By Susan JAMES
“When I was 17,” said costume designer Luke Reichle, “I stopped eating for two months. The image and idea of me as fat stayed with me.” Now a style icon, online personality (secretsoftheredcarpet.com) and award-winning costume designer for ABC’s hit series “Castle,” Reichle has decided to use his experience and his philosophy of styling from the inside out to help others not only dress like red carpet stars but gain control over their own body images. He has published the first of a three-part guide to feeling great and dressing well.
“My mission,” he said, “is to get people to dress the body you have and love the body you’re dressing.”
Reichle’s concern about the increasing pressure on kids to live up to unrealistic body images led to the publication of the first part of his book, “It’s Not About the Clothes,” an interactive self-help guide focusing on clearing out the negativism of the past and putting a positive spin on how you look and dress. It will be followed by Part 2: “The Hollywood Way: Dressing With Ease, Power and Maximum Oomph!” and Part 3: “Flatter Yourself: It Will Get You Everywhere.”
“I’ve spent tens of thousands of hours in dressing rooms,” he said, “and I can’t tell you how often … especially [male actors] would come in and say, ‘You know by the time we start shooting I’ll be 10 pounds lighter.’ And in television, that’s tomorrow.”
Reichle is quick to note that he isn’t referring to the actors on his current show “Castle” for whom he designs most of the clothes. “Castle” is a procedural drama featuring an internationally famous mystery writer Richard Castle (Nathan Fillion) who helps his partner and now wife Kate Beckett (Stana Katic) solve crimes. Reichle has produced costumes for Fillion that have turned him into an Elvis impersonator, a steam punk explorer, a night-walking zombie, an old West cowboy and a 1940s Philip Marlowe-style detective. He dresses everyone on camera and has imagined his leads as style icons of the past. Beckett’s look, for example, he based on Slim Keith, the style-setting Hollywood glamour girl who married director Howard Hawks and was the principal creator of the Lauren Bacall look in “To Have And Have Not.”
“[Like Keith] Stana likes a high heel,” Reichle revealed. “She could run on the surface of the moon in those things. It’s not just the height but it also makes your legs look great. And there is the idea of being able to look these guys in the eye.”
Reichle has drafted the Bacall look of a power shoulder taken from the military uniforms of World War II into the silhouette for Beckett’s coats and jackets lending her a visual dominance before the camera.
“It gives her more dimension,” he explained, “more visual impact. Whenever you see Becket in a really sharp shoulder, that’s Slim Keith.”
Reichle was challenged this year on the wedding dress front when the storyline ended up requiring three wedding dresses for Beckett. Reichle designed the first in organdy and silver lace and it was chosen for display in the Emmy Costume Exhibition at the Fashion Institute of Design and Merchandising. He then had to come up with two subsequent wedding outfits and in a recent episode, “Once Upon A Time In The West,” add in an old West outfit of white undergarments, eyelet chemise and corset that he calls “the fourth wedding dress.”
For Castle’s Broadway actress mother Martha (Susan Sullivan), Reichle is always on the lookout for accessories.
“She eats them,” he said. “Everywhere I go I shop for Martha’s accessories.”
Based on East Coast style mavens Nan Kempner and Iris Apfel, Martha is all about bright colors, expansive jewelry and dramatic flourishes. Color plays an important part in her costuming as well as on-screen design. Reichle collaborates not only with those who wear the clothes – the actors – but with the producer, the writer of the episode and the director.
“The director has a different throughline,’ Reichle explained. “[It involves] what they are looking for in terms of color, temperature and tone. If the crowd is dressed in cool colors instead of warm colors you will get a different response from the audience.”
Asked what type of design project he dreams of doing, he said, “I have often compared life inside a production to being at court. I would love to have been the costume designer on ‘The Game of Thrones’ or ‘The Tudors,’ where I could stretch and create a complete world.”
With a new book, a popular website and a flourishing television show that routinely visits different worlds, it seems as if he has already succeeded.