One of the most well-respected and prolific costume designers of the American stage, Patricia Zipprodt racked up 10 Tony Award nominations and three wins over a long and distinguished career. While there were the occasional forays into film and television (i.e., "The Graduate" 1967; the 1973 ABC adaptation of "The Glass Menagerie"), she was most at home crafting stage wardrobes that carefully reflected the characters, whether it be for grand opera, musical theater or a Broadway boulevard comedy.
Born and raised in Chicago, Zipprodt studied sociology at Wellesley and then embarked on a bohemian lifestyle in Manhattan in the early 1950s, studying painting at the Art Students League of New York. The story went that while attending the ballet one evening, she suddenly hit on the idea of creating the costumes as a means to, in her words, "paint with fabric". Apprenticeships with several of the top craftspersons of the day (e.g., Rouben ter-Arutunian, Irene Sharaff) followed before Zipprodt realized her dream. She also branched out to creating clothing for the stage, handling five shows in 1957 alone, including her Broadway debut, "The Potting Shed". Soon in demand, she created the Puritan garb for Arthur Miller's "The Crucible" (1958) as well as costumes for such acclaimed Off-Broadway shows as "The Balcony" (1960) and "The Blacks" (1961). Her work on the latter brought her to the attention of Jerome Robbins who hired Zipprodt for his directorial debut, 1962's "Oh Dad, Poor Dad, Mama's Hung You in the Closet and I'm Feeling So Sad" (1962). Within two years, she had picked up her first Tony Award for the turn-of-the-century Russian costumes she created for the long-running musical "Fiddler on the Roof" (1964).
Now firmly established as a designer of note, Zipprodt would go on to a distinguished career that spanned into the 90s, dividing her time between teaching (at various colleges and universities) and designing for opera, ballet, film and TV and the theater. In 1967, she earned her second Tony Award for the 20s costumes for the musical "Cabaret" and branched out into features with Mike Nichols' "The Graduate". Among the more notable musicals and plays she graced with her craftsmanship were "1776" (1969, as well as the 1972 film adaptation), "Pippin" (1972), the original 1975 production of "Chicago", "Sunday in the Park with George" (1984, with Ann Hould-Ward) and the 1986 revival of "Sweet Charity". Some of her most impressive work was found in the short-lived "Shogun: The Musical" (1991), for which she designed more than 300 individual costumes. Among her final credits were the 1993 revival of "My Fair Lady" and the 1995 Off-Broadway hit play "Picasso at the Lapin Agile".