labricoleuse: (CAD)
Recently, i interviewed Eric Abele, the Director of Design and Production at the Lexington Children's Theatre, about an inspired digital printing process that their costume shop pursued for a new play, The Paper Bag Princess.

The play calls for a dress made out of paper bags, for which they had fabric printed at Spoonflower to mimic the look of grocery bags. What i found most fascinating about the process was that they didn't make up a fake grocery store logo for their paper bag dress--instead, they reached out to the grocery chain, Whole Foods, to become a corporate sponsor.

Here's our conversation on how that process worked out well for all involved.
Read more... )
labricoleuse: (vintage hair)
This quick entry concerns the process of making an elaborate lace dress for the character of Sally Bowles. Costume designer Jen Caprio has worked with draper and second-year grad student Leah Pelz (under the guidance of Costume Director Judy Adamson of course) on exactly how this garment is to be made, and these three images illustrate the path so far from page to stage.

Read more... )
labricoleuse: (CAD)
I went ahead and splurged on the myPANTONE app, which seemed almost too good to be true: the entire Pantone color library accessible on my iPad, anywhere, any time? Think of what a fantastic resource that would be as a dyer!

But myPANTONE at $9.99 is fairly expensive for an least it seems that way until you start looking at the pricetags on the analog versions of Pantone colorguides, and you realize that a single basic Formula Guide printed on cardstock is going to run you upwards of $125, nevermind the combined cost of all the different libraries included in the app. Suddenly that ten-dollar price starts looking like a mega-deal. So i bought it.

I can't tell you how many shows i've worked on at theatres that didn't have a Pantone book for picking dye colors out of, where a designer had to find a scrap of fabric from a remnant pile ("Like this but more punchy!" Uh, what?), or an assistant had to run to the nearest hardware store for paint chips. Imagine though if a designer could whip out her iPhone and pick a Pantone swatch right then, and later a dyer could pull out his iPad and refer to it while processing the job? You see where i'm going in terms of this being a potentially excellent tool for the theatre, where maybe a shop manager just can't justify a $150 expenditure for the Pantone formula guide, but a $10 app could be the answer to everyone's frustrations about dye-swatching.

Not an iPhone user? The Android version is $2 cheaper at $7.99.

There are also a couple of related Pantone apps that look fairly useless for the purposes of a dyer/costumer--myPANTONE Wedding ($5, only 200 colors and geared toward product sales of wedding attire/accessories) and myPANTONE X-Ref ($2, converts Pantone color numbers across system libraries, but isn't searchable/browsable across the spectrum for any of them).

So, from the perspective of a costumer, what can i tell you about myPANTONE? Overall, i find it pretty exciting.

You can fan through a deck of color swatches easily and swiftly, then maximize visibility on a specific 5-value color card or individual color chip (each of which is labeled with the Pantone number).

You can search on a swatch number and call up that chip easily. If an out-of-town designer with the app were to email me and say "Hey, dye those t-shirts Pantone 339C," i could search on the number and immediately see the swatch for the color s/he wanted the shirts dyed.

You can even take a picture of something and pick out a swatch from the image. To test this, i took a photograph of one of the costumes on the rack at work, a set of blue medical scrubs, then touched the sleeve of the shirt in the photo, and the app popped up a Pantone swatch matched to that scrub color!

There is, however, a pretty big caveat, and that is that the colors that show up on your mobile device screen DO NOT exactly match the colors of the printed Pantone colorbooks. I haven't tested it across platforms so i don't know if the colors on my iPad exactly match the ones on the Android version of the app, or the iPhone version. I have to wait i guess until someone else i know buys it to see.

The colors *are* close enough that you could probably run with a dye request from the app in most cases, since a textile's weave structure has just as much influence over how a color appears to the eye as a difference in handheld displays. Think about how different the same exact color of dress looks if the dress is acetate velvet, or silk satin, or cotton broadcloth. So while this caveat is an issue, i don't think it is nearly the same significant problem for dyers and costume designers in theatre as it is for, say, graphic designers.

In short, i'm glad i bought the app, and I'm hoping it becomes something that's fairly standard in theatrical production, in terms of a resource that designers and dyers can have easily and inexpensively for color communication.

Do you have myPANTONE? What do you think of it?
labricoleuse: (CAD)
How many of you are on Pinterest?

If you are a visual person, you sure can fall down a rabbit hole on there and before you know it, hours have passed! However, beyond the idle amusement of surfing through, say, hundreds of pix of cool Airstream campers or delicious-l;ooking birthday cakes, Pinterest is fast becoming an invaluable tool for the kinds of visual communication and image organization that we engage in a lot in the theatre.

For example, I'm designing our holiday show this coming season at PlayMakers, It's a Wonderful Life - The Radio Play. Our creative team on this project, as is often the case in professional regional theatre, is geographically far-flung--our director and lighting designer are based in NYC, while our set designer, sound designer, and myself are all local artists. We vitally need to be able not just to communicate with words--emails, phone calls, skype, etc--but with imagery, and Pinterest is one way I've found effective to do that.

I began with two boards: a General Research Board and a Color Palette Board. Everything i found that might remotely be relevant, i pinned to general research. The play takes place on Christmas Eve, 1946, so I pinned everything from magazine covers from that winter, random people's Christmas snapshots, stills from the Frank Capra film, holiday cards and swag of the period, fashion photography, you name it. And, when I began thinking about color, I sorted color-specific references into that board--what popular colors were for that holiday season, color-printed lobby cards for Christmas movies made in the late 1940s, color catalogue pages and fabric swatch books and so forth. In this way, our team members could load those boards from anywhere in the world and see right up to the minute what images I'd been considering as design inspiration.

After our initial meeting among the entire creative team, I then began to set up new boards for each specific character, like this board for Lana Sherwood, a Hollywood bombshell who voices "Violet Bick" in the radio-play-within-a-play.

I also created boards with relevant information for the costume shop, like Hair and Makeup Research, Print and Texture Research, and everyone's favorite, Underpinning Research. It's fantastic how easy this makes communicating about the show with the dozens of people who need access to image collections like these at any given moment.

I'm using Pinterest to augment my classes as well. This semester I'm teaching graduate level millinery, as well as leading an independent study in advanced millinery for a particularly skilled student. I've made a Millinery board onto which i can pin any number of fantastic hats and headdresses for students' possible project inspiration.

What sorts of methods do you use for visual communication online?
labricoleuse: (Default)
A few posts ago, I made an update about the show opening tonight for which i have designed costumes, a world premiere of a new script by playwright and director Mike Wiley. The play, The Parchman Hour, takes place partly in Mississippi's notorious Parchman Farm prison.

