Oscar Artists: Aldredge, Theoni V., Oscar-Winning Costume Designer

Theoni V. Aldredge, who designed the costumes for Broadway and Off Broadway productions, including “Annie,” “A Chorus Line” and “La Cage aux Folles,” and who won an Oscar Award for her work on  “The Great Gatsby,” died on Friday in Stamford, Conn. She was 88.

The cause was cardiac arrest, her husband, the actor Tom Aldredge, said.

In a career that lasted more than half a century, Aldredge was a favorite of top producers and directors on and off Broadway, among them David Merrick, Michael Bennett, Joseph Papp, Gower Champion and Arthur Laurents.

After designing the costumes for Kazan’s production of Tennessee Williams’s “Sweet Bird of Youth” in 1959, she was hired by Merrick for “I Can Get It for You Wholesale,” in which Streisand made her Broadway debut.

The same year, 1962, she did the costumes for Albee’s stage production of “Who’s Afraid of Virginia Woolf?

After being introduced to Papp, the director of the NY Shakespeare Festival, she designed the costumes for his production of “Measure for Measure” in 1960 and soon became the company’s head designer, a position she held for more than 20 years.

In 1984 more than 1,000 of her costumes could be seen in five musicals running simultaneously on Broadway: “A Chorus Line,” “Dreamgirls,” “La Cage aux Folles,” “42nd Street” and “The Rink.”

She won three Tony Awards for costume design, for “Annie,” “Barnum” and “La Cage aux Folles.”

Her many film credits included “Network,” “Semi-Tough,” “Moonstruck,” “Ghostbusters” and “Addams Family Values.”

“She made people look beautiful, which is a lot harder than you might think,” said costume designer Martin Pakledinaz. “She also had the ability to see a production as a whole, the way one number grew out of the previous number and led into the one after that.”

Theoni Athanasiou Vachliotis was born on August 22, 1922, in Salonika, Greece, and grew up in Athens. Her father was the surgeon general of the Greek Army and a member of the Greek Parliament. As a child she fixated on dolls and their clothes — throughout her life she maintained a large doll collection — and by the time she graduated from the American School in Athens in 1949, she had decided on theater as a career.

She enrolled at the Goodman School of Drama in Chicago and, stopping in New York on her way to Chicago, attended the 1946 film “Caesar and Cleopatra.” “A strange thing happened,” she said in 1973. “I was overwhelmed by the beauty of the flowing garments worn by Vivien Leigh.” “People can look so beautiful in clothes,’ I said to myself. ‘There is a mystery to costume.’ And that’s when it started.”

She made her debut as a costume designer in 1950, creating the clothes for “The Distaff Side,” a comedy by John van Druten produced at the Goodman Theater, and within a few years was teaching costume design at the theater’s school.

She also married Aldredge, an actor who was studying to become a director and who went on to make a successful career in New York. (He currently appears asBuscemi’s father in the HBO series “Boardwalk Empire.”)

After the couple moved to New York in 1959,  Aldredge got off to a quick start when Gerladine, who new her work at the Goodman, persuaded Kazan to hire her for “Sweet Bird of Youth.”

“I made three outfits for Gerry — a negligee, a robe and a beaded navy blue evening dress with a lighter front because a bird’s stomach is always lighter than its back,” she told Architectural Digest in 1993. “So there you had Tennessee Williams writing, Geraldine Page and Paul NewmanPaul Newman acting, and I thought, ‘Where do I go from here?’ ”

She won her first Tony nomination for “The Devil’s Advocate” in 1961 and became in demand on Broadway, designing costumes for “Cactus Flower”; the Edward Albee play “A Delicate Balance”; “Woman of the Year,” withLauren Bacall Lauren Bacall; the revival of “Private Lives,” with Burton and Liz Taylor; “The Secret Garden”; “Nick & Nora”; and the 2006 revival of “A Chorus Line.”

Joseph Papp once praised Ms. Aldredge for designing costumes that seemed to develop out of the characters onstage, and she herself insisted on the subservience of her craft. “You don’t take over a show,” she said in 1984. “What you do is enhance it, because the costumes are there to serve a producer’s vision, a director’s viewpoint and, most importantly, an actor’s comfort. To me, good design is design you’re not aware of.”

“A Chorus Line” was a challenge, since nearly all the cast members wore slouchy rehearsal clothes until the spectacular closing number, which Aldredge envisioned as a visual feast of champagne-colored tuxedos and top hats. Bennett had wanted blazing red. No, she told him. Champagne was the color of celebration.

To generate ideas, she sat in on rehearsals, taking Polaroid pictures of each dancer. “I just borrowed from what they brought,” Aldredge said. “I took it as a compliment if people thought, ‘Well, they’re wearing their own clothes.’ ”

Aldredge designed for opera, ballet and TV as well as theater, and in a curious detour in the 1980s she produced a ready-to-wear line for Jane Fonda, the Jane Fonda Workouts.

Oscar for The Great Gatsby

For “The Great Gatsby” she made hundreds of costumes in less than two weeks, an effort that might account for her irritation when the fashion press turned the spotlight on Ralph Loren , who took credit for designing the clothes for Robert Redford and the other male leads.  Aldredge insisted that he had merely executed designs to her specifications. His name stayed, in a secondary position, but Aldredge pointedly omitted his name when accepting her Oscar.