Clothing uncovers the wearer's soul


Candid Closet: Set and costume designer Elena Zlotescu says personal style reveals a lot


June 17, 1999|By Stephanie Shapiro | Stephanie Shapiro,SUN STAFF

There is magic in the way we dress, says Elena Zlotescu, set and costume designer for the Maryland Stage Company and a faculty member at the University of Maryland Baltimore County's theater department since 1984.

"Clothing is not just to cover the body, but for people to protect themselves against evil spirits and to bring good spirits," says Zlotescu, a native of Romania who lives in Rockville.

When she is designing for plays set in any period, Zlotescu also keeps in mind that the costumes have a powerfully symbolic role, even if the script demands understatement. For the Maryland Stage Company's production of "Six Degrees of Separation," which opens Wednesday and runs through July 11 at Center Stage, Zlotescu designed the set as well as the costumes. Stark and modern, the set, made to resemble a modern art gallery, demanded monochromatic costumes in blacks and grays, with "very simple shapes and lines."

The result? "An interesting tension with the set," she says.

How do you design your own look?

With dark hair, dark eyes and very light skin, somehow I feel like I'm some kind of exotic type. And I'm pretty slim but not tall. Fashion is not always generous to shorter people. I try to work with simple lines and shapes; prints don't look good on somebody who is short. I like to use very modern, trendy accessories that make an outfit modern, but I don't buy a lot of clothes. I'm from Europe and I learned a long time ago that I don't have to spend money all the time, but to have basic things. Coco Chanel said the black dress will always be in fashion.

What is your weakness?

Shoes. I love shoes. I like my shoes to be very modern.

When it comes to dress, American women don't seem to have the restraint of European women.

They try too hard. I like to say there is a big difference between style and type. Style doesn't have anything to do with clothes. Women should develop their own style rather than buy more and more and more and spend a fortune. Then they don't wear the clothes and they go to Goodwill.

How old are you?

I am as old as I look.

How does one acquire style?

It's a science somehow, how you learn how to buy and how to wear things, and how to choose things and how to combine things, make an old jacket or old skirt look new. Style is something of your personality. Young people don't have life experiences, or the kind of life which can yet bring them to your style. When I was young, I'm pretty sure I didn't have style. I've always loved clothes, but maybe I experimented a little too much. I tried too hard to be fashionable.

What does a person's way of dressing tell you?

When I see somebody, the clothes tell me so much, not only about good taste, but how old, how nice the person is, how good they are, how caring. They give me a lot of information. As we get older, we get wiser and the style becomes more revealing.

Do you know any snappy dressers? Let us know. Write to Stephanie Shapiro, The Sun, 501 N. Calvert St., Baltimore 21278.

Pub Date: 6/17/99

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