• Melissa Imari Alvarez

2019- The Year That I Didn’t Blog

I had started to get down on myself for not posting here at all in 2019. Several years ago, I put together this blog so that I could share my passions with anyone who would listen, and also to have a creative outlet that didn’t physically involve a needle and thread. I’ve always enjoyed writing. Since grade school it was one of my favorite subjects and, with my love for reading, I have always been deeply fascinated by words. It seemed too easy to put this love of writing together with my love of costumes. Well reader, I’m here today to tell you that it’s not easy. At least not for me. But I’m coming around to the idea that that’s okay. You see, the reason I haven’t been sharing as much here on the blog is because I have been living. In fact, 2019 was probably one of my most lived years ever!

Below I will share some of the highlights and lowlights (?) of this past year.


On the first day of the year, one of my best friends, Amanda, and I went to Warner Bro’s for the Studio Lot Tour. I got to see so many sets and costumes featured in many of my favorite movies and shows. We even got to visit Stars Hollow in our very best Luke Danes inspired outfits!

At the end of the month, I got to help re-open Mickey's Soundsational Parade at Disneyland as a Costumer. I had worked on the parade in many other capacities before, but this was a personal high for me. That show has always meant so much to me and it was an honor to be taking care of it on such a deeper level.


In February, I got to attend a Conversation with Ruth Carter at the Los Angeles County Museum of Art (LACMA). She talked about how she started her career as a Costume Designer, working with Spike Lee, and the different projects that got her to where she is. A few weeks later she would go on to win the Academy Award for Costume Design for her work on Black Panther. Listening to her story was awe-inspiring from beginning to end!

Later in the month, I co-hosted a Puerto Rican dinner in which I made, for the first time ever, the very coveted pernil (roast pork) to coincide with the mofongo (a plantain based dish) that my friend, Victor, made. It was tedious work but I was so proud of myself for finally cooking a main dish that is so loved in my culture. It also gave me so much appreciation for the countless hours my Mama and Nana put into cooking for us when I still lived at home!

At the end of the month I visited my brother, EJ, and his family in Colorado! It was wonderful to spend time with them and experience a new place. Plus, I got to see snow for the first time in years!


Two words: Puppy Yoga. I spent my 29th birthday flowing through some yoga with precious fur babies running around the studio! The best part was that the proceeds from the class benefited Deity Animal Rescue, an organization that I have so much respect for. Please follow them and see all the wonderful work they do!

March brought me a new apartment with an old roommate. It's cute and conveniently located to pretty much everything. Plus, we opted out of having a dining room and have a sewing room instead!

During this month, I also experienced my very first panic attack. It was...awful. For the first time in years, I found myself feeling very unsupported in my job, so I internalized a lot of my frustrations and tried to dismiss anything that stressed me out. Obviously that was a mistake, but the silver lining is that I learned that I need to prioritize my health and that it's okay to set boundaries.


In April, I designed my first professional stage production! Working on "Next to Normal" with the Wayward Artist theatre company was an experience unlike any other. It brought me back to my theatre roots and I got to work with the most perfect cast and crew. I even got some lovely nods from a few local theater reviews that reminded me why I love designing so much!


For the month of May, I spent much of my time in a galaxy far, far away as part of the opening team for Star Wars: Galaxy's Edge at Disneyland. It was a hectic month, plus my mom came out to visit, and we opened the land the day before I left for a very significant trip! But, I also breathed the same air as Harrison Ford, so there's that.


June 1, 2019. 7:30 PM. I boarded a plane with my best friend, Celestina, and we flew across the pond! My first ever trip to Europe! This was something I had dreamed of for as long as I can remember. We visited London, Paris, Florence, and Rome, and ended the trip in the Italian countryside watching two of my favorite people get married! (I promise I'll do a huge photo dump over the next few days of pictures I failed to post from Europe.) This trip was my greatest adventure to date, without a doubt! And of course, there was still so much that I could not do, and several fashion museums I had hoped to see that were closed, so I guess I'll just have to go back. Darn.... ;-)


July was a pretty quiet month, being that I spent most of my spare time behind my sewing machine in preparations for August. However, I did make time to attend a FIDM Alumni Career Connection on campus with my college roommate, Sahar! It was nice to head back to our old stomping grounds and talk to current students about what we do and how we've navigated the real world, post-FIDM. Since I am still learning new things everyday, I sometimes forget that I am in fact an expert and professional, so it felt pretty cool to share some of my hard earned wisdom.


For the last several years, August has always been equal parts fabulous and hectic for me! That's because I attend the Labyrinth of Jareth Masquerade Ball every year and spend most of the weeks leading up to the event finishing my costume! This year was no different- I finished sewing my applique in the hotel room mere hours before the ball, but I'm still super proud of how it turned out! My look this year was inspired by a 1920s Lanvin robe de style dress with a peacock feather motif. I took the peacock inspiration and took it in my own direction. I was also excited to do a 1920s look that wasn't a stereotypical flapper style. This project was one of my first historical period garments, so I was constantly doing research to pull as much inspiration as possible. I even made corresponding undergarments and a headpiece!