My prior post talked about how I came up with the costume design for the inmate characters doing hard time, whom we know from copious research images wore ragged, faded, black-and-white striped convict uniforms:

Read more... )
labricoleuse: (CAD)
I'm currently designing costumes for a very exciting project, the professional world premiere of The Parchman Hour, a new play written and directed by Mike Wiley.

The play chronicles the stories and songs of the Freedom Riders, a group composed mostly of college students who, during the summer of 1961, challenged segregation in the southern US by riding Greyhound and Trailways buses into the Deep South and refusing to observe segregated waiting rooms, restrooms, terminal lunch counter seating, and bus seating.

They met with violent resistance--one bus was firebombed and several of the Riders were beaten so badly they had to be hospitalized. They were not deterred, however, and more busloads of them kept coming--eventually over 300 people in all. Ultimately the state of Mississippi began incarcerating them in the notorious Parchman Farm Penitentiary, where they endured cruel abuse but kept their spirits up with songs and a nightly "vaudeville show," in which they would trade off reciting poetry, delivering speeches and sermons, telling jokes, calling out their contributions to everyone down the row on their cellblock.

In our production, there are several performers (one actor and four musicians) who are costumed as long-term Parchman inmates--men who are not part of the Freedom Riders group, but who instead are part of the Parchman gen-pop, hardened criminals and chain-gang workers who toil in Parchman's fields day in and day out. The uniforms worn by those prisoner characters are the subject of this post.

In researching what the uniforms looked like, I was specifically looking for photographs of prisoners making music, since the majority of our performers costumed in this way will be prominently featured onstage providing the music for the show.Read more... )

ETA: If you also need yardage of pre-aged prison striped fabric, you can buy this design from Spoonflower at this link right here!
labricoleuse: (design)
I've said it before and i'll say it again. One of the things i really love about the teaching component of a Teaching Artist job is, the cycle of my classes forces me to revisit specific topics on a regular basis, remind myself what i know about them and do more research into both historical methods and new technologies. It's not that i didn't love my previous jobs of being a non-teaching artist, but in those jobs my opportunities for doing research and development were attached to the requirements of the theatres and designers for which i worked.

The class i teach this semester is called Decorative Arts, which is to say that it encompasses all the crafts artisanship topics which aren't covered by Millinery/Wigs, Dyeing/Surface Design, or Masks/Armor. So, for example, right now my students are well into the first project, gloves. I'll have images of their work to share next week when they present, but i'm a step ahead and am focusing on the next project.

In previous years, i've taught a jewelry unit. It focused on jewelry production and rigging for stage and we covered topics like soldering, types of frequently-used stageworthy hardware like split rings or magnetic clasps, and media like polymer clay and silicone molds/resin casting. I've never really been satisfied with the fairly narrow scope of that project/unit though, and this year i've decided to switch it out for a new project focus, which i'm calling Small Hand Props for the Crafts Artisan.

Since Decorative Arts is the class in which we address parasol production (which IME often falls to the craftsperson because the parasols usually match the dresses and are designed by the costume designer rather than the scenic designer), I thought, why not do a unit on the OTHER things that are technically props, but which costume production artists are often asked to create for similar reasons? Namely, reticules and other period purses, chatelaines and other functional-but-worn jewelry items, and fans.

Fans! What fun! As someone who carries a fan in her purse all summer, you could say i'm a fan. Hur.

Anyhow, I've made quite a few fans to match gowns, and even written a blog post on the topic with a ton of useful links. Today's post is similar, but involves the services of the excellent digital fabric printer Spoonflower.

When thinking about this project and what sorts of options my students might wish to consider, i figured, clearly you can take a fabulous fine fabric and make a fan with it, but the more i researched period fan designs and read about historical fan production and the incredible popularity of fan painting as an art, the more i thought, I have to do a sample fan to show them which incorporates that element.

I found all kinds of wonderful images of elaborate fan leaf designs (even some by famous artists like Gaugin and Degas), but i decided upon an image from 1885, painted by Jean Beraud, depicting a crowded city street cluttered with bowler-hatted men sheltering bustle-dressed ladies with large umbrellas from a rain-goddess storming upon them. I found a great image of it in The Fan: Fashion and Femininity Unfolded by Valerie Steele, which is a wonderful resource book for such things.

I scanned the Beraud fan painting at a high resolution and then fiddled with it in Photoshop until i got it to be the proper size and scale for the fan frame. The original is very painterly and precious in its brush-strokes, so i tossed a couple of filters on it as well to sharpen some lines and contrast and "age" the image a bit to make it look better from a distance when mounted on a fan frame. Then I uploaded it to Spoonflower and ordered it centered on a fat quarter of silk crepe de chine. Five days later, I had my beautifully-printed silk Beraud fan leaf! Thanks, Spoonflower!

But, rewind. Another thing i wanted to address in my sample project was the sturdiness and operation of the fan monture (that's the proper term for the frame structure of a fan).

When you're making a decorative fan, or even a delicate fan for a "regular person," the action of the mechanism is not always the primary concern. If a fan is going to hang on a wall, or if someone wants to carry it around at their wedding, it may be the case that the look of the monture is more important than that it withstand violent snaps open and shut.

Actors are a whole different ballgame. If you give an actress a fan, it will become an essential part of her creation of character--she will open it violently to get someone's attention, snap it shut in frustration, even smack someone with the closed fan. I've worked on two productions of The Mikado where fan choreography was employed for an entire chorus, two dozen actors snapping and popping and cracking their fans open and shut on cue over and over and over. You HAVE to work with a monture that can go the distance.

In my experience, the best fans to cannibalize montures from for "ornate looking" designs for stage purposes are these inexpensive plastic-stave fans which you can usually find for around $5 apiece. The sticks are resilient and the hinges are strong enough not to drop apart with dramatic use, but not so stiff you can't firmly snap them open and shut with the flick of a wrist. The leaves (a "leaf" is the term for the fabric portion of the fan) are typically easily peeled free from the frame intact and can be used as a pattern for your replacement fabric. They come in a range of colors and while the gold detailing looks cheesy up close, it actually looks great onstage. If you plan to use the fan in a close-range situation (strolling performers or a house where the audience is very close to the action), you can tone down the metallic ornamentation with a rub-off treatment using some FEV or enamel paint for plastic.

The rest of this is best illustrated in a series of photographs. Read more... )
labricoleuse: (ass head mask)
I do have several excellent how-to project posts in the works, but I'll have to finish the projects themselves before i can share them, so in the interim, I'm pleased to share a new interview!

