She's won three Tony Awards (Barnum, Annie, and La Cage Aux Folles ), has another 10 Tony nominations, and has done Broadway, ballet, opera, television, and film. So it's perfect that costume designer Theoni V. Aldredge is the esteemed winner of this year's Irene Sharaff Award for Lifetime Achievement, presented by Theatre Development Fund's Costume Collection.

A sketch from Annie

by Aldredge

“I am excited, as Irene Sharaff was an important influence in my life, a great designer, and my friend,” says Aldredge. Born in Athens, Greece, she came to the United States to study at the Art Institute of Chicago. “My father thought I would be away for a year and come home,” she recalls. “But I fooled everybody and stayed.”

In the 40 years since her auspicious New York debut designing costumes for Geraldine Page in Sweet Bird of Youth, Aldredge has worked with a lot of big guns, from Arthur Laurents and David Merrick (I Can Get It for You Wholesale) to Joseph Papp (with a 20-year run as resident designer at Papp's Public Theatre) and Michael Bennett (A Chorus Line, Ballroom, and Dream Girls).

A sketch from Dreamgirls

Recent projects range from last year's Broadway revival of Follies to new plays at the George Street Playhouse in New Jersey. “What I love about the theatre is that you don't do it alone. It's the collaborative team that's so wonderful,” she says.

When it comes to color, Aldredge has a passion for pale lavender. “I use it in every show, often with pale blue and white. These are the colors of my country.”