Critter Pierce is the costume designer of the TNT network show The Librarians, which first aired in 2014.
We chatted recently in a Portland coffee house––
Pierce’s enthusiasm for her craft is magnetic. Having navigated herself across the television and film industry for the past 15 years, she has a lot to be proud of. She laughs when I compliment her, and tells me about The Librarians recent wrap on Season 2. “The first season, we were just getting to know all of the characters, and developing them, and in the second season, I was able to dive deeper and create more dimension within the characters. It was a really collaborative and rewarding season for the cast and crew.”
Growing up in Miami, Fla., Pierce taught herself to sew at an early age. She created outfits for her dolls, and experimented on an old sewing machine that had been gifted to her mother as a wedding present. Later, she would sew dresses for her high school formals––going to a college prep school ensured that there were many. “There weren’t very many liberal arts classes offered, but there was Home-Ec––we of course had to learn to cook and sew.”
It wasn’t until a co-worker suggested that she try out costume design that she made the decision to enroll in the theater department at the University of Florida. “You would think that fashion design and costume design go hand-in-hand, but they don’t. Costume design, for me, is an entirely different thing.”
As Critter fidgets with the bangles on her arms and takes another sip of coffee, I listen to her explain her design process, and how she dives into the characters she develops. She not only looks at what clothing says about a person, but how that clothing embodies their personality and nature. Critter pauses for a moment, after I ask about her favorite part of the design process, and then breaks into a wide grin. “I am especially interested in how a person wears their clothes, and how they are worn in. Like a hat that you can tell is worn everyday, as well as how it is worn. If you look closely you can tell where it is taken on and off, because of the oil spot left from the fingers. I like to pay attention to the sweat rings that may be on the brim, and the grime that might be built up—the aging of clothing, or aging in general.” She looks around and points out a wall in the distance, and the patina built up from years of wear and tear.
Her attention to detail is remarkable. I can feel my own perspective on clothing changing almost instantaneously. All the sudden, I, too, notice the faded fedora, and not just for what it is, or who is wearing it, but the details of its wear. I look at what Critter is wearing. The colors are bright; her skirt is bouncy and her jewelry bold. I ask her about her personal style, and she doesn’t hesitate to say, “I try not to take anything too seriously, and to be really playful with my clothing. I really like things that make noise so that I can hear my own movement. Like, if I have buckles on my shoes and they are a little loose, and you can hear them jingle with every step, I love that.”
The safety pin in her ear and her pink nail polish juxtapose old-school punk with girly tradition. I look down at my nails and I have the sudden urge to chip the polish, and cut my hair. Critter’s unabashed style has me wondering if I have been suppressing my true self these past 10 years. After a few more minutes discussing Portland fashion, and watching passers-by, we say our goodbyes.
A week later, I pick up the photos I took at our meeting. Upon glancing at the negatives, I again grow nostalgic. I realize that this feeling, this je ne sais quoi moment, is due to Critter. Completely unassuming and transparently passionate, she pours life into everyday fashion, and creates costumes that tell a story.
I put down the photos, put on my headphones and blast the Ramones.