Today's participant is Eric Abele, a guy who wears (and makes!) a whole lot of hats at the Lexington Children's Theatre of Kentucky. LCT is a professional company serving young audiences, founded in 1938; Eric is their Costume Director, a resident designer, costume shop manager, and builds quite a lot of their puppets! I've never actually met Eric in "real life," despite having a whole host of friends and colleagues in common, and sharing an alma mater (UT-Knoxville). Someday, we'll remedy that! But, thanks to the internet, we "know" each other and he graciously agreed to this interview.

Q. For a bit of background, would you describe the shop at the Lexington Children's Theatre--how many employees, what different positions there entail, etc?

A. I like to describe my shop as “The Little Shop that CAN” to anyone who asks. We don’t have the traditional roles that many professional shops have; we try and keep it pretty fluid. In addition to me as Resident Designer/Costume Director I have an Assistant Costumer, who takes on many leadership roles for me and with me. Rounding out the team, I have two full-time Resident Professional Interns, over-hire stitchers and guest designers. Together, we take care of all the costume aspects for a busy eleven-show professional season of plays. It’s a non-stop whirlwind of FUN! Seriously. I love this place so much. Usually I assign projects on each show, and later (for their resumes) we try and assign a title. If we’ve done our job right, then many of us can “claim” the same project, because we’ve all had a hand in it along the way.

Q. What are your responsibilities as Costume Director? Read more... )
labricoleuse: (Default)
First up, i want to quickly mention that today, August 18th, beginning at noon EST, is Spoonflower's Free Swatch Day! You can get one free 8" swatch in any of their fabrics for the following 24 hours, so it's a perfect time to test a print you like or check out a fabric you want to feel the hand of in a larger piece than their small swatch booklet.

If you're a graphic or textile designer, it can be fun to keep an eye on their weekly design contests, as well. You can win $100 in free fabric, plus commissions from your own sales.

Consider this foreshadowing, too, for a forthcoming post during the first half of this theatre season about how we're using Spoonflower to create a costume effect for one of our shows...

Today is the last day to vote in the Stephen Jones millinery contest on Talenthouse. As this contest closes, i noticed a couple more coming up that might be of interest to the La Bricoleuse readership, and which exemplify why it may be professionally sound to maintain a presence on Talenthouse.

There's currently two months' lead time to work on a submission for a textile print design for Issa London. Wouldn't it be a kick to see your design as part of their collection?

And, in a completely different realm (literally), there's just under a month to work up an armor design for a character in the video game Deep Realms by Playdom! How timely, since i'm teaching Masks and Armor in the spring...

Thanks for your support of millinery in general this week, as the Jones contest has been running. It's been a great week for hats!
labricoleuse: (design)
My grand plans for writing about the conference while at the conference really went the way of the dodo, given how much truly fabulous stuff there was this year in the programming schedule, and how many old friends, colleagues, and former students i met up with.

So, perhaps this coming week or so i can play catch-up and do a series of posts on the conference. I have dozens of photos, piles of literature, links to resources in abundance, and a wealth of notes on panels and sessions, many of which were just stellar. (For example, at some point i'll be covering Disney's panel on their digitally-printed fabric division, and two brilliant presentations by renowned puppetmaster and mask artisan Bob Croghan! Too cool!)

Let's start though with the visual and the pretty: floor exhibits! Last year, you may recall (or wish to now peruse) the photopost i shared of these elements of the Stage Expo, in which temporary exhibitions of collections of work are set up for the duration of the conference.

Read more... )
labricoleuse: (design)
There's a week left of the run on Shipwrecked, the show i designed for the mainstage at work, and i've got tickets with a college pal to see it one last time tonight. I have to say, it's rare to design a show, sit through its rehearsal runs, its tech and dress rehearsals and previews, it's opening...and still want to see it again. Extraordinary. And honestly, a part of me wants to go to the closing matinee, too, i just love it that much.

But, this post wasn't supposed to be about me faffing around about a specific show or a specific design--i want to talk about traditions and expectations and etiquette for costume designers, which are not specifically cited in any textbook. I'm talking from a perspective of designers who are working with a resident shop at a commercial, regional, or academic theatre company/dept. Obviously this won't be applicable in situations where a designer is doing a "one man band" type of deal, and is doing the draping, stitching, etc. all by her/himself as well.

I'll start by listing a few customs that come to my mind, but i'd love it if some of y'all would jump into the comments if you think of any others!

So first up: shop treats. You aren't going to get fired if you don't bring these in, but it's customary to do so at least once or twice in the course of a production's construction calendar. Since i'm a production artisan 95% of the time, i'm usually on the treat-eating end of this. It's most common for the designer to bring in pastries or sweets, in the shops i've worked in at least, but i'm always grateful when a healthier option is provided as well--a fruit basket or a veggie tray or some trail mix. The shop treat custom shows the workers that you appreciate the long hours and hard work they are putting in to bring your designs to reality--inevitably some drapers and stitchers and assistants will wind up skipping a lunch to make a fitting deadline or staying late through dinner, and the gesture of the shop treat acknowledges that to the staff. I've heard people say they were too broke to do this, but really, if you are a working designer who itemizes, it's a $20-30 expenditure you can write off, that cultivates SO much goodwill, it's worth it (IMO).

Second: inquire about the shop's sensitivity to superstitions and respect them. Some people (me included) don't put any credence in theatre superstitions beyond finding them interesting novelties, but those who do can be extremely sensitive and serious about them. You can do some beautiful designs and be an otherwise wonderful, personable designer, but if you roll into a shop whistling with an armload of peacock feathers, throw a hat onto an Equity cot and start yammering about Macbeth, you will make some enemies without even knowing it.

Third: opening night gifts. Some people don't give these at all. Some only give them to the other members of the creative team, or the shop leadership. You decide who you want to give them to. The cast, too? Just the team leaders or all the production staff? Etc. It might be individual cards of thanks, or tiny boxes of chocolates or some other little token. Some designers bring in a shared gift for the whole shop (like a shop treat--a fruitbasket or cake or something). Again, it's not something that will keep you from getting work in the future, if you don't give out opening night gifts, but it certainly fosters a lot of goodwill.

For this last show, i gave personally inscribed cards to the cast, the director, stage management, the props folks with whom the shop collaborated on crossover pieces, and every person in the costume shop. The props crew, stitchers, and wardrobe crew also got tiny 2-pc boxes of chocolate, and the shop management, draper, first hands, and craftspeople all got the chocolate boxes plus vintage handkerchiefs. I recognize that my designs wouldn't have come to successful fruition without all of those people--not just the artisans who made them, but also the actors who performed in them and the direction/stage management that put the show together as a whole. Saying thank you is all you are really expected to do, but I believe in acknowledging it more formally.

