Catching up with Cynthia Bergstrom - costume designer for "Buffy"

Okay Buffy the Vampire Slayer fans! I've had the chance to catch up with the amazing costume designer for the show, Cynthia Bergstrom. Her resume not only includes Buffy, but the first "Scream" movie, plus TV shows Private Practice, Medium, CSI: Miami and Ringer.

Cynthia Bergstrom
Cynthia Bergstrom
I met Cynthia over 16 years ago and this woman is the single reason I have my handmade jewelry business, Peggy Li Creations. She took a chance on my jewelry designs and the rest, as they say, is history. It was super fun to chat with her and have a chance to reflect on that time in our lives. I am so grateful to learn even more about this amazing person and am thrilled to share her story with you.

Cynthia, thank you so much for taking the time to revisit the Buffy years with me! Are you surprised that after all these years, Buffy still has fans asking about the fashion on the show?
Yes and no.  I am not surprised that Buffy fans are still enjoying the show but yes, I am surprised that there are still questions about the costumes.  I still get letters, emails, Tweets, etc. with questions.  I love it.

What would you say was the iconic fashion moment for each of the characters on the show – Buffy, Willow, Xander, Spike?
Buffy and Willow
Buffy and Willow. I want that jacket.
For Xander, his iconic moment was the Halloween episode.  I think it was season 2.  Each of the characters fell into a spell that propelled them to believe they were indeed the personality/persona of their chosen costumes.  Xander was a Vietnam vet…I think Vietnam, definitely a combat soldier. This was the first time we were able to see him in clothing that was more masculine as was the personality portrayed.  It was fun & interesting to see silly, goofy Xander as a strong, driven man. Quite the transformation.  Spike’s iconic moment was when we saw who he was in the past, before he became a vampire.  That was great!  His original persona was a gentle loving bookish gentleman from the late or mid 1800’s.  We then see later how he grew into his Spike character and look as we flashed back to the ’70’s.  Fun stuff.  For Willow, it was always the cute fluffy sweaters.  People loved those sweaters.  Bunnies, Butterflies, etc.  Pink & Fuzz.  She was really easy to costume.  As I moved onto to other shows I was still seeing pieces that would work for Willow.  I had many of the same assistants from Buffy with me…we would see a piece and giggle about how that was a “Willow” outfit.  Buffy…her most iconic look was her fight clothes.  Years ago after I started putting her in her ‘fighty clothes’ I was approached by a major costume company that wanted to co-create a Buffy costume based on her ‘fighty’ outfits.  Dark leather jacket, skinny top, slim pants & boots.

Did the supernatural aspects of the show make it easier or harder to create costumes for the characters?
I loved the supernatural nature of the show and how it afforded me incredible freedom to get imaginative with costuming.  I missed that free flowing creativity over the years as I moved onto more reality based shows.

Buffy Halloween costume
Buffy (Sarah Michelle Gellar) in an original Cynthia Bergstrom design.
What did you enjoy more – creating a look from scratch or putting together a look that someone could go out and find for themselves (I will admit to buying more than one look I saw on the show – a blouse with squirrels that Dawn wore comes to mind)? 
Designing or building the costumes was my favorite and still is my favorite way of designing.  Going all out and creating a look from words on paper, the process of research, choosing the fabric, the notions, the stitching…it was incredibly gratifying from a creative standpoint.

How did you get your start in costume design?
My start as a costume designer was not the typical way to start out.  I was young, 24…I didn’t know any better.  I was working for a large contemporary clothing company as a sales rep.  I didn’t really enjoy it.  The moment I decided to leave a friend of mine who was a producer called asking if he could borrow some of my samples for a small film he was shooting.  When I told him I had just left the company he asked if I would like to come on board as his costume designer.  I leaped at the opportunity.  The script supervisor showed me how to break down a script, the accountant showed me how to do a budget and off I went.  I felt at home and on purpose.  I knew I found my calling.  I loved it for 27 years.

