Jef Billings

Mohawk Valley connection:
New Hartford native

Claim to fame:
Acclaimed costume designer

Did you know?
Jef designed the gold medal skating costume worn by Sarah Hughes.

“The wonderful thing about him is he doesn’t change. He’s as comfortable as an old shoe.”
-- Players President Jane Metzger

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Jef Billings designed this costume worn by Michelle Kwan during the 1998-99 season. (Photo from the Michelle Kwan Site)

N. Hartford native designed gold-medal skating costume

Last week was a busy one for designer Jef Billings.

If the New Hartford native wasn’t giving Katie Couric an interview on “The Today Show,” then he was prepping costumes for Olympic figure skating champions.

Billings, a freelance designer who now lives in Los Angeles, designed the baby blue, beaded costume worn by 2002 figure skating gold medalist Sarah Hughes and other ensembles for past Olympic figure skating champions.

“It’s been the most photographed costume I’ve ever done so far,” he said.

Billings also designed the costumes worn by Scott Hamilton, Kristi Yamaguchi and Katarina Witt, who all participated in opening or closing ceremonies at the Winter Games in Salt Lake City.

He was in the ice arena when Hughes won the gold and was as shocked as everyone else by her performance. Earlier that day Katie Couric interviewed him on “The Today Show.”

“All in all, that Thursday was a pretty good day for me,” he said.

Billings was called at the last minute to design Hughes’ costume. He only had 10 days to work on it and flew to Silver Springs, Colo., where she practiced, for fittings.

His mother, Eleanor Billings who still lives in New Hartford, said she is proud of her son’s accomplishments.

In 1999, Jef Billings won an Emmy award for costumes he designed for a Scott Hamilton Christmas show. Billings has had three other Emmy nominations.

As a child growing up in the Mohawk Valley, he was involved with the Players Theater with acting and set design. He taught English at New Hartford High School and headed the theater department there, Eleanor Billings said.

Billings received a bachelor’s degree in design from SUNY at Oswego and a master’s degree in design from New York University’s School of the Arts.

In the 1980s, he designed costumes for Lily Tomlin, Peggy Fleming, Carol Burnett and Dolly Parton.

Players President Jane Metzger said she remembers Billings as an active, creative and talented 10-year-old boy who participated in children’s theater.

“He was such a little itch,” she said. “I have such fond memories of him.”

Metzger can remember Billings making puppets as a child that looked like a professional had crafted them and later on creating artistic sets for Players’ productions.

She hasn’t seen him in several years, but they manage to keep in touch.

“It’s wonderful to see his hard work pay off,” she said.

“The wonderful thing about him is he doesn’t change. He’s as comfortable as an old shoe,” she said.

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