Monday, May 4, 2009

Ready, Set, Wait....

The machines are cleaned and oiled, the needles are sharpened, the work room is cleaned (sort of), the fabric is purchased, the body is rested...... I wait.

For what? For the auditions of "Joseph and the Amazing Technicolor Dreamcoat" to occur on May 17, so I know who to make for costumes for our theatre group's summer play.

We've been planning our costumes for this show for as long as we were working on "Stepping Out". I say we, because NC, the director of Stepping Out will be part of the design team for Joseph. She will design the set, I design the costumes, and our lighting guy from Stepping Out will design the lights for the show. None of the three of us is directing this show, we only hope she likes what we design to make it look good.

NC (former director, set designer, good friend) and I went shopping in January when we heard that a local drapery fabric store was closing. We knew we had these two shows to think about. When we got to the store, we were like kids in a penny candy store. While most fabrics (and there were plenty to choose from) were about 75% off the regular price, there was a very large section where the fabrics were $1 a yard. That was my penny candy store! I found dozens of fabrics that would make excellent tunics and (as I call them) MC Hammer pants. I bought 5 yards of each, giving me enough leeway to make almost anything. There were also bolts and bolts of trims. Some were plain, some were fancy, most were $1 a yard or less. Some of the beaded trims were more, but all were just exquisite. So every garment will be embellished with wonderful trim. (I already used one trim in "Don't Drink the Water", it was a jingly trim with little metal fish hanging off of it that the Sultan's wife wore on her way to the casbah--it got quite a laugh when she wiggled her hips across stage.)

The first day I went shopping, we spent $331 on fabric and trim. That's a lot of cloth at $1 a yard! I was so intrigued that I went back the next day and got $140 more. I think I'm stocked! I have since found various metalics and fancies that I can use to jazz up an Egyptian prince or princess or two.

Designing costumes is a challenge because you can have an idea of what you want to use for fabrics which is your color palette, but then can spend days and days on the road trying to find what you want to use. Your fabrics are your palette. Unlike paint, you can't make your own colors, you have to rely on what some manufacturer has created to use to make your designs come to life. I'm learning what colors work under stage lights, what textures work. It isn't easy to do this and know exactly how it will work out, because you never get your full effect until the costumes are all finished and on stage.

I remember having an idea for Oklahoma last summer. I wanted Laurey to wear purple and white gingham for her dress (maybe it was Shirley Jones in the old movie that inspired me). You remember she falls asleep and her dream counterpart comes to life to do a dream ballet. Well, the dream Laurey had to wear the same clothes, but they had to be of a softer, more ballet oriented fabric. So I walked into my local fabric store, 1 mile from my house, and guess what they had, purple gingham paired with a purple gingham sheer! Holy Cow! I was so excited that I found it. It did turn out pretty well, except that during the dream sequence, the lighting was so dark you really couldn't tell what color she was wearing.

The Stepping Out costumes were the same way. The fabric we found for the tux coats was also $1 a yard, a silver grey lusturous upholstery fabric. It had a lot of body, and a small cream dot in it. It didn't turn out as lusturous as I thought it would under lights, and it didn't look grey, or silver, but picked up the lights as if it were white. And it wasn't shiny under the lights. It turned out well, but not exactly as I thought it would.

I guess part of being a costumer is these trial and errors that I make with choosing fabrics and color palettes. I need to learn who to dress brightly, and who gets the less flashy stuff. NC has taught me that you don't use white on a minor character, nor do you use red. Your eye goes to these colors, and it's great if that is where you want your focus to be. But don't put those colors on someone you want to fade into the background.

I'm learning with every show I do. I'm learning to draft and change patterns, how to fit odd size bodies. The one thing I haven't learned is how to say "no" when someone asks me to costume their show. I wonder if I'll ever learn that.

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