Director of costumes for Feld Entertainment, oversees a costume shop that custom-makes some 2,000 brilliantly blinged-out costumes used each season in seven live shows as diverse as Marvel Universe Live!, Disney on Ice and—until the recent historic announcement that it will be closing in May after 146 years—the Ringling Bros. and Barnum & Bailey Circus. The costume shop is housed within Feld Entertainment’s 590,000-square-foot global production headquarters in Ellenton. A Los Angeles native, Oak previously designed costumes for film, TV, theater, videos and concerts. “Feld is the world’s largest family entertainment company,” she says. “It’s exciting to still provide wholesome entertainment.”

Really Big Show

“We have two [Ringling Bros.] circuses on the road and each has on average 400 costumes, with easily a million rhinestones on all of them. Every one of our costumes is made for each entertainer’s measurements. We’re not pulling them off the rack at the circus costume store. Of course I am heartbroken [about the circus closing], as are we all. My career at Feld Entertainment started with RBBB in 1997 as the associate designer of the 128th Blue Unit. I have many close friendships who are like family. But I completely understand that this decision would not have been made if there were any alternative. I can only imagine how difficult this decision must be for the Feld family. I believe Ringling will never truly be gone, because what we learned from Ringling is seen in all of the shows Feld Entertainment produces.”

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Oak, at right, during a fitting with the final Ringling Bros. Circus ringmaster, Kristen Michelle Wilson.

Costume Couture

“Our costume department has 12 people, including myself. So much of our work is still made by hand, which I’m really proud of. Every person has an amazing skill set. We can’t do it all; we hire an extended team when we’re in build-up of new shows, and we also hire the best costume houses from New York, Los Angeles and Orlando.”

Jamming

“Two people here oversee the day-to-day. My role is managing all the new productions, whether designing in-house or with a guest designer, to set the palettes and color schemes, selecting every single fabric. It’s a collaborative process. Right now I’m doing fire suits and building mascots for Monster Jam, which isn’t as big a stretch as you’d think because my father was a race-boat builder and racer. [And] we’re going to be producing the first Sesame Street Live this fall.”

Making History

“Our [costume] warehouse has 10,000 costumes, including Ringmaster Row, with all of the ringmasters’ and featured performers’ coats and pants, and historical and archival costumes like the costumes Gunther Gebel-Williams wore on his farewell tour.”

The Show Must Go On

“Though we support all of our shows, the circus is definitely the most self-contained. So though we will miss building the clown costumes and the other things we do for the circus, that was only a small part of our annual work load. Our department is as busy as ever supporting all of our tours and building costumes for our upcoming new shows this year.”

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