I think this goes on a show-by-show basis--the show i designed before this one had a cast of two and nearly no shop support, so my opening night gifts went only to the creative team and the two actors, and the manager who assisted me. I've had designers whose gift was to buy a case of wine or keg of beer for the company's opening night afterparty, some who made little inkjet-printed thank-you notecards with a stage shot or research image on them, and one who gave everyone in the shop a signed copy of a costume design rendering for the costume they draped/stitched/etc. After Nicholas Nickleby, our designer gave the shop certificates for massages, which i think most everybody needed pretty bad at that point! There's no rules, and it can be really fun to put these things together, in a Zen sort of way, a time to reflect on the ups and downs and ultimate successes of collaborative art.

That third one is something i'd guesstimate that around a third to half of the designers i've worked for have done--opening night gifts or cards to the shop. I mention it because it's always something that cultivates joyful sentiment, particularly if the show has had some big challenges we've had to surmount, and it always goes a long way toward making a shop see a designer in a positive light and welcome working with them again. And again, it's something you can write off your taxes just like a business lunch or gas for a fabric-shopping trip.

I think there's some other stuff i could mention here--taking the time to learn the names of the staff, talking to everyone in a fitting (i.e., not treating the actor like a human dress form, acknowledging the draper as a collaborant instead of a servant, etc.)--but i'm running out of time. Got to get to work and begin setting up for the Costume Shop Holiday Party this afternoon! Please do comment if you have other examples of unwritten traditions, or thoughts on/experiences with these i've mentioned!
labricoleuse: (shoes!)
Budget: it's the topic nobody likes to talk about in the realm of costume design.

When i was studying costume design in undergraduate and graduate classes, we learned a whole heckuva lot about color theory, fabric typology, rendering techniques, script analysis, costume plot creation, period research, garment construction, and surface design. Not once, ever, did we formally learn anything about how to track a budget, how to effectively direct spending in context of the show and the theatre, or how to view an overall design concept with respect to investment vs expenditure. For those of you among my readership who teach in or come from design programs, i'd love to hear whether my experience is the norm or the exception: what sort of guidance and education (if any) on budget does/did your coursework provide?

So, as i've been pushing the design of Shipwrecked! from concept to reality, i've been thinking a lot about the practicalities of budget and spending, and realized, hey, this might be a good topic for the blog.

These are some thoughts on guidelines, not hard-and-fast rules, and obviously can't always be implemented for every design in every theatre for every budget. I'm just riffing.

Any set of design renderings for a shop that has construction capabilities hits its first budgetary investment hurdle when you sit down with the costume director and decide, what can we make? Anything made-to-order is a garment that the company will retain after the show in their costume collection, will likely be a unique garment or set of garments, and is something for which you will be spending money on fabrics and trim for its creation. Those pieces are straightforward: you're going to get a custom-made singular garment for your show according to your design specs, the actor's going to get something created to fit them exactly, and the theatre's going to get a new costume for their stock. Great!

Often, the final decision as to the number of built pieces created by the on-site shop is made by folks other than the costume designer. You might have certain things in your design which you cannot purchase because of their unique nature or historical period, but the shop you are working for will also have only so many drapers and tailors and stitchers--there's a lot of conversation and compromise when it comes to dovetailing the construction requirements of the design and the construction capabilities of the shop.

And quite frankly, if you need more things made for your design than the shop you are working with can create, if it's that important to you, you can see about outsourcing: take bids from independent shops or contractors and see if you can have those other pieces made elsewhere and still come in on budget.

The total costume budget is not the total amount you spend on the made to order garments, not by any means--if you are smart about budget, at least. That show budget has to go a long way in a lot of other directions!

Look at how many pieces you're having made, compare that with the total number of costumes you have to provide, and come up with a ballpark of how much of your budget you can spend on those. For a baseline, i start out with a ballpark of 1/5 of the budget for made-to-measure costumes. I might reduce it to even less of a percentage if i were only making two costumes but needed to provide fifty more purchased/pulled looks. I might jack it up to 1/4 if my costume design budget did not also include wigs/makeup (some theatres have a separate budget line for that), or if it did not include dry cleaning (that's Wardrobe's budget in many places), and so forth.

For a concrete example on the show i'm designing right now, we decided to make a period men's vest for the star of the show, a duplicate set of men's Victorian bathing attire, a collection of three matching feathered headdresses, a newsboy cap for a man with an unusually large headsize, and Queen Victoria's costume. (This doesn't include crafts projects like masks or the batik i mentioned in an earlier post, as i'm talking strictly about garments here.)

The logic on these choices breaks down like this:

  • Vest: This piece is for the star of the show. He's the guy people are spending the whole play looking at, and he's got to look good. Sure, you can buy 19th-century style vests out there from retail companies like Gentleman's Emporium or wholesalers like Scully/Wahmaker. However, I wanted something singular and unique, and a good period vest goes a long way not only toward creating a unique look for a character, but also as being a useful piece in a costume collection that will get a lot of subsequent reuse.

  • Bathing costume: There's really only one style out there that you can buy, and i didn't feel it worked for my design.

  • Three headdresses and the newsboy cap: Almost goes without saying. We need three headdresses that comprise a set, that fit our specific actors, and a newsboy cap in a size you can't find for purchase. Making them is the obvious solution.

  • Queen Victoria: This character and look is so specific, and this role is played cross-cast. You can't buy or rent a Queen Victoria costume for a man who shops at the Big and Tall. I knew from the moment i read the script we'd have to make this one.

So, that's how we parceled out the made-to-order clothes on this, and i agreed to purchase, pull, or rent every other clothing piece in the show.

In most theatres with construction shops, you're still going to have a bunch of costumes which are either purchased, pulled from existing stock, or rented/borrowed. Those are the costume pieces that (i feel) need careful consideration in terms of budget. How do you decide what to buy, what to rent, and what to pull from stock?

Obviously, some things are limited by availability. You probably aren't going to be able to buy ready-to-wear clothing from many historical periods (though obviously thanks to reenactment groups some periods will have some purchase options out there). In terms of pulling from stock, the stock the theatre has is the resource at your disposal. If you're doing a show in a period they do frequently (say, doing a Shakespeare play at a Shakespearean festival), you may have a lot of options from which to pull; what they've got is what you've got, so to speak. Rental is going to be a big part of pulling together a period show if you can't make everything in house and the theatre doesn't own many options in their stock.

