What do you get when you combine a prominent St. Louisan, a big celebration and a custom-made gown? You can see for yourself at Stages’ upcoming Applause! Gala Nov. 11. That’s when the much-loved theater group hosts its 30th anniversary event, which, among other highlights, will feature arts supporter Miran Halen in a gown designed for her by Stages costume designer Brad Musgrove. The statuesque Halen is a singer and the wife of St. Louis Symphony Orchestra concertmaster David Halen. The custom-designed gown was an auction item from last year’s Stages gala, purchased by local philanthropist Mary Strauss specifically for Halen to wear during her vocal concert performances.

Photo: Suzy Gorman

T&S | How did the dress come about?
Miran Halen | At last year’s Stages gala, Mary bought an auction item for a custom gown to be made by Brad Musgrove. She told me she wanted me to have the experience and get a spectacular gown made for this year’s gala and for performing. It was quite a shock! She’s always been my mentor and best friend, and she’s taught me so much about life, art and what you can give back to the community. It’s truly a gift of love.

T&S | Have you always been interested in fashion?
MH | Yes, even as a little girl I was interested in clothing and makeup. I would buy paper dolls and dress them up in fabulous clothes and look through magazines. My mother was always very well-dressed and was interested in French couture. I was born in Korea, and when I lived there, it was all about a tailored, almost couture look. I grew up watching my mother wear stunning dresses. As a performer in the opera, we always have costumes, and I look at each one as part of the theme.

T&S | Have you ever worn a custom gown before?
MH | Not really. I always buy them and have them altered. This is one of a kind. The fact that it’s Brad’s own creation is quite something.

T&S | Tell me about the designer, Brad Musgrove, and your partnership on this.
MH | He said he was very excited to work with me, and the feeling was mutual! He was a dancer and choreographer before becoming a costume designer, so he knows the human body really well and knows what is attractive to women. He is so talented. When we met, I felt like I had known him for 20 years. The chemistry was perfect, and we clicked right away.

Miran Halen with Stages costume designer Brad Musgrove and his sketch of the dress Photo: Susan Crandall

T&S | What was the process like?
MH | Brad initially sent me a very detailed email asking specific questions about my style and what I liked: my favorite actress, favorite designer, favorite style of architecture, a color I would never wear, what silhouettes I liked, etc. It took me a few days to get that together! Then we met for the first time over lunch, and he presented me with three sketches—and they all looked like my dream gown! I didn’t think I could pick just one, but we did, and we both agreed on it.

T&S | Were you surprised at how much you loved it right away?
MH | Before I met Brad, I reminded myself I was getting the dress as a gift and to just enjoy it. But when I saw the sketch, I said, This is it! Other than one very slight change, there was not a single thing we altered from the original drawing. It is my dream dress.

T&S | Were you involved with the fabric selection?
MH | Yes, we spent a weekend in New York and went to a fabric store and two other accessory stores there. The moment we found this lace-embellished fabric with applique and beadwork, we both agreed on it. Brad did my initial fitting about a month or two after we found the fabric, and we had a total of four fittings.

T&S | What was your favorite part about the whole experience?
MH | Although I’ve been to New York several times, I had never been to the Garment District. I loved going into the different stores and seeing what’s on trend. And I got to see two wonderful Broadway productions.

T&S | Have you thought of how you will accessorize it?
MH | The dress is like its own jewelry. It’s very dramatic, and the color complements my dark hair, so I don’t think I need much at all. I’ll put on some earrings, wear high platform shoes, and that’s probably it!

Photo: Suzy Gorman