Exactly one week after Labyrinth, I found myself unexpectedly working the D23 Expo. When one of my co-workers got sick, I volunteered to step in for him to help dress the performance that would announce our new parade to the public! The news of the Magic Happens parade was shared during the Disney Parks Panel and, as part of the opening team, I was so excited to have that secret shared! The work we're putting in is all for the guests and I definitely think they will be happy with what we do.

This month, I also started putting feelers out with some friends who work wardrobe on film & tv. They gave me some advice, shared some reference with me, and I began to open myself up to picking up some side work on sets.


In September, I started illustrating again thanks to a #DrawThisInYourStyle prompt from one of my favorite artists, Shea O'Connor! I don't sketch nearly as much as I should/would like, let alone do any digital rendering. This was a great exercise to ease me back into it and I definitely got an itch to keep going!

Later in the month, I was referred to design costumes for a music video. From the time I was asked to the time the video would shoot was just barely over one week! Shopping for and distressing costumes was a wild ride, but I got it done! My roommate, Brandy, even helped me out on set the day of the shoot. The video was for the artist, GHOSTEMANE, and the aesthetic was "post-apocalyptic, Mad Max meets Hardcore Henry", so it definitely put me well outside of my comfort zone, but it was still a lot of fun. If you want to check out the video, click here!


October was a random and wonderful and chaotic month, with so much jam packed into it! Earlier in the month, Sahar was able to get standby tickets for the Ellen DeGeneres Show and invited me along as one of her guests. We ended up being the last group of people to be seated in the auditorium and one of the giveaways we won was a WEEKEND PASS TO STAGECOACH 2020! Needless to say, we were pretty ecstatic about that!

Later in the month, some work colleagues and I were invited by Swarovski to a party at the famous Sheats Goldstein Residence in Beverly Hills! It was a swanky, sparkly party to debut their Fall/Winter 2020 collection. We mingled, we partook in the free champagne, and we took photos of one another, as one does!

In the final week of the month, I went to Vegas with Amanda and Celestina with the sole purpose of checking out the Haus of Gaga exhibit at Park MGM. It did not disappoint! Seeing so many of her iconic outfits and accessories in one place was absolutely mind blowing. You can definitely expect a post of photos from this soon!


November opened with a bang- or with a loud crash and a thud! My roommate and I hosted a Clue themed murder mystery party, complete with self-made costumes (she was Miss Scarlet, and I was Mrs. White) and character-based foods. It was a silly and charming soiree with just a sprinkling of murder! ;-)

For the rest of the month, I had basically zero free time as I juggled THREE jobs- my full time role at Disneyland, assistant costume designing a production of "Anne of Green Gables", and designing costumes for a high school production of "Blue Stockings". I was stressed and irritable, was barely getting any sleep, and didn't have any days off where I didn't have something to do. As much as I love staying busy and am always looking for new opportunities to expand my costume experiences, I had to admit that I bit off more than I could chew.

However, I did manage to sneak away from all responsibilities for one weekend. I rented a car, drove back to Vegas just a few short weeks later, this time to celebrate Sahar turning thirty! It was a very different Vegas trip than the one I had just taken, but it was so much fun to let loose and be surrounded by friends who have become family!


Speaking of family, the single most important thing to happen in December is that I was able to fly home for the holidays for the first time in years! I got to bring my dog, Rhett, with me and we were able to spend time in my childhood home in Virginia. My sister flew up from Florida for a long weekend- we hadn't seen each other in over seven years! Plus, my two best friends managed to make it into town at the same time and we had a whirlwind, 24-hour reunion!

Being so far from my family is definitely the hardest thing I've had to deal with every year since I moved to California. But their support gets me through each day- they are the ones reminding me that I'm right where I need to be and doing exactly what I need to be doing, even when I have moments so full of doubt. I would be lost without them, so I cherish our time together that much more. Ending the year with them was better than anything I could have ever asked for.

At this start of 2020, I already have quite a bit to look forward to. Below are some bullet points of things to come in the new year!

- Opening the new parade at Disneyland on February 28th

- My 30th birthday on March 2nd! I am actually very excited to be Thirty, Flirty, and Thriving!

- Designing costumes for a brand new play, Feliz, set to debut in Santa Ana in April

- Stagecoach 2020 in April

- Taking a cruise in May for my roommate's birthday

- My 4th consecutive year (5th year total) attending the Labyrinth of Jareth Masquerade in August

- Visiting my parents at their new place in Florida for Thanksgiving

What are some things you all are looking forward to in 2020?

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