In terms of the theatre you're working for, though, purchase is far preferable to rental whenever possible--when you spend your budget on buying something, they retain it in their collection, whereas when you spend it on renting, you are essentially investing that theatre's budget and labor in other companies. Your show's budget is going into the shipping, rental fees, and cleaning costs for someone else's costume collection, and your shop's alteration, repair, and restoration labor is going toward upkeep on some other theatre's costumes. Which, there's nothing wrong with that--it's great to support other theatres and i always take pride in returning a rental costume in better condition than i received it if at all possible. However, with respect to the theatre for whom you're designing, obviously it's better for them in the long run if you appreciably add to the resource of their costume collection and expend their labor and budget to their own benefit.

A digression: in sustainable theatre discussions, i have seen quite a bit of lip-service paid to making "sustainability advances" by mandating the choice to rent or pull from stock for costumes, rather than make to measure, as if this is somehow "ecologically more responsible." To my mind, this completely ignores the question of where does this pulled-from stock come from, if we are not investing in making new costume pieces? All costumes eventually wear out, and how do you replace damaged and destroyed items if all you are allowed to do is rent or pull pieces? If you don't renew your resource of stock costumes, you'll soon be up a creek. Sustainability in the costume shop has to come from some other place than a moratorium on new costume pieces--energy efficient equipment and facilities, conservation-minded designers and technicians and creative teams, etc. But as i said, i digress.

Some years back, I attended a symposium on costume design and production sponsored by the Tony-winning designer William Ivey Long. In one of the sessions on practicalities of design at the high-budget Broadway/Hollywood scale, he made a statement which i have admittedly held near and dear to my creative philosophy ever since, and that was this: "I always put aside a third of my budget for shoes."

In the session, people laughed, thinking he was making some high-flown statement about a taste for expensive footwear, but he quickly explained that, no, he was being just as practical about it as he was expressing a design sensibility. Simply put, if an actor or dancer has good shoes--shoes that are comfortable, safe to do their choreography in, and aesthetically appropriate to their character--they're going to be a long way down the road toward being happy with their costume. In regional theatre, I may not ever be in a budgetary position to commission a custom pair of shoes the way Long does for his Broadway stars, but i can still take something useful away from that statement: buy new shoes whenever possible.

Experience bears this out. In fact, just last month in a fitting with Charlie Robinson, who starred as Troy Maxson in the PRC production of Fences that just closed, he tried on a pair of shoes we'd purchased for him. He commented on their comfort, and the designer loved how they looked but wanted me as crafts artisan to distress them so they looked older and broken in. I made some joke along the lines of, "Sorry we're going to take your nice new shoes and beat them up, but at least they'll still feel the same inside." Mr. Robinson laughed and said, "I don't care how they wind up looking. I don't really care about every other thing, dress me however you like as long as i have good comfortable shoes." I can't tell you how many times an actor has made nearly that exact statement.

So, that's the ultimate design-budget theory that i always hew to: spend a decent chunk of change on your shoes. Get good durable shoes for your actors, and not only will they love you for it, but so will the stock manager for the theatre you're working for. Shoes don't make it through as many subsequent shows as garments do--i think of a costume as sticking around in stock for as many as nine shows: up to three where it passes for newish, up to three where it looks well-worn, and up to three where it's turning into rags. Then it's trash. Shoes, with good care and upkeep, maybe make it through six. (IME.) This is because not only do they take the beating of the performance calendar worth of wear and tear, but usually also some portion of the rehearsal period, too, since actors often request to work in their shoes.

Inevitably when designers buy cheap shoes or pull old shoes from stock, half the time they don't make it through the run of the show and new ones have to be bought anyhow, so i figure, I'll just spend that money up front and it's something i don't have to worry about. Every actor in Shipwrecked! is working with new shoes.

That's my buck-and-change about how you spend money for a show at a regional theatre level. If you design costumes, do you have any similar guidelines for how you budget out your expenditures?
labricoleuse: (design)
In a couple of earlier posts, i discussed the project of batik creation for some fabric we need for the upcoming production of David Margulies' Shipwrecked! An Entertainment, for which i'm serving as costume designer. This is the first mainstage show i'll design for PlayMakers, so in and of itself that's pretty exciting and new.

I mentioned a bit of the design process in those, but now that the show's in full swing in the shop, i thought i'd make a series of posts about the design process itself. This is partly inspired by the undergraduate costume design class to whom i'm guest-lecturing today, and partly by a conversation i had with my mom on the phone this past weekend, in which i realized that things i take for granted as common knowledge just aren't!

First i should offer the caveat that the structure varies show-to-show because our costume shop functions as a laboratory for our Costume Production graduate program. The scene shop is similarly structured, as is the professional actors training program for acting grads. The costume shop runs in such a way that, ideally, the students learn the functions of different positions in the professional world on a practical basis--our actors are Equity, our budgets are such that the fabrics bought for the made-to-order costumes are good quality, the theatre operates as a LORT theatre, and the directors and designers may be in-house (like me and the sound designer this time) or they may come from out of state (like our director from LA and our scenic designer from NYC this time). The student positions rotate--one show's draper is another show's design assistant and so forth.

For this show, as the costume designer i have a few folks with whom i directly interact the most.

Judy Adamson is costume director and head of the graduate program. She is essentially the one to whom a designer directs overarching big questions--for example, which of these costumes can we make and which should we buy or find? She also observes all the fittings to make sure that the graduate students involved in them have the opportunity to question their processes when adjusting garments for fit, and to advise the designer about how to physically get something done that the designer wants aesthetically.

Adam M. Dill is Judy's assistant, and the de facto "Shop Manager" for the costume complex. He monitors workflow and inventory, orders supplies and tracks the budget, supervises the students and overhire workers, and so forth. He helps track down rental and purchase options for specific costume items as well--for example, last week he ordered a mess of shoes in specific styles, in our actors' sizes. Adam's the one who directly interfaces with stage management in terms of scheduling fittings and sending requested items into rehearsal and troubleshooting any problems or questions that come up in that realm.

Adrienne Corral, a first-year graduate student, is assigned the position of Assistant to the Designer. In the context of our shop, this means that she also winds up assisting Adam as well, in taking care of such organizational things as rental tracking, setting up the show's costume rack labels, maintaining a "bible" of show-specific information, and assembling the boutique. (What does that mean? I'll get to it in a minute!) She does shopping and returns, created a display of the renderings and costume plot for the shop staff, and sometimes steps in to lend a hand with any part of the team who's behind--hemming a skirt or painting a mask or whatever.

