“We have a rough laundry,” Pat smiles.
On her desk, two blouse buttons are Scotch-taped to a small note card, with a hand-scrawled note: “Your button is out of stock. This is the closest we have.” One button is creamy brown edged in chocolate piping, made to look like a tree trunk. The other is a generic glassy espresso color.
“This isn’t even close,” Pat says.
Dozens of thick clothing catalogs are stuffed in her bookshelves. This is where Pat shops for more generic shirts and polos. But many times, Disney design teams create their own fabric, meaning Pat must find a vendor who can either match it or do custom design.
Downstairs, a massive workroom is buzzing with activity. Seamstresses swoosh around with fabric clutched in their hands. One woman threads a golden beaded necklace for the Animal Kingdom, guided by a photograph.
Others are hunched over their sewing machines, meticulously guiding their needles. A heavy, bright blue cape covered in silver fleur-de-lis and edged in snowy fur sits on a mannequin. This will be Prince Charming’s get-up for the upcoming Cinderellabration.
While Pat deals with the mass-produced Cast Member costumes, this is where “entertainment” costumes are brought to life. Snow White’s cherry cape, Mickey’s gloves and one-of-a-kind animatronic outfits are all sewn here. Pat once sewed in a workroom like this before her promotion to buyer. Her most elaborate creation: a mass of hundreds of hand-stitched peacock-blue and gilded beads for an Egyptian pharaoh headdress in Epcot’s Spaceship Earth.
“That took forever.” Pat exclaims. “I was just beading and beading and beading at 4 in the morning. Someone had to shove me to keep me awake.”
Outside the workroom, two wigs sit on bright yellow posts, drying in the hot sun. One is a long, black wig streaked with blue. Blue and black beads glitter on the attached tribal headpiece.
“Looks like it’s for the Animal Kingdom,” Pat nods toward the wig. It looks strangely lonely hanging the post without a head to crown.
Now that the fantasy is duly deconstructed, it’s time to head back to the parks. This time, I see the details with new eyes. We walk back toward the “onstage” area via a shady lane covered in canopy-like trees. I follow Pat through a labyrinth of gates and “Cast Members Only” areas until I can spot Main Street, U.S.A. around the corner. The fiendish screams from the Tower of Terror grow ever louder.
“Say goodbye to reality,” Pat murmurs.
We’re back in fantasyland.