Nina Escobedo: Bringing a passion for costumes to Chicago’s TV and film industry

Nina Escobedo credits her grandmother with sparking the interests of her childhood that eventually led her to become a professional costume designer working in Chicago.

“My grandmother taught me to sew when I was four years old,” recalls Escobedo. “It all started with buttons and embroidery. Once my legs were long enough to reach a sewing machine treadle, she taught me how to make pillowcases and aprons.

This early tutelage inspired a deep passion for wardrobe and costume in Escobedo. After two years as a wardrobe supervisor for Chicago’s Lookingglass Theater Company, the COVID-19 pandemic required her to pivot. So Escobedo, who lives on Chicago’s North Side, now participates in the city’s Chicago Made workforce development initiative that connects residents to film and television productions shot in the city.

Escobedo received on-the-job training from Local 769 clients Jennifer Jobst and Angela Verdino as they prepared for an upcoming Netflix feature to be shot at Cinespace Chicago Film Studios.

“I’m kind of here to ‘watch’ when they set up production, and I can help as long as I’m supervised,” Escobedo explained, adding that she also took Zoom classes for several days that explained the jargon and procedures used. by major production.

“At work, at the movies, there’s not a lot of time to explain things,” she added. “For example, one of the lingo terms is ‘NDB’ (non-deductible breakfast) and I had no idea what that meant. Everyone was like, ‘Nina, did you get your NDB?’ I was like, ‘I don’t know.’

Originally from Minnesota, Escobedo moved to Chicago in order to attend the Douglas J. Aveda Institute in Lincoln Park to study cosmetology. She then took what she described as a “left turn” to work in a salon.

“I realized that wasn’t what I wanted to do,” she recalls, and eventually heard of an opening for wardrobe supervisor at Lookingglass, where she worked from 2018 to 2020. The pandemic caused her job to disappear and Escobedo found herself out of work for the first time.

“It was heartbreaking and hard to navigate at first,” Escobedo said.

His unemployment was short-lived. A former colleague tipped her off to an opening in the wardrobe department for the upcoming Apple TV+ thriller series Shining Girls, which debuts in April and stars Elisabeth Moss and Wagner Moura.

“They said, ‘We need someone to start tomorrow, so can you do a COVID test now?’ I was sitting on the couch eating junk food and I ran outside to get tested in my sweatpants,” Escobedo said.

As her work on Shining Girls was coming to an end, she heard about the Chicago Made program. She wasn’t sure if she should apply, especially since there was only one vacancy for wardrobe staff. But she decided to get the spot: “The pandemic made me think: ‘I’m going to take advantage of all the opportunities I can, why not? What do I have to lose?

Escobedo appreciates Jobst and Verdino sharing their time and experience. Chicago Made provided “the training I wish I had to go [into my previous television work],” she says.

“I’m so happy to be with them, they’re so patient and they’re so knowledgeable. They are at work, but they spend time with me and explain all these things to me.

Escobedo enjoys learning the differences between the relatively long pace of costumes for theater and the quick timing required to do it for television. At the heart of both environments is problem solving, the aspect of her job that she enjoys the most.

“I love this job because of the community,” she added. “I never did this job because of the money, it’s my passion. It’s fire in my stomach.

Launched in late 2021 — with a second round of applications open this summer — the Chicago Made Workforce Development Program provides job training and job placement for Chicago residents between the ages of 24 and 50, primarily in underserved areas. served, to help meet the industry’s growing demand for skilled workers. The program is an initiative of the Chicago Film Office of the Department of Current Affairs and Special Events (DCASE) and consulting firm XD-TECH.

NBC Universal, Netflix, The Walt Disney Company and Warner Media are offering on-set training for the program. A number of local businesses and organizations, as well as the IATSE Local 476 and Local 600 unions, also lent their support.

A record 15 productions shot in Chicago in the summer of 2021, bringing with them nearly $700 million in economic impact. The Chicago Made program connects projects such as those with workers across the city.

This series, from the Department of Cultural Affairs and Special Events (DCASE), asks Chicagoans in the film industry to share their experiences. Learn more at and join the conversation on social media using #ChicagoMade.