Willa Kim was a Korean-American costume designer. She began working in film and theater in the 1940s. Early in her career, she worked as an assistant to set and costume designer Raoul Pène Du Bois. This collection includes Willa Kim's sketches, research, costume notebooks and bibles, scripts, programs and correspondence for Broadway, Off-Broadway, ballet, regional productions, international tours and television.
Biographical/historical: Willa Kim (1917-2016) was a Korean-American costume designer for ballet, stage, film and opera. She studied art at Los Angeles City College and received a scholarship to the Chouinard Art Institute (now the California Institute of the Arts: CalArts). After graduating, she worked with costume designers Barbara Karinska and Raoul Pène Du Bois at Paramount Studios. Kim worked on a number of successful Broadway productions with Du Bois, including Gypsy, The Music Man and Bells are Ringing. Her connection with Du Bois, led to her meeting his cousin, and her future husband (1955), William Pène du Bois, a writer and illustrator of children's books.
Kim began her solo designing career in the 1960s and over the course of her life received numerous awards and recognition for her work. She received Drama Desk Awards for Operation Sidewinder (1970), Promenade (1970) and The Screens (1972); and a Drama Desk nomination for Legs Diamond (1989). She received Tony Award nominations for Goodtime Charlie (1975), Dancin' (1978), Song and Dance (1986),and Legs Diamond (1989) and won Tony Awards for Sophisticated Ladies (1981) and The Will Rogers Follies (1991). She received Obies for Robert Lowell's trilogy The Old Glory and Woman Before a Glass, as well as Emmys for Michael Smuin's The Tempest and for Song for Dead Warriors.
Toward the end of her career, she was honored with numerous awards. In 1999 she won the TDF/Irene Sharaff Lifetime Achievement Award, in 2003 FIT's 2003 Patricia Zipprodt Award for Innovative Costume Design, in 2005 the United States Institute for Theater Technology distinguished Achievement Award, and in 2007 she was inducted into the American Theater Hall of Fame.
Content: The Willa Kim designs (1944 to 2014) document her seven-decade long career as a costume designer. The bulk of the collection consists of materials for her work as a solo designer for theater and dance productions such as Dancin', Legs Diamond, Papillon, The Consort, Victor/Victoria, The Will Rogers Follies and Sophisticated Ladies. Her early connection with Raoul Pène Du Bois on Gypsy, Bells are Ringing, and Music Man, while less represented, is also a part of the collection. Willa Kim did not limit herself to the world of dance and theater. She worked in television (represented in the collection with the files on the Regina Wine Vinegar Commercial and the Julie Andrews: The Sound of Christmas television program) and with athletes and singers (most notably ice skaters John Curry and Yuka Sato, and singer Mick Jagger). The documents were organized into nine series: Sketches, Costume Notebooks, Working Files, Costume Bibles, Designs and Models, Scripts, Programs, Calendars and Planners, and Magazines.
Acquisition: The collection was a gift from the Willa Kim Estate through Richard Schurkamp and Joshua Sherman, December 2017.