Costume curator helps preserve Las Vegas’ showgirl past

Vegas Voices is a weekly series highlighting notable Las Vegans.

Karan Feder has always been fascinated by fashion.

“I was literally one of those girls who made her own Barbie doll outfits,” she notes. “I’ve totally always loved it.”

But it wasn’t until her first job — working with legendary costume designer Bob Mackie for musical star Mitzi Gaynor — that Feder realized her true love wasn’t fashion design but costume design.

“My third year in college,” at the University of Wisconsin in Madison, where she grew up, “I realized there was a person behind the scenes, designing (costumes). I fell in love with costumes versus fashion, because there was less following the rules.”

After going Hollywood — literally — Feder, 56, worked on large- and small-screen projects, from “A River Runs Through It” to “The Golden Girls” and “The Wonder Years.”

But a 2004 move from earthquake-shaky Southern California to Southern Nevada (Feder and her entrepreneur husband, Michael Feder, “were convinced ‘the big one’ was going to hit”) has given her a whole new world of costumes to explore. Or, more precisely, a whole old world.

After moving to Las Vegas, Feder started Entertainment Exhibitions, focusing on entertainment costume preservation and exhibition. And she managed the now-shuttered Liberace Museum’s eye-poppingly extravagant costume collection.

In 2013, Feder joined the Nevada State Museum, Las Vegas, where she volunteers at least two days a week, overseeing a collection that ranges from 19th century underwear (including crotchless bloomers) to vintage shoes and handbags that have been donated to the museum.

Another donation, however, dominates Feder’s museum realm: some 8,000 pieces from the Tropicana’s long-running Folies Bergere. The collection has inspired a museum exhibit — and Feder’s newly published book “The Folies Bergere in Las Vegas,” which is chock-full of photos documenting the “sequined sensation’s” five-decade history.

We caught up with Feder in her temperature- and humidity-controlled museum workroom, where she’s surrounded by such relics as a 30-pound, peacock-inspired headdress — dubbed “the Frickin’ Bird Hat” by the showgirl who first had to wear the precarious piece.

Review-Journal: What makes costumes and costume history so fascinating?

Feder: Working with Mr. (Bob) Mackie and the outrageous things he was doing, he was like my dream designer. So great. So now I’m involved with saving his costumes and I’ve come full circle. Gorgeous showgirl pieces. Especially now in this city, as we transition away from the big spectacular productions. … Would those costumes ever make an appearance again? The cost of those. In some of my research, I’ve located the budget breakdowns and they were incredibly expensive — easy, $5,000. Everything was hand-done and it had to last for thousands of performances, on those big stages with hundreds of girls and boys. I feel like I’m really interpreting a sort of lost period of time.

What are your duties at the Nevada State Museum, Las Vegas?

My unofficial title is guest curator of costumes and textiles, (which involves) putting together exhibits, processing individual pieces … doing conservation work. … Every costume has its own objective record, including photographs.

Why is it important to preserve and study costumes from past shows?

I think it says a lot about the people who lived here, the entertainment industry folks (of the ’50s). They were like the early settlers. They met each other, they got married, they made babies. And when they were done (performing), they opened dance schools. It’s been really fun for me. The people who wore the “Folies Bergere” costumes, these are people who really settled Las Vegas. Show people. Entertainers.

What inspired your new book, “The Folies Bergere in Las Vegas”? And what makes that show special among all the classic Vegas showgirl extravaganzas?

The book was inspired because the state museum acquired the existing collection from the Tropicana. My responsibility was to figure out what had just been donated to us. … And the Las Vegas News Bureau had such a fantastic photo archive. … When I started my research, they had negatives that had never been developed. I was looking at photos that had never been released. … The reason I think the Folies Bergere is important is because it was a 50-year show. From the time it opened in 1959 to when it closed in 2009, you can understand the evolution of stage costume in a single show.

What’s the importance of Las Vegas in theatrical costume history? Are all the great costume shows in the past or are there contemporary examples that can compare with the classic shows?

Las Vegas was unique because of the huge American versions of European cabaret shows. When we have our visual statement of Las Vegas, it is a showgirl. … Those shows were inspired by Europe, but we expanded the scale. Today our shows are different. I do think it’s a phase. The Cirque shows are incredibly popular, but star vehicles are also very popular, and those are transitioning. With all the chorus boys and chorus girls, there’s still some cabaret. … I don’t know if people want to see shows like this anymore. Maybe it’s cyclical.

Daily ritual?

Yoga

Last show you attended?

“Baz — A Musical Mash-Up”

Best place to take out-of-town visitors?

Bellagio Conservatory

Favorite vacation destination?

Pismo Beach, California

Favorite movie?

