by Abram Yarbro, dramaturg
The costume designer’s first step when contracted for a show is analysis of the script. They look for time period, setting, social class, theme and more for inspiration. They collaborate with the director and other designers in the hope of achieving continuity throughout all the design elements.
Next comes research. Our designer, Marissa Pack, needed to know how women, men, vicars, bishops, maids, soldiers, and convicts dress in 1940s England. She researched colors, patterns, material, weight, and cut before sitting down to design.
In one of our first Production Meetings, our set designer pulled a YouTube video of a bird feeding frenzy that exemplified the “whirlwind farce” concept our director has envisioned. Much like our characters onstage, the birds in the video fly in and out of the shot, they jump and fight over the feeder, and the mayhem is a little comical to watch. The bird idea stuck and many of the designers worked bird into their design concepts. Do you notice any birds in the design of our costumes?
These renderings were presented with fabric swatches to our director for approval before given to the costume shop to be constructed. Some of the costumes can be pulled, meaning they are created from other clothing found in the costume shop’s storage. Penelope’s Kimono for Act I was pulled from storage, allowing more time and money to be spent on other costumes.
Miss Skillon’s costume was eventually redesigned. Instead of the blue dress, the director wanted her in a more conservative, textured ensemble. Marissa found a tweed coat and skirt in the shop to give her a serious, older tone.
Of course many of the costumes, like Ida’s evening dress, will be built from the ground up by our incredible costume shop staff. Often costumes are first built with white fabric. This is called draping and allows the costumers the freedom of trail and error without using the expensive fabric.
The actors won’t be wearing the costumes until later in the rehearsal process but have frequent fittings to ensure the right fit. Our costumers are on-track for having our cast dressed up for opening night!