GH's Mary Iannelli: Confessions of a Costume Designer

Sonny and Brenda’s Feb. 18 wedding was a lavish affair that featured just about everyone who’s anyone in Port Charles. We asked GENERAL HOSPITAL costume designer Mary Iannelli how she turned this logistical nightmare into a wedding party.Soap Opera Weekly: How long did this wedding take to put together?

Mary Iannelli: I started shopping for it before Christmas! I think it was in October that I initially had put a book together for Vanessa [Marcil Giovinazzo, Brenda] to look through, to kind of get ideas of silhouettes that she liked and that the producer, Jill Farren Phelps, liked and that [head writer Robert Guza Jr.] was happy with, so we could all come to a middle ground of what we were thinking of the wedding.

Weekly: Do you like to do weddings?

Iannelli: Yeah, it’s really fun! It’s been fun, and we got to do two right in a row, because Tracy and Luke [married in Las Vegas], and then Sonny and Brenda. They are two iconic couples! I think this was maybe my ninth wedding since I’ve been here. This has been the biggest. It’s fun, because you can work out the palette.

Weekly: How does that work?

Iannelli: I usually put together a board for Jill and Bob to look at for all the guests, so we can figure out, “Oh, that look clashes with this,” or “Let’s take that out and put them in the blue dress.” We can figure it out and they get an idea of what everything is going to look like, because on the day of shooting, there are so many cast members here that it’s really hard to leave it to the last minute.
Weekly: So you started several months ahead…

Iannelli: I try to get as much of a head start on it as possible, especially on a bridal gown, because sometimes, if you don’t find it at the store, it could take up to eight weeks to order.

Weekly: So how did you go about finding the right dress?

Iannelli: Vanessa picked out some silhouettes, and from there I pulled 10 to 12 dresses for her to try, and then we picked our favorite. We actually got to do two wedding dresses — well, three — for her, because there was a fantasy wedding where we did a Melissa Sweet gown that was really traditional and tiered-laced. And then there was Sonny’s fantasy wedding, [which was] our Brenda fantasy dress, because it was very girly, very beautiful and super-classic, like Grace Kelly. It was Oscar de la Renta — all of his designs are timeless. We really lucked out: There’s an Oscar de la Renta [shop] here, and they were kind enough to let us take the wedding gowns out. Normally, you would have to go to the store to do a fitting, but because of the time constraint, we had to do it all here at the studio, and they were very cooperative.

Weekly: And you needed a lot of cooperation during the long days of filming, right?

Iannelli: It’s always labor-intensive, because a lot of the girls will need help. Vanessa needs help getting into the gown, because it’s very fitted, and there’s the bustle and the blouse that you have to zip up. So as far as that goes, you have to have more staff on hand. Everybody here works well as a team. It’s a lot of people to get through hair and makeup, as well! Normally, a lot of our scenes are two or three people, so you can imagine the congestion when there are 30 people waiting to get dressed or 30 people waiting to do makeup.

Weekly: Was it worth it all the time and effort?

Iannelli: Yeah, it was great. It was really fun. I feel like the fans love romance, they love to see weddings, and so we usually have a couple of weddings a year. It’s a nice break — especially on GH, from mobsters and cops and hospital scrubs. It’s a nice break to go do a little glamour stuff!

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