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,



Unknown said...

I love the fashion in Buffy, it's incredible how relevant it still is today! Very impressive. Happy to hear you are pursuing something you are passionate about!