For a deft new adaptation of Valley of the Dolls at Empty Space Theatre in Seattle, costume and wig designer Dennis Milam Bensie followed the 1967 movie closely, but emphasized colors more. “I wanted the women to stand out,” he says, using sophisticated golds for established actress Helen Lawson (center and top right), and spangly reds, soft pinks, and severe purples respectively for the entertainment wannabes Neely, Jennifer, and Anne. “The men I put in green-brown tweeds, warm but not flashy, and the ensemble people were all in blues, so they'd be noticeable but never draw the eye away from the focus,” the designer adds.
On a tight budget, Bensie created only the major pieces from scratch. He made Lawson's pantsuit from a leopard-skin print, “appropriate for the cat fight.” As Neely rises in her profession, her clothes become more sparkly, her hair bigger. For Anne, played in drag, Bensie “cheated” on the movie's brown sack dresses. “It's dangerous to put a man in drag and not make him glamorous,” he says. “We made her clothes more sophisticated — softened them up and tailored them down.” A hint of Judy Garland shows up in Neely's breakdown costume, a hobo ensemble. “Too risky, I thought at first, but it was adorable.” Wigs were all synthetic and followed the same palette as the film.