Alum spotlight: Freddy Clements (MFA ’88)

collage of photos

Freddy Clements (MFA, Costume Design, 1988)

Freddy’s Ren Faire pic

Freddy’s grandmother taught him how to make his own pajamas and that set him on the path to costume design.

He attended undergrad in theatre and voice at Emory & Henry College and acted during the summers at the outdoor drama Smoky Mount Passion Play (Townsend, TN). “When I got my first paycheck, it was only $49 a week, so I took an assistant costumer job to supplement.”

(from left) Liz Hopper, Freddy, and Ron Keller posing in costumes for Nancy Allen’s MFA Comprehensive Problem

After getting his MFA from VCU, Freddy was considering two potential jobs in costume, one in South Dakota and the other in Alabama. There had just been a snowstorm in Richmond and his Mercury Monterey was buried under snow on Grace Street. That helped solidify his plans to move South to Jacksonville State University in Jacksonville, Alabama.

Freddy posing for a photo as part of a scene painting project at VCU in 1988. “Ron had us pick a famous historic painting, paint the background, paint and construct the costume and then he took our picture as if we were in the original painting… It was fun”

Freddy recalls, “They were excited about me coming down. They even built a new costume storage facility. It makes a big difference when someone is excited about you being there.”

And he’s still there! During his 33 years tenure he’s taught costume history, design and construction, plus stage makeup and mold making. About teaching, Freddy states, “I love that twinkle in their eye when they get it.” Many of his students have gone on to amazing careers! See a what a few are up to:

  • Chris Mueller (MFA from VCUarts in 2009!), Lead Tailor for Sleepy Hollow (season 3).
  • Travis Scott Merrill, dyer/distressor for MacGyver,
  • Jenn Jacobs, Costume Director at Tulane Department of Theatre & Dance
  • Sharon Morgan, Costume Studio Supervisor, Cutter Draper at UAB Department of Theatre.

Freddy has also designed for various other theatres, and even Renaissance Festivals. One of his favorite gigs is designing and building costumes for the King and Queen of The Mystic Krewe of Apollo-Birmingham during Mardi Gras. “They drop $1000 on one costume.”

King Apollo from the 40th Annual Apollo Ball, costume design by Freddy
National Anthem singer from the 42nd Apollo Ball, costume design by Freddy
Freddy (far left)) and husband Ranier (far right) posing with King and Queen Apollo at the 43rd annual Apollo Ball, costume design by Freddy

He’s also been constructing authentic hand-tailored Scottish kilts since 1991. His ongoing development of a Kilt Construction Manual stems from “a continued study and research of traditional and nontraditional approaches to drafting, pleating, construction techniques and application of closures.”

Freddy (right) and husband Ranier at their wedding
Freddy and Ranier at dinner before the 2020 Apollo Ball

Freddy has now been honored with the title of Distinguished Professor. Thinking back on his career, Freddy muses, “What I find most rewarding is seeing your students happy and successful in what they chose to do.”

from Cabaret, costume design by Freddy
Renderings from A Year with Frog and Toad, costume design by Freddy
Ranier and Freddy at Dragon*con dressed as wizards from The Unseen University in Terry Pratchett’s DISCWORLD series of fantasy novels

Compiled by Liz Hopper, professor emeritus, and Jerry Williams (BFA ’71) for the April 2021 Theatre Alumni Newsletter.