written by Jane Gould
It never ceases to amaze me how we manage to create, buy, build, wash, and repair so many costumes during a performance. As costume designer, I work closely with the Production Team, and particularly the director, to create their vision for the production at hand. This semester, I worked with Dr. Ginny Davis on William Shakespeare’s Macbeth.
Ginny’s desire to create a contemporary version of the show was a fun and exciting venture. If you attended the performance, you may have seen hints of classic Scottish attire but the final presentation was closer to Gothic or MTV. The costumes included leather, metal studs, and skin tight plaid. There were really some fun twists. With a cast of 26, about half of which had multiple costumes, it was also a real challenge.
Over the term I had a team of 10 students, with varying levels of experience, who put in between three and seven hours a week. I love collaborating with them on design and guiding them through the construction process. It is very rewarding watching the students grow and the costume pieces come together.
That said, working in the costume shop is both fun and frustrating. We do have quite an inventory of existing costumes, fabric, trims and sewing items, sewing machines, sergers, and a industrial iron, but we also lack adequate storage and some basic equipment such as adjustable male and female mannequins, which would help us out tremendously. We do have female mannequins in sizes six and 12, but what about everyone else!
About two weeks out from opening night we held a costume parade. The parade gives the director a chance to see the costumes on the performers and make changes as necessary. Then, it was back to the shop to trim and alter.
Finally, opening night arrived. For each performance the Wardrobe Mistress and dressers get everything organized and help the cast in and out of costumes. Afterward, they do the laundry and have everything ready for the next show. Once the run of the show ended, costumes were either dry cleaned and stored for later use or disassembled and made ready for the next term, ready for the cycle to begin again.
Each show ends with a sense of loss, as the costumes are put away, and feeling of pride, knowing that the students have learned a great skill and that we were able to pull it off once again.
— Jane Gould has been working in the costume shop off and on since 2001. You can also find her downtown at the Durango Antique Market.