

I’m currently costume supervising a drama titled Chronically Metropolitan with Chris Noth and Mary Louise Parker and starting another huge costume designing project with SCI right after.

Is there anything you would like the readers of Horror Made to check out? Such as a website, or a movie, etc. 

For Horror: Old 37 is slated for 2015. Deep in the Darkness and Dark Haul on DVD

Available on Itunes: Mount Joy, Wishin’ and Hopin’

The Ones That Have Fallen (available for distribution) Produced by me with the brilliant Writer/Director Susan Hunt.

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