Shanna I. Parks, a third-year graduate student, is the Draper on this show. She leads many of the other grad students (who work as first-hands/stitchers) in the construction of the costumes. Shanna makes the patterns by drafting or draping, and determines the means by which they will be constructed. The first-hands/stitchers follow her lead in putting them together. In this program, the students are only assigned a draping position in the final show of the season during their first year, and then as needed in their second and third years. In their third year, they are given a show on which to serve as solo draper--this is that show for Shanna.

Claire Fleming, a second-year graduate student, is the Production Crafts Artisan. This is what i would normally be in charge of, crafts, but there's no way that I could do everything required of a designer *&* handle the crafts on a show of this size. This is actually a blessing in disguise, so to speak, for the grad students because it allows one of them--in this case, Claire--the opportunity to do be in charge of the crafts. So Claire is making a few hats and headdresses and tracking all the crafts notes through the shop.

Right now, we're at the point where Shanna has draped and drafted the patterns for the costumes we're making, and her first-hands are cutting and assembling them for fittings at the end of the week. All of the crafts projects are in various stages of progress, and Adam and Adrienne have assembled a boutique. It's time to see what sort of options we have to be pulled from our own stock!

A boutique is a concentrated, carefully chosen selection of costume stock. PlayMakers entire costume collection is tens of thousands of pieces, the majority of which are the wrong period, color, or size for our production. When a designer begins work on a show, ideally the manager and the assistant have the time to create a boutique--to go into our stock and weed through it, pulling out only the pieces that are in the appropriate time period, color palette, in sizes that fit someone in the show, and correspond to the renderings/research. In this way, you save the designer the time of wading through the enormity of stock, and streamline the process a bit.

The designer (that's me!) then goes into the boutique and chooses pieces s/he likes best for particular characters, and it's time to schedule fittings to see what actually looks good on the cast members. We'll also know where there are holes in what we have available from our own stock, and what we've purchased new. I'll have a list of what we're still missing, and we'll then see what we can find from rental sources and partner institutions with whom we have mutual borrowing agreements!
labricoleuse: (Default)
The other day, i wrote about the first half of this story, namely, how the creative team and i came to the decision of what fabric pattern we were going to create, and how we were going to create it.

Before i continue with the batiking process discussiong, I have to say, modern technology really facilitates such collaborations as ours incredibly. Our team is based as far away as Los Angeles (the director, Tom) and Brooklyn (the set designer, Robin), and as close as the office down the hall from me (the sound designer, Ryan). We've only all been in a room together twice, when everyone was in town for a weekend of auditions and initial meetings. However, thanks to email, online photo-sharing sites like Photobucket and Smugmug, blog hosts, video-clip publishing sites like YouTube, scanners and digital image manipulation programs, and cell phones, we've been in close and quick contact ever since those initial meetings.

Just last week, Robin scanned a sketch of an idea to begin a discussion of an effect, a discussion grew over email, i scanned another sketch i did in response, then filmed a 15-second video in the rehearsal hall of a demonstration of it (which needed movement to clarify some questions), and we were all able to "talk" about the physical elements of the show as if we were in the same room passing around drawings or jumping up and doing movements.

In that first meeting, Tom made a comment along the lines of, "We never could have done this without all being in the same room," referring to our initial read-through and discussion of the play gathered around Robin's set model. And he's right, being in the same room initially as a team, meeting one another as a group and interacting in person, really laid some groundwork for the collaborative process such that now, when we share and discuss things remotely, we know what our rapport is as people in real-time. I could imagine doing a show entirely by web, with people i already knew and had some kind of rapport with. I don't know so much about a creative team i'd never met. It would be far more challenging.

But anyhow, I digress. I planned to write the second half of the batik process, so here we go!

Yesterday, I left off with the choice of which sample fabric was going to be the one used in the show, two different base fabrics which had been batiked, and two different digitally-printed fabrics from Spoonflower. I knew that the one to go with was the batik on a muslin ground, so here's what happened next...

photos )
labricoleuse: (silk painting)
I'm designing costumes for PlayMakers Repertory Company's upcoming production of Donald Margulies' Shipwrecked! An Entertainment. This play affords a huge range of design challenges, not just within specific departments but collaboratively among all the elements of production.

One project we've already begun work on, is the generation of some batik fabric yardage for the characters of Yamba, Gunda, and Bobo, a family of aborigines who are shipwrecked on the same island as the play's protagonist, Louis de Rougemont. These characters will be wearing lengths of fabric as wrapped/tied costume items (Yamba with a sarong-style wrap, her old father Gunda with a shawl-style wrap), which they later remove to create sails for a ship they build onstage.

So, the look of these fabrics is extremely important, not only to myself as the costume designer, but to the set designer (Robin Vest), who'll be incorporating them as "ship sails", and obviously to the director, Tom Quaintance, who'll be seeing them and using them in multiple contexts.

I began the process by researching what indigenous Australian aborigine fabrics look like. If you Google "aboriginal fabrics," you'll get a good idea what the common graphical theme is: pattern creation using dots! Very pointillist, yet abstract. I discovered that a company called M&S Textiles issues a line of cotton fabrics with aboriginal art prints, and this online vendor has .jpgs of the whole line. I then found a local fabric store, Thimble Pleasures, which carried the M&S line, so i dropped by to check out the scale of the prints.

It was immediately clear that the scale was far too small for theatre--the dots in the commercially-available prints are around 1/8" to 1/4" in diameter--onstage, those would blend together in the eye of the audience, and create a very different visual than the scale I had initially envisioned, with the dots being more like the size of an adult fingerprint. I realized that we were likely going to need to create this fabric ourselves. Still, I shared the links of the M&S thumbnails with the production team so we could talk about pattern and color with concrete visuals. This is the print to which we all felt most drawn.

So, my next step was to investigate the possibilities for digitally-printed fabric. I consulted some colleagues at the NC State College of Textiles as to the current leaders in print-on-demand fabric. The cool thing about the companies utilizing this technology is, you can create a print design and choose from a whole range of fabrics on which it might be printed--everything from canvas to charmeuse, and a whole range of fibers. (One of our graduate students is having some charmeuse custom printed for her historical reproduction thesis project, which i can't wait to see the results of!)

I knew i needed a cotton with a fairly soft hand. I looked at some custom digitally printed samples from KarmaKraft, First2Print, and Spoonflower, and decided to give Spoonflower's cotton lawn a shot.

Spoonflower does their printing locally, right up the road in Mebane, NC, and they got me their sample fabrics quicker than any other company i contacted. This is not at all a criticism of the speed or competency of the other companies--it's simply an example of how speed is often the primary factor in theatrical production, the fast turnaround of orders and processes, and because Spoonflower in this case had speed on their side, they became the option i chose. KarmaKraft is based in Raleigh, also quite close, but they conduct a lot of their printing in China, and were out of their sample swatch sets when i inquired; they did send them and have a lot of great options so it's likely that, should we need digitally printed fabrics for some future production, they will remain a good contender.

