August 9, 2017

Glade Spring businessman helped create period-accurate costumes for ‘Born in Bristol’

by Carolyn R. Wilson | For the Washington County News | Aug 8, 2017

GLADE SPRING, Va. — A Glade Spring businessman played an important role in the development of a film that celebrates the lasting influences of Appalachian music in the region.

Stephen Curd, who owns Lavelle Manufacturing, a producer of custom denim jeans and high-end clothing, leather goods and handmade jewelry, was a member of the costume crew of “Born in Bristol,” a docudrama that tells the story of the Bristol Sessions and premiered Aug. 3.

In 1927, talent scout Ralph Peer of Victor Talking Machine Co. visited Bristol to record musicians from the region, capturing the heart and soul of the rich musical heritage. Bristol was only one stop for Peer, who took his remote recording equipment to southern towns to record blues, ragtime, gospel, ballads, topical songs and string bands.

This summer, the Birthplace of Country Music in Bristol, Virginia, is celebrating the 90th anniversary of these recordings through a series of events, including the premiere of “Born in Bristol” at the Marquee Cinemas Pinnacle 12.

The Tennessee Department of Tourist Development and Virginia Tourism Corp. produced the film that features entertainers with country music pedigrees, including Dolly Parton, Vince Gill, Eric Church, Emmylou Harris, Steve Earle, Marty Stuart, Sheryl Crow and Ashley Monroe. “Born in Bristol” was directed by Sundance Award-winner Chusy Haney-Jardine of Plan A Films.

“I feel honored and privileged to be a part of this crew, and I enjoyed working on the costumes for this movie,” said Stephen Curd, who was recommended for the volunteer position by a friend in 2015.

Curd was one of three people chosen to design costumes for more than 40 actors in the film.

“Our job was to put together the look of these characters,” said Curd, who primarily worked on the costumes for three major actors, Derek Smith Peters, who played the role of Ralph Peer; Dana Marie Seals, who played Anita Peer; and Dee Thacker, who played Hattie Stoneman. Each of the actors had five different outfits.

“We pulled from many resources in the area to put together these looks,” said Curd, who scouted thrift stores, theaters and colleges for hats, shoes, dresses and other clothing items appropriate for the 1920s setting.

Local businesses helped with the wardrobes. Blakley Mitchell provided shirts, and L.C. King Manufacturing loaned overalls for the actors.

“Ralph Peer’s look had to be very polished,” said Curd. “We had to keep in mind the type of suit he’d be wearing because he always came off as a very wealthy and well-put-together man. He was dressed to the nines all the time.”

Curd loaned to the actor his abalone shell cuff links that he wore at his own wedding years ago.

“He wore the links with a French cuff shirt, ascot and bow ties, and silk and linen suits. I really had to pull from many resources to locate the clothing, especially since he’s a large man,” said Curd.

He added that Anita Peer was a social butterfly who “wore the white gloves and matching purse and shoes. I was fortunate enough to get antique dresses from the 1920s from a professor at Emory & Henry College who had kept her grandmother’s clothes. The dress has sequins with a drop waist. The hem hits around the thigh similar to a 1920s flapper.

“The character Hattie Stoneman was an elite society woman who dressed perfectly, as well.”

An additional perk for Curd was seeing the two leading ladies wear outfits from his designer line, Garic Stephens, during the red carpet event last Thursday.

“Watching both of the leading ladies walk the red carpet was such an honor,” said Curd. “Dee Thacker was head to toe in my Garic Stephens collection, and Dana Marie Seals carried a fur clutch and wore my custom jewelry.”

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