With her husband, Matera founded Barbara Matera Ltd. in 1968, which produced costumes seen in the current Broadway productions of "The Lion King," "Beauty and the Beast," "Aida," "Kiss Me, Kate" and "42nd Street."
BARBARA MATERA, who has died aged 72, was a British-born stage costume designer and maker; with her husband Arthur Matera, she established New York's leading theatrical costumiers.
Barbara Matera created costumes for theatre and film, dressing stars from Bette Davis and Yul Brynner to Glenn Close and Meryl Streep. Her clients also included pop and opera singers such as Michael Jackson and Mick Jagger, Jessye Norman and Luciano Pavarotti. She even made the ball gown which Hillary Clinton wore at the Clintons' inaugural ball at the White House.
Barbara Matera's greatest gift was her skill as an interpreter of designs. The couturier Christian Lacroix was said to have been astonished by the wit and invention of her realisation of his drawings for Mikhail Baryshnikov's production of Offenbach's Gaite Parisienne for the American Ballet Theatre. Glenn Close's outlandish outfits as Cruella de Vil in Disney's 101 Dalmatians and its sequel 102 Dalmatians were other masterpieces of Barbara Matera's art.
Many of Barbara Matera's clients became close personal friends: Dame Joan Sutherland even made her some curtains and loose covers, and her walls were papered by Dame Joan's husband, the conductor Richard Bonynge.
Barbara Matera was born Barbara Gray in Kent on July 16 1929. She learned her craft in the 1950s working for various companies, including the Royal Shakespeare Company, the Old Vic and Ballet Rambert.
Eventually she started a business with a colleague, Pat Scott, in a tiny attic in Monmouth Street, Covent Garden. From these cramped premises emerged costumes for plays, musicals, operas and ballets. They became expert in the art of making ballet tutus, creating most of those worn by Dame Margot Fonteyn at Covent Garden.
Their successful professional relationships with performers often led to private requests for help. On one occasion, the two women were discovered agonising over a black "New Look" evening dress that had been a gift to Dame Margot from Christian Dior, but which was slightly too big. Its monastic simplicity concealed five layers of boned and corseted underpinnings, prompting them to observe that it would have been easier to alter the Forth Bridge.
In 1960, at the invitation of Sir Tyrone Guthrie, they closed their business and moved to Stratford, Ontario, to work on the inaugural season of the Shakespeare Festival there. Subsequently, Pat Scott married one of the festival's founders. Barbara Gray moved to New York, where she worked as a cutter for various companies, marrying Arthur Matera in 1962.
In 1968 the Materas opened their own business, only to close their doors almost immediately at the request of the film and stage designer Irene Sharaff, who had asked them to travel to Hollywood to make Barbra Streisand's costumes for Funny Girl.
Back in New York again, Barbara Matera made the costumes for hundreds of different productions on stage and screen. For the original staging of Sondheim's Follies (designed by Florence Klotz) she stitched sumptuously beautiful re-creations of Ziegfeld's fantasies. She also dressed such shows as Chorus Line, 42nd Street, Crazy For You, The Lion King and Andrew Lloyd Webber's Sunset Boulevard.
For Steven Spielberg's Indiana Jones and the Temple of Doom she created the 1930s-style sequin and jewel-encrusted evening gown worn by the film's female star Kate Capshaw. During the filming, the dress was rendered more backless than intended by apparently being nibbled by an elephant in the Sri Lankan jungle. Barbara Matera had to be flown to London and installed in a suite at the Ritz Hotel to repair the damage. The "Reason For Claim" (which was prodigious) on the insurance form read: "Dress eaten by elephant".
Several of the films Barbara Matera worked on won Oscars for their costumes, including The Great Gatsby, Agatha Christie's Death On The Nile, and Martin Scorsese's The Age of Innocence.
Earlier this year, when Glenn Close presented Barbara Matera with the Irene Sharaff Award, the actress chose to wear her costume from The World According to Garp (1982), the film that had launched Glenn Close on her career in Hollywood.
The actress described how the character of the role had seemed to emerge during the course of her sessions in the Matera fitting rooms, and showed her what to do. In 1996 the Lincoln Centre put on a retrospective exhibition of Barbara Matera's work. Entitled "Inside and Out", it displayed the superb craftsmanship and construction techniques that lay behind her success.
Away from her atelier, Barbara Matera created a beautiful garden at her country house in Athens, New York State, where she held two fetes champetres every year - one for friends and colleagues, the other for her beloved ballet companies. In recent years she made frequent trips to England for the Chelsea and Hampton Court flower shows, and to visit Wisley and the Savile Gardens at Windsor.
Barbara Matera was sustained by her deep religious faith, attending Mass every day and arranging the flowers at her local church.
She is survived by her husband.
1. 102 Dalmatians (2000) (costumes executed by)
2. 101 Dalmatians (1996) (costumes executed by)
3. The Age of Innocence (1993) (costume executor) (uncredited)
4. The Addams Family (1991) (costumer)
5. Ironweed (1987) (costumes executed by)
6. Moonstruck (1987) (costume executor) (uncredited)
7. Jagged Edge (1985) (costumes executed by)
8. Indiana Jones and the Temple of Doom (1984) (costumes executor) (uncredited)
9. Evil Under the Sun (1982) (costume maker)
... aka Agatha Christie's Evil Under the Sun (UK: complete title)
10. The Wiz (1978) (principal costume execution)
11. Death on the Nile (1978) (costume maker) (uncredited)
... aka Agatha Christie's Death on the Nile (UK: complete title)
12. The Nutcracker (1977) (TV) (costumes executed by)
13. The Great Gatsby (1974) (costumes executed by)
Country of Origin:Italy