Elizabeth Jett has been working as a costume designer since the early '90s, and is still fulfilling her childhood dream to create, tell a story, and be an innovator in a competitive industry. While born in Missouri, Jett says she grew up on the eastern end of Long Island, New York and drew sketches at a young age.
"Ever since I was little, I always wanted to be a fashion designer. … I was always drawing," she said.
After graduating high school, Jett attended the Parsons School of Design in New York to pursue a career in fashion design, but she quickly discovered traditional classroom instruction limited her creativity.
"It was too confining for me," Jett said. "It was too narrow a job description for me, because I'm interested in all kinds of design and storytelling."
Jett branched out and spent two years in the Europe fashion scene before returning to New York to work as a fashion stylist. She styled photography shoots that appeared in magazines, and Jett said the opportunity gave her a chance to tell a story — one of her favorite aspects of fashion design.
The up and coming fashion designer was soon, however, ready for a change.
"I've always loved movies, and I was getting bored with fashion — more fashion people than fashion — and I had the opportunity to get on a movie that was actually shooting in Fayetteville, Arkansas," she said.
When Jett made the trip to Arkansas to work as the film's art director, she didn't expect to meet her future husband. Billy Jett was the production designer for the project, and their relationship quickly blossomed. Elizabeth found herself moving with Billy to Los Angeles shortly after filming, and they married the following year. Later, Elizabeth almost gave birth to their daughter, Sarah, on a movie set.
After the move to Los Angeles, Jett started working on independent films, which she loves more than high budget projects.
"I mostly did low budget features, which I prefer. I think they're a lot more collaborative. … There's so much more creative input. You can contribute to everything," she said. "I've done a lot of radically different stuff. My earliest jobs were Sci-Fi, monster movies. … Those were kids TV shows, but there was a huge element of Sci-Fi and monster work in those."
She continued, "I would say my favorite job I ever did was when Billy Crystal used to host the Oscars. I would design costumes for the short films they did in the beginning. Those were really fun. I did four or five years of those."
Jett most recently worked as a costume designer for the film Ride, now in post-production. Ludacris and Sasha Alexander star in the film.
"That was a really terrific movie. It was a great script based on a real life story," Jett said.
Animal rescue is also a passion of Jett's, and she works as the operations manager for a Los Angeles based animal rescue nonprofit, The Tiger Frances Foundation. The rescue was founded by Maggie Lawson and Elizabeth's sister, Jude McVay.
"We work very well together, the three of us, and we all have contributions to it," Jett said. "I feel really lucky that Jude included me and brought me on to Tiger Frances, and Maggie is fabulous."
McVay said she is thankful to have her sister's assistance with The Tiger Frances Foundation.
"Elizabeth keeps us on task at TTFF. She follows up and follows through on everything for us. We'd be lost without her," McVay said. Jett says she doesn't do as much costume design work as she used to, and has chosen to focus more on writing and filmmaking.
"I've always been interesting in storytelling, and I'm also a voracious reader, so I just always knew I wanted to do my own stories," she said. "I've optioned a couple of books, and I have a couple of scripts of my own. I'm developing some projects and pitching them. It's a long road. It's hard to switch gears. It's hard not being 20 years old and( trying to start a new career in Los Angeles, but I'm not discouraged by that, because I think people are always open to good ideas."
Written by Nicole Smith Photos by Elizabeth Jett and Maggie Lawson
One of Elizabeth's drawings
Another western drawing from Elizabeth's collection
Elizabeth at a Tiger Frances visit to School on Wheels in Los Angeles