I then created two print designs using Photoshop:

  • Yamba One, in which the pattern is made from crisp-edged "polkadot" style dots
  • Yamba Two, in which the dots have more brushy, irregular edges

I suspected though, that there would be issues with these digitally-printed fabrics that would make them less than optimal for our stage purposes--namely, the "flatness" of the printed colors under stage lights, the opacity of the fabric (so, the front and back would be starkly different when the fabrics are "flown" onstage as flags and sails), and the gridlike regularity that tiling of a print design would create. As i was working on the digital designs, i realized that if we had the ability to spend more time on the creation of the art, and the money to utilize a printing service that would afford a larger repeat for the design, perhaps digital printing would still be a great option. In this case though, i decided to see whether my crafts artisan, second year graduate student Samantha Coles Greaves, could generate a couple batik samples as well.

I bought two types of fabric for potential in-house batiking at the local JoAnn Fabrics: a bolt of Egyptian cotton and a bolt of dyer's muslin. (I figured, even if we didn't use either of them at all on this show, those are great stock fabrics to have around a costume shop for mockups and other uses.) Samantha then created two samples of batik, inspired by our chosen aboriginal print.

Read more... )
labricoleuse: (ass head mask)
If you follow the collective costume rendering blog A Sketch A Day, you've already seen my series of renderings of Commedia dell'Arte mask designs in oil pastel. (If not, you can see them all here, and read about the conception process and inspirations, if you wish.)

Essentially, one of my summer projects is the design and creation of a set of six stock-character Commedia masks, an endeavor in which i will be assisted by two of my graduate students with crafts emphasis in their field of study. I chronicled the sketching over in that blog for obvious topical reasons, and now that we're embarking on the sculpting process, i'm going to document that here on [ profile] labricoleuse. Once the designs are confirmed, I'll sculpt them from polymer clay in 1/3-scale as maquettes; then my students and i will each take two maquettes and scale them up to full size matrix sculptures, which we'll use to create the masks themselves.

There are at present a collection of twelve sketches, which we will narrow to the final six. I thought it'd be fun to run a poll and see which six might be "audience favorites", so here we go!

The gist is, below you will find twelve images, each labeled with a number and name in a caption underneath. Beneath that is a tickybox poll, in which you may select your favorites. You can pick fewer than six if you like. Technically, you can choose as many as you like, but try to limit yourself to six or fewer, for the sake of the poll. I think that only LiveJournal accountholders can vote in their polls, so if you are a non-LJ reader and find you can't submit your choices through the poll code, I invite you to comment with the names/numbers of your favorites.

pictures and poll )
labricoleuse: (me)
So, i'm smack in the middle of tech for I Have Before Me a Remarkable Document Given to Me By a Young Lady From Rwanda by Sonja Linden, but i'm on my dinner break right now and figured i'd munch my sandwich over a quick post about costuming the characters.

Recall a few days ago i talked about the color palette for this show. Because the production is entirely pulled/purchased, I started out exploring costumes through character collages: for Simon, images of men dressed as i imagined him, and for Juliette, images of young contemporary upper-middle-class Rwandan women. Read more... )
labricoleuse: (me)
At some point i'll have a bit of free time and access to the photo disk for Earnest to do a complete write-up of the crafts projects in it--the elaborate hats, parasols, and reticules that my team produced--but first, I have to take care of the show i'm designing for our second stage series, I Have Before Me a Remarkable Document Given to Me By a Young Lady from Rwanda, by Sonja Linden. This will be the first in a series of posts on the design process, from the design perspective.

I haven't done much design work since i was on staff at the ART, when i filled in holes in my swiss-cheese crafts artisan contract by picking up design gigs for the productions put on by the Institute for Advanced Theatre Training, Harvard's graduate acting program. (Well, unless you count the feature film i did.) It's been really exciting and gratifying to begin stretching those creative muscles again; there are different ways of thinking that you have to employ when functioning as a designer than those you utilize as a production professional (or, as our Costume Director likes to call it, a design interpreter).

For example, your relationship to color, with respect to the play: it's a completely different experience as a designer than as a production artist.

As a costume production artist, your relationship to color is relative and somewhat proscribed--it isn't to say that you don't have a certain amount of creative control, but it is not your responsibility to determine the color palette of your work. The costume designer (in conjunction with the director and the rest of the design team) has set the general color palette for the show. So, as a milliner, I know what the general color theme is for a given hat, and i might have the creative capability to select a boutique of potential trims and flowers and feathers within that palette, but i'm not the one who ever says, "This hat is blue. That hat is green." I might develop theories as to why colors are chosen, or discuss color meaning with the designer, or even suggest color choices, but they aren't mine to make unless a designer expressly tells me to run with a hat design. Even then, s/he can always veto my choice, if it doesn't work onstage within the entirety of the stage picture.

Color can be used to comment on the characters and the action of the play, or to underscore themes in a work. Earnest is a good example of a case where costume designer Anne Kennedy used color choices to make a visual statement about two of the characters, Lady Bracknell and her daughter Gwendolyn. In the play, there's a line about how "all women become their mothers," and at least one review of the production picked up on Anne's color use to underscore that line: in Act 1, Lady Bracknell is in a deep teal blue costume, while Gwendolyn is in purple; in the second and third acts, they've swapped so that Lady Bracknell wears a purple-mauve while Gwendolyn now wears blue. Sometimes audience members recognize these things consciously, and other times they only hit the subconscious radar. When you know to look, though, you can spot these kind of choices manifesting in design concepts in all areas of technical theatre and cinematic art direction.

With Rwanda, an immense amount of research went into determining the color palette. It's pretty clear from the very lines the characters speak about themselves, that their understanding of the world moves from one of grey stagnation to resumption of the ability to enjoy the larger spectrums of their respective lives. In the context of the play, it's metaphorical, but that sort of "relearning to appreciate colors" is going to be incorporated into the way the characters dress, as well.

This progression is going to be most evident in the character of Juliette, the "young lady from Rwanda," a refugee living in London who has written a book about the Rwandan genocide of which she is a survivor. Juliette is clearly someone who has essentially dissociated psychologically from the immense trauma she experienced; even though she has written the book she has done so in third person, dryly, like a history text. Simon (the other character in the play, her writing teacher), in critiquing her work, mentions that there is no evidence in it that it was written by a survivor, that *she* is not present in her own book, and that that human voice is what readers will connect to and what she must search to find.

