TV And Hollywood Pattern-Maker Sells A Three-Decades Cache

TV And Hollywood Pattern-Maker Sells A Three-Decades Cache

6:29am May 10, 2015

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Costume designer Edith Head won a record eight Academy Awards for her elegant work, but many hands contributed to her success - illustrators, tailors and pattern makers. One of those pattern makers is holding an estate sale in Los Angeles today. NPR's Nina Gregory got a sneak peek.

NINA GREGORY, BYLINE: Yards of black sequins and piles of shimmering rhinestone sit like treasure in plastic shoeboxes in Mina DeGarmo's garage. The 94-year-old DeGarmo made patterns in Hollywood for more than three decades. She worked on a number of movies, like "Airport" with Edith Head, "Jaws," "Xanadu." She was also a pattern maker for Bob Mackie back when TV variety shows were big.


GREGORY: Outside, 200 people lined up for a chance to buy a little piece of history, including Rachel Apatoff, who says she worked as a production assistant in the costume department on "Mad Men."

RACHEL APATOFF: I grew up watching old movies and I'm a huge Edith Head fan, of course, Bob Mackie. I'm just curious to see what is there and I love looking at vintage fabric. My roommate is a pattern maker, so I'm very interested in whatever might be in that house.

GREGORY: I was too. Aime McCrory co-owns the LA company that organized this estate sale. She gave me a little tour right before the official sale started Friday morning.

AIME MCCRORY: If we come upstairs, we have a room that's full of vintage clothing in here. And then...

GREGORY: And then we walk in to DeGarmo's sewing room.

And this is a body form that's $495.

MCCRORY: For Angela Lansbury.


MCCRORY: That was the one for her.

GREGORY: DeGarmo made patterns for "Murder, She Wrote," so there's lots of Lansbury here. There's also Cher and possibly Carol Burnett. It's hard to know because designers weren't allowed to sign their work. It belonged to the studios and networks. DeGarmo got her start working in Hollywood in a rather unglamorous way.

DENNIS DEGARMO: There was a cattle call. They needed all the seamstresses they could get for "Camelot." So they hired her and she was there ever since.

GREGORY: That's her son, Dennis DeGarmo. He's holding the sale to help raise money for his mother's medical expenses. She's in assisted living and gave him clear directions - sell everything. And he is, except for her Singer sewing machine. Just as they're setting out the last few items, Aime McCrory makes a discovery.

MCCRORY: Oh my - Nina, this is a Patty Duke costume with her name on it and her measurements dated 1977. Patterns, fabric swatches - my gosh.

GREGORY: As we pore over the details of Patty Duke's measurements, DeGarmo's son Dennis takes a last look around - three decades of his mother's work.

DEGARMO: A lot of good memories. It's - this is kind of strange.

GREGORY: Still, he says he's happy to see the people out there who seem to know what's in these rooms - nothing but quality. Nina Gregory, NPR News. Transcript provided by NPR, Copyright NPR.

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