“Auntie Mame”

Contact Carol Cling at ccling@reviewjournal.com or 702-383-0272. Follow @CarolSCling on Twitter.

ad-high_impact_4
Local
North Las Vegas Water Meters
Randy DeVaul shows off the new water meters that the city is installing.
Project 150 Thanksgiving 2018
About 100 volunteers for Project 150 box Thanksgiving meals for high school students and their families in Las Vegas on Wednesday, Nov. 14.
Three Square’s Maurice Johnson Talks About Food Waste
Three Square’s director of operations Maurice Johnson talks about food waste.
Parade preparation nears completion
Downtown Summerlin prepares for its annual holiday parade.
Clark County Wetlands promotes 2019 Wetland Walker Program
This year the park will be celebrating the Northern Flicker. The program is designed to teach about that bird, and encourage people to visit the Wetlands and walk the same distance the bird migrates each year.
Poet’s Walk Henderson introduces storytelling
Residents enjoy a storytelling activity.
Downtown Summerlin hosts its annual Festival of Arts
People crowd to Downtown Summerlin for the 23rd annual Summerlin Festival of Arts in Las Vegas, Sunday, Oct. 14, 2018. (Caroline Brehman/Las Vegas Review-Journal)
Clark County educators debate alternative grading systems
Spring Valley High School principal Tam Larnerd, Spring Valley High School IB coordinator Tony Gebbia and retired high school teacher Joyce O'Day discuss alternative grading systems. (Marcus Villagran/Las Vegas Review-Journal) @marcusvillagran
Grandparents on the fire that killed three family members
Charles and Doris Smith talk about the night an apartment fire took the lives of three of their family members. (Marcus Villagran/Las Vegas Review-Journal) @marcusvillagran
New York artist Bobby Jacobs donated a sculpture to the Las Vegas Healing Garden
Bobby Jacobs, an artist from upstate New York, has spent much of the past year creating a sculpture of two separate angel wings. He donated the sculpture to the Las Vegas Healing Garden. (Bizuayehu Tesfaye/Las Vegas Review-Journal) @bizutesfaye
Weather will cool slightly through the end of the week
The weather will cool slightly through the end of the week., but highs are still expected to be slightly above normal for this year. (Bizuayehu Tesfaye/Las Vegas Review-Journal) @bizutesfaye
Mayor announces new public-private partnership
Mayor Carolyn Goodman announced the creation of the Mayor’s Fund for Las Vegas LIFE, a public-private partnership that will allocate money to the city’s neediest.
Fremont9 opens downtown
Fremont9 apartment complex has opened in downtown Las Vegas. (Marcus Villagran/Las Vegas Review-Journal) @marcusvillagran
Fall fairytale gets cozy at Bellagio Conservatory
Bellagio Conservatory introduces its fall-themed garden titled "Falling Asleep." (Marcus Villagran/Las Vegas Review-Journal) @marcusvillagran
What the house that Ted Binion died in looks like today
Casino heir Ted Binion died in this Las Vegas home in 1998. Current home owner Jane Popple spent over $600,000 to restore and modernize the home. (Marcus Villagran/Las Vegas Review-Journal) @marcusvillagran
Rescue Mission employees terminated
Don James, a former employee for the Las Vegas Rescue Mission, talks about the day his team was terminated. (Erik Verduzco/Las Vegas Review-Journal)
Raiders Cupcakes at Freed's Bakery
Freed's Bakery will have Raiders-themed cupcakes available in store and for order during football season. (Marcus Villagran/Las Vegas Review-Journal) @marcusvillagran
51s fans say goodbye to Cashman Field
Las Vegas 51s fans said goodbye to Cashman Field in Las Vegas, Monday September, 3, 2018. (Marcus Villagran/Las Vegas Review-Journal) @marcusvillagran
51s owner Don Logan's last weekend at Cashman Field
Don Logan, owner of the Las Vegas 51s, gives a tour of Cashman Field before the team's final weekend using the field. (Marcus Villagran/Las Vegas Review-Journal) @marcusvillagran
Entertainment
Glittering Lights dazzles Las Vegas
The Glittering Lights holiday display is shining at the Las Vegas Motor Speedway. (Mat Luschek/ Las Vegas Review-Journal)
Skybar at Waldorf Astoria lets you sip your way through Las Vegas history
Skybar At Waldorf Astoria Lets You Sip Your Way Through Las Vegas History (Janna Karel Las Vegas Review-Journal)
Stan Lee in Las Vegas for Madame Tussauds unveiling
Stan Lee Las Vegas speaks with the Review-Journal's Chris Lawrence about his love for his fans and shared universes. (Las Vegas Review-Journal)
