I am very saddened to report that Deborah K. Jones, respected and admired by all in the costuming community for her exquisitely crafted and thoughtfully choreographed masquerade presentations, passed away peacefully on July 8, 2023, following a three year bout with glioblastoma. Debby had struggled with a number of medical issues over several decades, but always with a positive attitude and quiet fortitude, and never lost her sense of curiosity and creative drive. She is survived by her husband Terry and their two children, Rhiannon and Bryan.
I met Debby (who later also became known as “Deb” to friends) in Honolulu in 1974. Both of us were graduate students at the University of Hawaii, brought together by our associations with the Astronomy department (Debby’s hustand and my housemate). We formed a tight and lively social circle, sharing our passions ranging from music and art to books and movies, from hiking, camping and beach jaunts to festive holiday feasts. Debby’s artistic imagination and talents in design ignited my own interest in costuming, and we tackled our first collaboration, hooded robes in individually chosen color schemes, which we entered into a costume masquerade at Mythcon 7 in 1976 as sisters of the Bene Gesserit.
After Hawaii, our lives took us in separate directions, geographically, but we managed to keep our costuming dreams alive through correspondence and occasional meetings. While living in Canberra, Australia, where her husband Terry had a post-doc position, Debby explored the blossoming fabric arts movement in that country, learning new techniques in fabric manipulation and dyes and innovative use of materials.
I visited one Christmas and we spent several days in the back yard experimenting with batik on a bolt of silk we bought in Sydney, which eventually became our first Costume Con masquerade entry, “Airs of Sea and Fire.” Apart, we would continue to collaborate through letters (often laced with sketches, fabric scraps, photos torn from magazines, and cassette mix tapes with music cues), riffing off each other’s nebulous visions until we met up at a convention, eager to be surprised by the final pieces we had created. A scribbled note in Debby’s hand on one of these ancient documents asserted “Costume as collage!,” and that’s a good summary of her creative process: mashing up historical and ethnic designs, experimenting with different embellishment techniques, adding music, literary, and pop culture nods. Debby’s work continually took her to new heights; one of her later projects was creating digital costume using fractals.
I recall how excited Debby was to discover CostumeAPA and to learn that there was a convention solely for costuming (!!). We attended Costume Con 3, in Columbia, Maryland, in 1985, thrilled and terrified by the creativity and construction skills surrounding us at every turn. But these were, in fact, our people, and the beginning of many friendships and satisfying creative experiences to come.
Debby’s superior talents and her dedication to exploring her craft far surpassed my own, as she went on to have many award-winning presentations — some solo, some with her daughter Rhiannon and son Bryan (costuming was a Jones family affair, as Terry often contributed with his woodworking and other technical expertise). Debby frequently contributed to the Future Fashion Folio at Costume Con, served as masquerade director and judge, and was recognized with a retrospective exhibit in 2005 at CC23. Her “Best in Show” wins include competitions at Costume Con (“Broken Wings” CC5, “Alliance” CC7, “Alice’s Restaurant” CC8, “There and Back Again” CC25), as well as Worldcon (“Dread Warrior” Noreascon 3 1988, “Our Lady of Shadows and Dreams” ConAdian 1994) and smaller local cons over many decades.
Whenever Debby was participating at a convention, attendees knew that they would be seeing something original, something surprising, something whimsical, something awesome. Her contributions to the costuming community cannot be measured, and she will be greatly missed.