What advice would you give to someone interested in becoming a costume designer?  
My suggestion to anyone interested in becoming a costume designer would be to be flexible, have thick skin, lots of energy and save your money for any unforeseen slow times.  Be open to change and don’t take anything personally.  The industry can be super fun & exciting but it can also be really long hours and working with huge egos.  You have to be a bit of a therapist & a mother to many.  It’s important to stay centered and grounded.  It’s also important to take really good care of oneself the hours are usually really long.  70-80 hour weeks is the norm.  Be sure to always ask for what you want and what you need and not give yourself away.
Buffy, the Vampire Slayer cast photo
The Scooby Gang - Willow (Alyson Hannigan), Rupert Giles (Anthony Head), Buffy (Sarah Michelle Gellar), Dawn (Michelle Trachtenberg), Xander (Nicholas Brendon), Tara (Amber Benson), Spike (James Marsters), Anya (Emma Caulfield), Riley (Marc Blucas)
I know that you are a woman of multiple talents and passions. What are you working on these days?
Thank you.  Yes, I have left costume design.  I recently earned a master’s in spiritual psychology with an emphasis on consciousness, health & healing.  I’ve been working as a spiritual counselor/life coach.  I have counseled hundreds as well as working with the incarcerated men & women of Valley State Prison.  I’m all about prison reform.  Rehabilitation as opposed to punishment.  It’s incredibly rewarding work.  I’m also following one of my greatest passions…singing!  I always had an idea that I had a good singing voice but I wasn’t sure.  About 9 months ago I started taking vocal lessons, a friend heard me sing and asked me to perform a song for her daughter’s batmitvah…in front of 500 people!  Another one of those incredible opportunities dropped into my lap, it was amazing.  The feedback was so encouraging.  I’m off to Nashville next week to meet with different peeps in the music industry and to record.  It’s very exciting and very different to be the ‘talent’.  I took care of the talent for so long…my time to shine.  It’s so much fun.

Thanks again Cynthia for taking the time to chat with me! Be sure to follow her continuing journey on her website,


Buffy, the Vampire Slayer Jewelry Collection 2015

Ever since my jewelry on fan-favorite TV show Buffy, the Vampire Slayer hit the airwaves waaaay back in 1999, people have asked me for the designs used on the show. In fact, the pieces on the show were the reason I started my handmade jewelry business, Peggy Li Creations. The rest is history!

Although I've phased out those original designs over the years and my jewelry design style has changed, the interest in the Buffy pieces has not. So I thought it would be fun to bring back some of those original Buffy designs for a special Buffy Jewelry Revival Collection, just in time for the holidays!

Buffy the Vampire Slayer jewelry

Designs from Buffy the Vampire Slayer seasons 4-6 will be represented, pieces worn by Buffy herself (Sarah Michelle Gellar), Willow (Alyson Hannigan) and Tara (Amber Benson). Revisit some of the iconic pieces used on the show in my other blog post, What Jewelry was on Buffy, the Vampire Slayer?

Also please check out an exclusive interview with the costume designer for Buffy, the lovely and talented Cynthia Bergstrom. She was the costume designer for the "Scream" movie, "Private Practice" and so much more. She's stepped away from costume design and her new calling is even more amazing than her career in film and TV!

Enjoy the Buffy Revival Collection 2015! I've had a blast re-creating it for you, the fans of BTVS.


8 Easy Breezy (and pretty) Ways to Organize your Jewelry

Here at Peggy Li Creations handmade jewelry, I have trays and trays of jewelry in my workspace. But storing them for your own use and organization is a different challenge! It's inevitable for your jewelry to become a little disheveled at times, and while classic jewelry boxes do the trick, it's nice to explore other options for organization. Here are some unconventional (yet fabulously adorable) ways to organize your collection of accessories.

#1 Hit the hardware store

Cabinet hardware acts as a marvelous way to display and organize jewelry. Classic thin drawer pulls of various shapes and sizes easily hang earrings and complimentary knobs act as a pretty home for necklaces. Don’t be afraid to flip a handle upside down to store bracelets and rings…

#2 Channel your inner seamstress

We've all hopped on the sewing/knitting bandwagon at some point, so chances are you could have a thread rack lying around somewhere. This simple wooden storage solution makes for a natural place to display your favorite accessories. Pick up one on the cheap at your local big box store or upgrade to a "fancier"version that reflects your own personal style.

Image found on OneGood Thing By Jillee

#3 Visit consignment shops

Old picture frames are a common item donated to home décor consignment shops. Discard the glass and repurpose the wood insert by lining with satin. Now, lay the picture frame flat, gently place your necklaces, vintage brooches, and other accessories on the fabric. Voilà!

Image found on Sadto Happy Project

#4 Don't discount some "heavy" metal

Who knew the hardware store could be so helpful with organizing your jewelry? Decorativesheet metal is a lightweight element that can be easily framed (remember those consignment shop frames from #3?) and displayed for jewelry storage. The convenience of being able to customize the size by way of metal clippers gives way to a beautiful wall gallery of your favorite accessories.

