Like most playwrights, Kira Obolensky is not by nature a conformist. So what in the name of Chekhov is she doing wearing the same outfit every day, essentially a uniform?
"I'm not trying to make a statement," said Obolensky, of Minneapolis. "I've just had it with trying to pick something out. The whole nightmare of facing the closet and seven pairs of black pants is gone."
Fed up with facing "too many choices" on a daily basis, Obolensky decided on a singular approach: one outfit (and set of accessories) that worked for business and pleasure, everyday meetings and special occasions. She enlisted an old friend, Theatre de la Jeune Lune costume designer Sonya Berlovitz. "I adored Sonya's costumes for years," said Obolensky. "And it was important to me that it was made by someone local. The money doesn't go to a sweatshop; it goes to someone I know."
For her part, Berlovitz relished the challenge. "It's unique in the sense that the typical commission has been more one of a kind, for a special occasion," she said. "I loved the idea of finding something that was interesting and functional, and of having a blank slate."
Berlovitz's job was made easier by the fact that Obolensky, who's 5 feet 7 and slim, "has a great figure to make clothes for."
The dark calf-length dress "looks simple, but it's not," Berlovitz said. There are six zippers. Insets provide color on the left (acid green), right (olive) and front and back (light gray).
Accessories include an attachable pocket, which adds formality and utility (storing items that otherwise would require a purse), and a sweater-like vest that is a true salvage item. When Jeune Lune closed earlier this year, "we were going through fabric that I was getting rid of," Belrovitz said, "and Kira found this. It was off-white with purple streaks, and we dyed it gray." There's also a sheer overcoat made with silk organza, which is "warmer than people think," Berlovitz noted.
Obolensky and Berkowitz met several times to hammer out details; the process began last summer. In the beginning they looked at a lot of images, especially saris and other Indian clothing.
The original muslin mockup "was a little nun-like," Obolensky said. "We didn't want it to look like a sack, and of course I didn't want to look like a nun." What was she seeking? "Eclectic might be the right word." Berlovitz was on board with that but also "was going more for sophisticated."
Obolensky first wore the finished product at Thanksgiving dinner, then the next night (with the vest) to a dinner party. She doesn't wear the outfit while cooking, for obvious reasons. (It has to be washed by hand with Woolite.) She also dons other garb while "sitting in front of the computer, or when I'm shoveling, or when I go to the grocery. But every time I leave the house to see someone or go to an event, I put it on."
She'll wear her "winter uniform" through May, and decide by then whether to get one for summer. In the meantime, she might not be alone for long. "This has made me want to make one for myself," said Berlovitz.
Obolensky took the clothes from her closet and divided them among her sister and some boxes at home.
"It's not a vow of anything. I'm just trying to reduce stress," Obolensky said. "I am so done shopping on a sales rack. Now I go, 'Why did I have to have so many clothes?' And I'm no longer worried about whether I wore something recently."
In Obolensky's view, she is far from alone in the Same Thing Every Day Brigade. "A lot of women have uniforms, jeans and a sweater or track suits. Men, you have your uniforms, just with different accessories from day to day."
Age was another motivating factor, said the 46-year-old. "When you get to be a certain age and are buying clothes, you have two options: You can look like a tart or you can look like a matron. I spent a lot of time watching 'Charlie Rose' to see what Helen Mirren's wearing."
Bill Ward • 612-673-7643