Ultimate Belgium Waffle Sundae at Lavo
Lavo at the Palazzo serves a 16-scoop ice cream sundae that costs $800. (Rochelle Ricahrds, Janna Karel/Las Vegas Review-Journal)
A New Zip Line Is Opening On The Las Vegas Strip
A New Zip Line Is Opening On The Las Vegas Strip (Janna Karel lLas Vegas Review-Journal)
You'll need a keen eye to find this secret bar on the Las Vegas Strip
You'll need a keen eye to find this secret bar on the Las Vegas Strip (Janna Karel Las Vegas Review-Journal)
"The Lion King" roars into Las Vegas
New music club 172 brings loud luxury to Las Vegas
New music venue at the Rio brings rock ’n’ roll and food together at intimate club. K.M. Cannon/Las Vegas Review-Journal
Fans fear for Zak Bagans’ safety in Las Vegas Halloween TV special
Fly Linq zip line time lapse
Fly Linq zip line timelapse
Shaq opens Las Vegas restaurant, Big Chicken
Shaq opens Las Vegas restaurant, Big Chicken
Robert Deniro And Chef Nobu Talk About The Success Of Nobu
Robert Deniro And Chef Nobu Talk About The Success Of Nobu (Al Mancini Las Vegas Review-journal)
Nevada Ballet Theatre rehearses for "Dracula" at The Smith Center
Nevada Ballet Theatre rehearses for "Dracula" at The Smith Center (Janna Karel/ Las Vegas Review-Journal)
Downtown Summerlin hosts its annual Festival of Arts
People crowd to Downtown Summerlin for the 23rd annual Summerlin Festival of Arts in Las Vegas, Sunday, Oct. 14, 2018. (Caroline Brehman/Las Vegas Review-Journal)
Bellagio, MGM Resorts International’s luxury hotel turns 20
The more than 3,000-room Bellagio hotel is situated on the site of the former Dunes Hotel. The Dunes was imploded in 1993, and construction of the Bellagio started in 1996. It cost $1.6 billion to build, making it the most expensive hotel in the world at the time. The Bellagio was former Wynn Resorts Ltd. Chairman and CEO Steve Wynn’s second major casino on the Strip after The Mirage. MGM Resorts International acquired the property from Steve Wynn in 2000. (Tara Mack/Las Vegas Review-Journal)
Recycled Art and Cute Dogs at Summerlin Festival Of Arts
Recycled Art, Cute Dogs Abound At Summerlin Festival Of Arts (Janna Karel Las Vegas Review-Journal)
Bellagio Patisserie Creates Life-size Sculpture Of 20th Anniversary Of Cirque Du Soleil Show
Bellagio Patisserie Creates Life-size Sculpture Of 20th Anniversary Of Cirque Du Soleil Show (Janna Karel/Las Vegas Review-Journal)
10 Most Iconic Moments At The Bellagio Fountains
10 Most Iconic Moments At The Bellagio Fountains (Janna Karel/Las Vegas Review-Journal)
Jason Aldean talks about the possibility of a Las Vegas residency
Country superstar Jason Aldean discusses his feelings about playing in Las Vegas and says he'd be interested in a Las Vegas residency when the time is right at the iHeart Radio Music Festival in Las Vegas on September 21, 2018.(John Katsilometes/Las Vegas Review-Journal)
Block 16 Urban Food Hall Serves Favorite Foods From Across The US
Block 16 Urban Food Hall Serves Favorite Foods From Across The US (Janna Karel Las Vegas Review-Journal)
Benny the Skating Dog could be the next Golden Knights on-ice entertainment
Benny the Skating Dog could be the next Golden Knights on-ice entertainment (Janna Karel Las Vegas Review-Journal)
Who To Watch At Life Is Beautiful
Life Is Beautiful Setup
Workers preparing Fremont street for this weekend's Life is Beautiful festival, on Wednesday, September 19, 2018. Mat Luschek/Las Vegas Review-Journal
The 46th annual Greek Food Festival will feed 25,000 people in Las Vegas
Madame Tussauds Has The Newest VR Experience On The Strip
Madame Tussauds Has The Newest VR Experience On The Strip. (Janna Karel Las Vegas Review-Journal)
Zia Records Move
Zias Records is moving from its Sahara Avenue and Arville Street location to a bigger store. (Mat Luscheck/Las Vegas Review-Journal)
Students At The International Contortion Convention In Las Vegas Learn How To Bend And Twist Their Bodies
Students At The International Contortion Convention In Las Vegas Learn How To Bend And Twist Their Bodies. (Janna Karel Las Vegas Review-Journal)
Video from Fertitta wedding Sep. 1
video from @wedstagrams of Fertitta wedding at Red Rock Resort
You Can Get Vegan Unicorn Toast In Downtown Las Vegas
You Can Get Vegan Unicorn Toast In Downtown Las Vegas (Janna Karel Las Vegas Review-Journal)
TOP NEWS
News Headlines
Add Event
Home Front Page Footer Listing
Circular
You May Like

You May Like