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Costume Designer Shawn Reeves Shares GENERAL HOSPITAL’s Style Secrets (EXCLUSIVE)

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Since the turn of the century, GENERAL HOSPITAL’s Shawn Reeves has been dressing daytime villains and heroines — and my, how times have changed! Here, the Daytime Emmy-winning costume designer shares with Soaps In Depth how on-line shopping has led to a massive shift in how he pulls it all together for Port Charles.

Over the years, Reeves has talked to In Depth about his trips to downtown L.A.’s fashion district, Macy’s and Nordstrom’s, but his shopping game has changed. “Going to the mall and downtown, it’s getting tougher and tougher to find clothes,” he explained. “If I need a good range of evening gowns, I can’t go to my regular sources anymore. Cocktail dresses can be difficult to find, and women’s professional clothes, like suits, are also really tough. Plus, a lot of stores aren’t carrying sizes anymore. They push it online, so then I have to go online to try to find it. I’d rather not sit in front of the computer and try to resource the show. I like to go out and see stuff. It’s frustrating. But I still have to tell the story with these characters. So more and more, I’m having to shop online.”

As any avid shopper knows, once Reeves makes his picks for his massive cast via the Internet, he then has to contend with what’s actually delivered. “Probably 85 percent of the clothing I order online is not what it looked like in the picture,” he said. “It doesn’t fit, it doesn’t work, the quality is not great, or I just don’t love it. I have to keep some of it, because I need clothes for the show. I’m desperate! So I end up returning about 75 percent of it — which becomes a hassle.”

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Dressing Port Charles’ professional women has become trickier in recent years. (Photo Credit: ABC)

That’s not Reeves’ only challenge. “My professional women are harder to dress these days, because in the real world, they are just not dressing as professionally as they used to,” he said. But he gets to have a bit more fun with Crimson fashionista Nina. “She’s in her own world, so we’ve got a lot of room to play with her. Alexis is very unique as well.

“But then you start getting to these other professional areas — like Jordan and Margaux — and it becomes challenging,” he went on. “Because we’re in Southern California, I’m having to go online so that my professional women are not all wearing the same thing.”

And don’t get Reeves started on the difficulties of getting his guys suited up! “To find suits anymore?” he said. “I was out shopping for Michael and Chase, which should have been easy. I go to the store and all I see is blue, gray and black. Wow, there was no range of color! And they were all basically the same. I can only buy so many blue, gray and black suits before everybody looks the same. It’s been crazy. But we persevered!”

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Reeves worked hard to make sure Chase and Michael are well “-suited.” (Photo Credit: ABC)

Since being in California presents challenges in dressing a cast for an upstate New York setting, sometimes Reeves has to look outside the US altogether to find what the script calls for. After struggling in his efforts to find Nelle a suitable maternity wedding gown last year, for example, Reeves struck pay dirt with the English vendors Seraphine and Tiffany Rose. He also had to look overseas to find the adorable pink wool coat Emma sported in Switzerland last spring. “Emma needed to look like she’d been shopping in Europe, but on the US sites, every coat was a puffer, had a logo or was just very American,” he said. “I was surprised. These are coats you’d wear for Easter or to go to church, but nobody had anything. Finally, I looked at Web sites in England and found them!”

Another surprise was Nina’s simple broken heart pendant. “We thought that would be easy to find, but most half-heart pendants have a poem or something engraved on them, and we wanted ours to be plain,” Reeves explained. “I found this one on Etsy, and the vendor happened to be in Israel!” When ordering from faraway lands, timing becomes an issue. “We didn’t know for sure when that necklace was going to come,” Reeves explained. “Luckily, I got it in time, but when you order from China, it could take several days to several weeks. You’ve just got to hope it makes it!”

One place Reeves is still having a blast is with the teen scene. “They’re a lot of fun to shop for — and it’s also fun to shop with them,” he raved of Eden McCoy (Josslyn), William Lipton (Cameron), Sydney Mikayla (Trina) and Garren Stitt (ex-Oscar). “I like to see how they react to stuff and how that age is approaching clothes and fashion. It’s a cool learning experience, and it’s fun to come back with the micro trends this generation is doing and push for them to be used on the show.”

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Reeves enjoys hearing what GH’s young stars think of the clothes he considers for their characters. (Photo Credit: ABC)

You may not have caught it, but Reeves actually fought for Cameron to sport some very on-trend shoes. “You don’t even really see them, but I wanted to put these flip-flop type things called slides on Cameron, with a pair of black socks,” he recounted. “People here at the studio look at it and go, ‘Oh, that’s so ugly!’ Well, we might hate it… but this is what guys are doing. It’s real and true for that generation and the characters. So we have to do it.”

GH fans like to weigh in on everything from story to fashion, and Reeves pays attention… within reason. “If it’s something silly like, ‘I don’t like that top,’ I can’t really do anything about that,” he explained. “But if it’s bigger picture and enough people agree, I’ll stop, look at the show and see if I need to make changes. Because I’m in the thick of it here, putting together hundreds of outfits a week. I’m looking at a lot of stuff and a lot of bodies!”

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Reeves dresses GH-ers for everything from performing at the Nurses Ball to hanging out at home. (Photo Credit: ABC)

Case in point: Some fans were up in arms over Carly’s penchant for tank tops last summer. “People online freaked out,” Reeves chuckled. “‘Oh my God, she’s so casual!’ They forgot that she’d just been cooped up in insane-asylum clothes for a long period. I wanted to show off her beautiful shoulders and have her look nice for the rest of the summer. And whenever Carly is at home, we do make her more casual. But we hadn’t seen that in a while, so it was kind of a shock. The funny thing was, those weren’t just regular cotton tank tops,” he added. “There’s one that was cashmere!” 

Though Reeves loved the look, he considered the backlash he was seeing. “And yeah, there were three or four tank tops close together — maybe it was a little much,” he conceded. “So I make adjustments.” And what is more fashionable than change?

For more on your favorite GH stars, keep reading the ABC edition of Soaps In Depth magazine.

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This story originally appeared in our print magazine.

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