Following the Thread: Jazmine Motley-Maddox ’09
A publicist found her calling designing costumes for stars like Jennifer Aniston and Octavia Spencer
Jazmine Motley-Maddox ’09 with Atlanta rapper T.I. on the set of Netflix’s “Rhythm & Flow.”
Some people say appearances don’t matter, but Jazmine Motley-Maddox ’09 has always thought differently. Growing up in Birmingham, Ala., she often watched her grandmother, Zellean Maddox, feed fabric through the bouncing needle of her sewing machine. And on weekends, they spent time combing through the racks of department stores like Gus Myer, Parisians and kids’ boutiques like Jack & Jill.
Little did she know, her grandmother’s was weaving a thread of Black history through generations of family clothes—most of the clothing she shopped for were pieces from the collections of famous and emerging Black fashion designers. Her grandmother taught her that clothes often tell your story before you even have the chance to introduce yourself.
“She instilled in me a love for dressing up,” said Motley-Maddox. “I was the little girl that enjoyed wearing frilly dresses, fancy socks and hair bows.”
Now, she wears blazers, fun-print sets and sneakers to her job as a costume supervisor in television and film, taking her grandmother’s proverb of the value of fashion to the Hollywood silver screen. Working with superstars like Jennifer Aniston, Octavia Spencer, Regina Hall and Sterling K. Brown allows Motley-Maddox to create art that influences millions of people.
“I truly enjoy being a part of the behind-the-scenes process. It is rewarding to have those unique, once-in-a-lifetime stories in my memory bank, and art that lives on for people to enjoy.”
After graduating from Auburn with a public relations degree, she held communications positions at CNN, FOX Sports and The Weather Channel. She was living her dream as a publicist, but she believed she had reached a glass ceiling—one that she wasn’t passionate about breaking through. Leaving her job, heels echoing among the Atlanta skyscrapers for the last time, she left to pursue another passion.
“2015 was a year of self-reflection, growth and the search to find a career that I would be fired up about and find purpose in. I interviewed for many publicity positions and never landed one, which was a hard dose of reality for me, but confirmation that it was time to move on.”
Ready to get back to work, a friend suggested that Motley-Maddox interview for a position to run Bloomingdale’s Studio Services in Atlanta, where she would manage a clientele that included costume designers, costume buyers and wardrobe stylists in the music, television and movie industries. She interviewed and was offered the position on the spot. After just a few weeks, she felt an intriguing spark each time a designer would come to the store to shop. After putting a sofa and coffee pot in the studio, she spent months listening and learning about how to shop for and buy costumes.
“I had never heard of a costume designer, but I always kept in mind that I had been praying for something new.”
Once she was comfortable with costume designers and fluent in the retail side of their business, Motley-Maddox asked a designer if she could shadow her on set. But she got more than that—she was asked to be the designer’s assistant for an album release party.
“I spent four days shooting R&B videos, an album cover and shopping for a press tour. It was the type of creative liberty I had been searching for.”
After that experience, she jumped into the industry working as the wardrobe assistant for “Office Christmas Party,” a holiday film starring Jennifer Aniston and Kate McKinnon. Since making the big leap into costume design, she has worked on many projects, including “STAR,” “Sistas,” “Young Dylan,” “Thunder Force” and “Rhythm & Flow.”She is now working as the costume supervisor for the upcoming holiday comedy “Miracles on 125th Street,” starring Nick Cannon, DC Young Fly and Lil’ Kim.
As the costume supervisor, she oversees the day-to-day logistics of the costumes department from prep to wrap. She breaks down scripts, opens retail accounts, hires team members and makes sure all work is done on schedule and on budget. She works with the costume designer to ensure that each look is prepared and ready for fittings and camera. During filming, she supervises the continuity of each character’s look—the cleaning, maintenance and any repairs or adjustments.
When filming is over, she supervises returns and the breakdown of the department. Her professional relationships with actors like Regina Hall and Brian Jordan Jr. have often led to other professional opportunities—Motley-Maddox has been called upon for personal shopping, on-set costuming and closet organizing.
Motley-Maddox still loves coffee and a great conversation with costume designers. Combining all her experiences with her complete and utter passion for costume design, fashion and storytelling, she manages a blog, Costumes & Coffee, that explores the stories of the costume designers behind the lens of some of culture’s most iconic looks.
Though set life calls for a more casual dress code, Motley-Maddox still believes that blazers mean business.
“A person’s wardrobe holds meaning that is more than its simple threads. It tells their story.”