If you saw the tall man with the gecko-sequined blazer and stylish 70s wig dancing on the Casino’s small stage at Saturday night’s Gecko Ball, you witnessed one of Gulfport’s most ambitious costumers for the annual event:
You’ve seen his costumes every year, and they’re always phenomenal affairs. The only reason, perhaps, he doesn’t win the GeckoBall costume contest is because he can’t: Jon Ziegler helps plan GeckoBall every year.
This year you saw him on the dance floor of the Casino, sporting a 70s-esque sport coat with sequins – including a spangly gecko across the back. To complete the outfit, a disco ball drinking cup. In years past, he built costumes for the Mad Hatter and White Rabbit.
Many of the Gecko Ballers may not realize this, but Jon often designs other costumes for the Ball. This year, he designed his partner Richard’s costume.
Textiles have an art all their own – consider the gecko created by local textile artist Mary Joyner – but many people may not realize the talent and craft that goes into a costume. Jon hails from Central Illinois, where he costumed local theatre companies.
He learned his craft from his maternal grandparents: his grandfather was apprenticed to a tailor. To learn to sew on a machine he had to make a quilt of men’s suits. His grandfather ultimately opened a dry cleaning business, and his grandmother did the alterations. In 1971, she started her clothing lessons with the little things: sewing on buttons and ironing shirts.
When Jon entered junior high, the classes became co-ed, and all the boys attended home economics classes while the girls went to shop class. For his project, he made himself a cape.
“Not goth,” he laughs “but we’re talking The Cure.”
In that class, he also made a pullover.
“I even embroidered it,” he says. “It would have been perfect for the Ball.”
Although two jobs keep him busy, Jon says he would love to start working with costumes again but simply doesn’t have the time to volunteer with local theatre companies. His portfolio – and his appearances at GeckoBalls – displays an impressive portfolio that proves costuming everything from the entire cast of Gypsy to a few gecko-minded Gulfportians is indeed an art.