In determining what colors Juliette will rediscover (as a literal manifestation of her metaphorical psychological journey), I did a lot of research about Rwanda, particularly beautiful images of the land and cultural arts. I looked at indigenous flowers and fruits, popular colors for the products of Rwandan artisanship traditions like textiles and basketry, and how Rwandans choose to decorate and paint their homes, both interior and exterior. We also had the invaluable experience of speaking with a local resident, an immigrant to the US from Rwanda who herself survived the genocide. She spoke about a whole range of subjects, from what kind of music young girls in Rwanda liked in 1994, to how it felt to finally return a few years ago. One statement she made really stood out for me: that she had forgotten that "oranges taste different in Rwanda, much better."

It was also important for me to find a palette of specifically Rwandan greys--grey is such a complex color, and can have overtones of the entire spectrum, from a dirty yellow-based grey to a soft comforting lavendery dove grey. What color is Rwanda when it is drained of color, i wondered?

Many costume designers like to put together a color collage, to give them a concrete representation of a show's palette. At one time we used to do this physically, with scissors and paste and magazines, like scrapbooking; now, thank god for Photoshop. It's way easier and faster!

click for color palette collage and more discussion )
labricoleuse: (shoes!)
More Blogs

I always get excited to find other people blogging about topics related to my field, and I've got three to share today which are super.

First Pullover is a footwear design and industry blog(!), written by Richard Kuchinsky, a footwear industry professional and shoe designer. His work is largely athletic shoes, but much of his content is of interest to footwear creators (or enthusiasts) in general, and wow, what a great niche blog. Here are some highlight posts:

Garment industry guru Kathleen Fasanella writes the blog Fashion Incubator (LJ feed: [ profile] fashionincub8r), which is jam-packed with excellent information on garment production from an industrial factory-line perspective. She's got a TON of great tutorials on a wide range of subjects, from putting in zippers to an excellent crotch-seam-fit-discussion series entitled "Anatomy of a Camel Toe" (seriously). Of interest to historians is her series of vintage pattern reproduction posts in which she reinvents a Vionnet pattern. LJ feed for this: [ profile] fashionincub8r

The Art and Business of Costume Designing (LJ feed: [ profile] costumedesignbl) is a blog written by Costume Designer Jessica Risser-Milne about...well, the title pretty much says it all. She's got a lot of great posts, but here are some i bookmarked to share, because they offer a great alternate perspective from a designer's POV on several of the topics i've covered in my series of FAQ posts:

Upcoming Conferences

September 3-5, 2009, the USITT Southeastern Regional Conference will be held in Greensboro, NC. In addition to the Design/Tech Expo competition, there will be Master Classes on a range of relevant topics, including PatternMaker software and puppetry.

October 8-10, 2009, the UNCSA Southeastern Regional Entertainment Technology Conference, presented by Cirque du Soleil Resident Shows Division, will be held in Winston-Salem, NC. This conference has tracks for all tech disciplines (sound, lights/projections, automation, sets/rigging, production and stage management, and costumes/wigs/makeup), and will feature behind-the-scenes education on how Cirque's regional and touring shows are run. The conference is limited to 175 participants, and the registration deadline is September 30th.
labricoleuse: (Default)
It's another week at the helm of [ profile] nicknickleby for me, so check out my piece on the Victorian dual-trade of milliner-prostitute. (I'm glad those skills are no longer linked to one another!)

I've spent the day working on an article i'm co-authoring for the USITT newsletter Sightlines on the recent symposium, and i thought it'd be a good time to mention some of the other resources sponsored by the USITT Costume Commission, in addition to the annual symposium. Some of these resources are open to anyone, and some are restricted to USITT members only.

The USITT Costume Locator Service is a Yahoo!Group with a costume rental focus. Subscribers can post about particular costumes they are seeking ("Does anyone have the Chrysler Building dress from The Producers for a show going up this spring?"), or promote their rental services. It's maintained and moderated by Kevin McClusky of Mary Washington College, and is for USITT members only.

Dickenson College Costume Storage Solutions Database is a visual archive of storage facilities all over the world. (Link goes to a previous post on the subject, in which i discuss how to navigate the database.) It's recently received funding from the Costume Commission, but can be viewed by anyone with a web browser. And, anyone with a costume storage facility is encouraged to photograph areas of it and submit them! It is maintained by Sherry Harper McCombs.

CoPA, the Commercial Pattern Archive contains over 50,000 scanned images (garments & pattern schematics) from 42,000 commercially produced patterns, dating from 1868 to 1979 and is growing daily. You can purchase the database as a CD set or subscribe to it online. CoPA is housed at the University of Rhode Island and maintained by Project Director Joy Emery; researchers can visit the collection in person, as well (you do not have to be a member of USITT to conduct in-person research, or to subscribe).

The Survey of Costume Design and Technology Programs is a database compiled and maintained by our own Costume Director at UNC-CH, Judy Adamson. I've mentioned it quite a bit on here before, particularly in my FAQ posts about applying to graduate school, but it bears mention again. It contains information on all university programs offering undergraduate and graduate education in costume design and/or technology, sorted by geographical region and alphabetically. Currently, there isn't an option for searching on other variables, such as a particular professor's name, or a particular area of focus, but you could do a restricted google search to look site-specifically, by typing in something like " tailoring" to find all the programs that specifically mention tailoring as a topic they teach. Another caveat: the Survey is updated in the fall (i.e., an update is coming soon), so all the information in there right now is accurate only as of Fall 2008. Anyone may use the Survey site, not just USITT members.

The Costume Plot Database is another free-to-the-public resource sponsored in part by the Costume Commission. Users can search for existing costume plots on there, or add new ones for the benefit of future costumers. It is maintained by Kristina Tollefson of the University of Central Florida.

Kristina also moderates the Costume Info Listserv, a general-discussion Yahoo!Group for USITT members. It's an all-purpose forum for anything related to costuming for performance--technique questions, academic questions, safety queries, job postings. The only taboo topic is rental requests or ads, which should be directed to the USITT Costume Locator Service group.

The International Organization of Scenographers, Architects and Technicians (OISTAT) maintains a website for their Costume Working Group, which features a number of international resources available to USITT members. Anyone may look at the site with a standard web browser.

It's not a Costume Commission sponsored site, but another useful database is Inside Leg, a subscription database of actors' measurements. Any shop manager or designer may subscribe, though the database is only as useful as its participants make it, which is why we ask for a release form from any actor that is cast in our shows and contribute her/his measurements, if they are not already available on there!

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