Graduating in 1939 and classified 4-F by the local draft board, Travilla quickly found work at Western Costume Company which had recently created the costumes for both "The Wizard of Oz" and "Gone with the Wind," but Bill found himself sketch for Tom Mix serials and designing costumes for showgirls and dance acts appearing on-stage at Hollywood's Earl Carroll's Theater. Though Edith Head is credited as designer of 1940's "A Night at Earl Carroll's" some of Travilla's creations appeared in specialty and production numbers.
By it's release however, he had moved to Jack's of Hollywood, well-known for it's gaudy and sequined circus and ice-show costumes but also a supply house to the lesser studios such as Monogram and Republic. "Designers who could not draw well used to come in to rent a costume and I'd make a sketch of it. They'd ask me to alter the neckline or some other minor change and would sign their names to my sketches and show them to studio producers for approval. But it was good training for me as I could learn from my mistakes without having to take credit for them."*
Success with Sonja Henie
But credit was given, or at least shared when Olympic champion and Twentieth Century Fox film star Sonja Henie came in to view designs for her upcoming Hollywood Ice Revue tour. Henie's regular designer showed her his concepts and according to Travilla "Sonja hated them. I watched her vent her disapproval by treading all over, and even kicking them." * Jack asked her to look at another designer's ideas and since Bill had put Henie's face on the sketches "to flatter her"* she loved his work first sight, giving him his first professional credit in her shows program. Travilla's design was dressing Henie for her introduction number "The Legend of the Pearl" where she appeared from inside a giant oyster - decades before Bette Midler and her Broadway "Clams on the Half-Shell Revue." Quite the trendsetter Sonja.
Success with Sonja Henie
|Travilla's first profession credit 1940.|
1941 All American Co-ed
Bill's maternal grandfather died in early 1941, leaving him a small inheritance which Travilla used to open his own design house "The Costumer" to "meet the needs for quality designs by work with other studio contract designers." But the green backs didn't flow as the green monster reared it's ugly head. "There seemed to be a jealousy among all these so-called designers and they would see me as a last resort in case they were copied."*
1942 White Cargo
|From the Travilla Archives|
1942 Two Yanks In Trinadad
|1943 Program for The Waltz King for which Travilla designed the ballet costumes.|