Image found on Sortrature

#5 String up a chain

Earrings inevitably get lost in that pretty jewelry box, so why not simply hang up a delicate chain to display your chandelier earrings? If you are drawn to weekend DIY projects, creating a longcross knot parachod lanyard will be right up your alley…

Image found on Cleverly Inspired

#6 Hire an artisan

Oh my, ETSY! This wall mounted jewelry organizer features a bracelet bar, necklace holder, cute hooks, and a mesh sheeting for earring placement. A custom, made to order piece, you may choose from 19 different color stains to compliment your bedroom décor.

Image found on Etsy

#7 Go au naturale, kind of…

The odds are slim that you will find deer antlers lying about (unless you are an avid hiker) but you can purchase a gold fauxtaxidermy wall hanging to organize your favorite necklaces. A creative display without hurting little Bambi.

Image found on WhiteFaux Taxidermy

#8 Create your own display/boutique

If rings are your obsession, then searching for a unique way to display your finger bling goes way beyond the traditional velvet insert. Create your own display by stacking rings (and cuffs!) on these woodencandlestick-esque ring holders.

Image found on TheeLetter Q Handmade

How do you organize your accessories?


FAQ: How Did You Get Your Press?

Revised and reposted from 2009(!)

I've had Handmade Jewelry by Peggy Li Creations for over 14 years now and there are questions that I am often asked about my business. I'll try and cover one of those questions here on the blog!

By far the most popular question is, "How did you get your Peggy Li Creations press?" followed by "Did you do it yourself?" "How do I get celebrities to wear my jewelry?" and "How do I get my jewelry in magazines?" All of these questions are related. The general answer is, you do it by being persistent and doing your homework (emphasis on WORK)! And yes, I got all my press myself.

1. Do your homework. Target TV and press that fits with your design style. When you focus your efforts you will get better results than trying to chase everything and everyone down. Folks at magazines and on TV shows are busy and inundated with requests. They will only look at things that will work for them - be sure you're a good fit with their style and vibe. This means reading the magazines and watching the shows you're targeting. You can get most magazines at the library - I used to sit for hours at the local bookstore magazine rack and took notes! All these folks have social media accounts now, too -- just use a little Google sleuthing to find them and get to know them.
2. Create a professional-looking press kit. Approach this as you would applying for a job. You create a cover letter, addressed to a *person* (find this person on the masthead of the magazine or the credits of a TV show). Generally you want the Accessories Editor or the Costume Designer. Add a few pics of your jewelry, a bio page and your contact information and those are the basics! I don't recommend sending samples unless they are requested.
3. Tell a story. Do this by sharing a little bit about yourself on your bio page. What is your design inspiration? Give them a quick one or two lines about your design philosophy eg "I make everything from recycled materials and my goal is to help the environment".
4. Be timely. Remember that TV shows and magazines are working about 3 months in advance of airing or print. Newspapers (don't forget local publications!) have a shorter lead time. Don't send a pitch talking about holiday gift guides in November! They have set their issues months before.
5. Be patient. Jewelry is very competitive. Take the time to evolve your business image and learn to edit your descriptions (and your designs!). Learn about the industry and discover your niche. Don't worry if you aren't in the black yet -- it takes time to grow a healthy business. Keep your goals realistic while still having the "stretch" goals of world domination ;-).
6. Be professional. Respond in a timely manner, keep the casual chatter to a minimum, and remember -- relationships are everything. We are human and sometimes we don't respond to an email or there is an online miscommunication, but it is a small world out there. If you tell a magazine you will send samples by Thursday, they better get there Thursday! It's not personal; it's business.
7. Don't forget online press. Online press is great exposure not only because it is often "free", but because links and online mentions will benefit the SEO for your website! Look for product review sites, shopping blogs, etc.
8. Generate your own press. Don't forget to send timely sales news to your email list, Facebook Fan page, and Twitter followers! Write about your business on your blog. Taking advantage of social media will only benefit you.

There are other great resources out there on this topic:

Get Media Happy
Subscription service that has media requests and tips on DIY PR.

Tin Shingle: 
PR tips, training and resources.

Jewelry Business Tips from Nina Designs
Nina has been a mentor to me and her business has endured because she's an awesome entrepreneur.

You can also check out my FAQ on Press Kits Part I and FAQ on Press Kits Part II.