Costuming the Kingdom
A Disney costume buyer and former dressmaker unravels backstage secrets of theme park costuming.
Photo by Diana Middleton
Pat Conbere didn't start her Disney career
at the sewing machine. She worked her
way up from Caribbean Beach Resort
gift shop salesperson to buyer.
For Pat Conbere, a Disney costume buyer and former dressmaker, the magical kingdom is a canvas for her creativity. As a dressmaker, she stuffed Tigger’s tail with coiled Styrofoam and dry-cleaned Figment’s dragon suit. But as a costume buyer, Pat is the liaison between the Disney design team and reality, bringing designs to fruition by scouring the country for the perfect fabric, vendor, buttons and trimmings.
We make the magic happen,” she grins.
When I meet Pat, it’s a sunny Monday morning in Lake Buena Vista. She is my passport “backstage” to watch the magic unfurl. She ushers me to our first stop of the day: a mammoth warehouse where Pat will approve a new shipment of blouses and costumes she ordered to replace the old.
Day to day, Pat decides what polos, blouses and tees Disney’s “operation” employees will wear. These outfits adorn the cast members who operate the attractions, supervise fast food stands and man the hotel mops.
Pat drives to the warehouse tucked behind MGM Studios, parking her blue Honda next to the massive openings for delivery trucks. Inside, the ceilings are high, and the warehouse stretches two stories, hoarding an endless supply of blouses, shirts, aprons and capes.
While Disney World is manicured and groomed to perfection, the warehouse is worn and refreshingly normal. The walls are mostly bare. A Mickey Mouse clock ticks away the minutes.
Pat walks toward the rear of the main floor, combing through racks of clothes to find the ones she ordered. She selects pale blue polo shirts for the Disney Cruise Line, a white poplin blouse covered in embroidered flowers for Fantasyland and a futuristic gray shirt for Tomorrowland. She checks the inventory off on her clipboard, then leads me to the cavernous archive of costumes.