Of the many celebrated costume designers in show business, Kermit Love marked one of the few to revolutionize the craft by not simply forging a connection between the costumes and respective psychologies of their characters, but by making the costumes an extension of the emotional undercurrents, mood, and mindset of each production. Over the course of his 70-plus-year career, Love enjoyed longstanding and prolific collaborative relationships with heavyweights, including Twyla Tharp, Cecil B. DeMille, George Balanchine, and -- on a particularly memorable note -- Jim Henson.
Born in 1916, Love began his occupational life in the 1930s, as a puppeteer for the Federal Works Progress Administration and as a costume designer for Orson Welles' Mercury Theater, then moved into Hollywood projects and teamed up with costume designer Barbara Karinska, with whom he devised the costumes for Agnes de Mille's ballet Rodeo. Love subsequently met and collaborated with Jerome Robbins, creating the apparel for the stage musical Fancy Free, and New York City Ballet maestro Balanchine, under whose aegis he designed the costumes for productions including Don Quixote, L'Enfant et les Sortilèges, Firebird Wings, and Adagio Lamentoso.
Love's relationship with Henson, however, was far and away one of the most productive and wrought some of his most widely seen creations. The two became acquainted through the Judson Theater, and shortly thereafter, Henson recruited Love to design some of the iconic Sesame Street characters in the late '60s, including Big Bird, Mr. Snuffleupagus, and Cookie Monster. It was Love's idea, in fact, to make Big Bird a full-body puppet, a concept reportedly inspired by his perception of the tall and loping Henson. He remained with the program for decades and also appeared on-camera from time to time as Willy the Hot Dog Vendor, reprising that role in the 1985 Sesame Street big-screen movie Sesame Street Presents: Follow That Bird. After a long illness, Love died of congestive heart failure in his home of Poughkeepsie, NY, in June 2008. He was 91.