Saturday, November 20, 2010

Where have you been?

Sorry, I've been busy!
Vintage patterns for 40s play, "The Children's Hour" opening Nov. 12.
Alice in Wonderland characters, two MadHatters and the Queen of Hearts
Ariel, the mermaid, complete with outrageous red hair!
Wolverine The dog chewed his belt apart, I had to make a new one for Halloween!

Where have I been? Here at my house, working on various costumes for the last month.

Several years ago, my local theatre group did the play "Oklahoma". In that show, Ado Annie sings a song, "I'm just a girl who can't say no". I'm so surprised that this has become a mantra of my life, especially when given the opportunity to make costumes. So, I had failed to say "no" to many opportunities to make "just one or two" costumes, but all of a sudden, the jobs piled up one on top of each other.

First a bride-to-be had asked me IN AUGUST to sew a jacket for her to wear over her wedding dress. She showed me a prototype jacket she saw on the internet, which would have cost her $275 to purchase from this vendor. No way, Jose! We worked together back in August to make a muslin to fit it on her, and she told me she was going to find the fabric for it and get it to me.

September passed, and I thought the jacket idea was dead, because I got no fabric from her. But, lo and behold, 1 week prior to her wedding, which was Oct. 16, she pops up with the fabric. Yikes, by this time, I had not said no to 3 other costuming jobs, all due within the next two weeks! One was to make Halloween costumes for my family, next was to sew for a church show for my parish, and the other was to make 2 dresses for my good friend Dr. J for a show she was to be in. Both of these shows opened Nov. 11, so they closely followed Halloween in their deadlines.

Youngest daughter decided to throw an adult/kid Halloween party, and invited all to dress up. I have made my grandchildren costumes many years in the past of their young lives, so this year we decided on Wolverine (superpower guy with claws) for the boy, and Ariel for the girl. The daughter wanted to be a Ghostbuster, and I decided to be the Queen of Hearts. There were various deadlines for each of these, but I got them all done. It was noon on the day of the party, but they were all done.

Then the darling oldest daughter, MonkeyGirl, a self-proclaimed world class procrastinator, came to my house with hubby in tow at 1 p.m. that day, wanting to browse my costume collection for something to wear that night. We rustled through things, threw together two simple costume pieces, they modified our selections at home, and when they showed up at the party, they were magnificiently dressed as twin Mad Hatters. Mr. MonkeyGirl was a stunning rendition of Johnny Depp's character from Alice in Wonderland. I couldn't take my eyes off of them, they were so cute!

The church show had been in the works for almost a year. It was called "Heart of Oak", which was the translation for the French word Duchesne, This was a biographical portrayal of the life of St. Rose Philippine Duchesne, who is our church's patron, namesake, and once, long ago, a person who actually walked the soil of our city of Florissant, MO. It was originally scheduled to be put on stage in June 2010, as a part of our parish's 5th anniversary celebration. It would have closely followed the yearly parish variety show, which is done in late April. Since the producers, directors and writers of the variety show were too busy to work on two shows that overlapped, the Heart of Oak project got put on hold. They rescheculed it for the anniversary of Rose Philippine's feast day, which is November 18.

I was very glad to have the show rescheduled, because I wanted to work on it. But, had it been in June, I wouldn't have been able to work on it, because I was knee deep in working on "The Producers", and believe me, I couldn't fit in one more thing during that time! So, we had a production meeting for the rescheduled show in early October to discuss costuming the Heart of Oak show, and I came away from it with the commitment to making the nuns and priests costumes.

I had 2 nuns costumes from my costuming job last year, and 2 priests cassocks. My commitment at this time was to provide 5 nuns costumes and 3 priests cassocks. Sounded very doable. Funny thing though, the play wasn't completely written or staged at the time of our meeting, and somehow that number grew and grew! By 2 weeks prior to the show, it had grown to 9 nuns and 5 priests! Now, I was in serious trouble!

This costuming gig was shared by several seamstresses, and several ladies on the team came to my rescue. One lady came over to my house the week before the show and we knocked out 3 nun's costumes in a night. Then she came back several more times, and took stuff home, like sewing 20 buttons on the priest cassock, something I absolutely hate to do! We agreed to bring the costumes up to the church hall the Sunday before the show.

One by one, the 9 nuns came back to try on their outfits, and we adjusted hems and sewed snaps on their belts. After all the costumes had been doled out, a young lady came back and said, "Where is my costume?" She was playing young Rose Philippine Duchesne as a professed sister! There were no more costumes left for her! My worst nightmare was coming true, MORE NUNS COSTUMES NEEDED! Then a couple more came back, and we had to dig into the cheap costume shop black dresses! I'm not exactly sure how many we actually ended up costuming, because they shared and improvised, but I think there were at least 13 nuns in this show. At least the priests ended up with only needing 4 costumes, so we managed to put that together with making one cassock for the bishop, and improvising and sharing for the rest.

The Sacred Heart nuns, of which Rose Philippine Duchesne was a part of, had a unique white ruffle around their face as part of their veils. I made two prototypes, each of which took about an hour to pleat. They didn't exactly look right. So, some very creative person suggested the ruffle that is found in cake dec stores, attached to the cardboard bases that are used under tiers of a wedding cake. They are pleated ribbon, exactly like what we needed. They came off the cardboard very easily, and were perfect in the way they looked. So that dilema was solved easily, I made the 9 veils in a very short time, and they looked fabulous on stage.

We got that job done on Nov. 9, and the show started Nov. 11--whew! It was a challenge, but it turned out OK.

IN THE MEANTIME, my friend Dr. J needed 2 dresses for her play, which opened Nov. 12. I finished her two dresses, from vintage patterns ( see picture above, play set in the 40s) for her before Halloween. Her original deadline was Nov. 1 to accomodate the director's decision to have a costume parade that night. I met the deadline. Dr.J tried on the two dresses, one fit perfectly, but the other one was tight. I had enlarged it from its original pattern configuration, but not quite enough. She felt strangled in it, but thought it would work. In the meantime, the theatre group had contacted two different costumers to do the rest of the show, and one by one, they dropped out. The costume parade didn't happen on Nov. 1, because they had no costumes! (Dr. J had hers, but nobody else did.) They found another person to costume the show, but then she had only one week to pull things together. They borrowed heavily from the Hawthorne Players costume stash, and worked it out. But, they needed school uniforms for 8 girls in this show. I felt so sorry for them, I said I'd put together some uniform skirts for them, and I got them squeezed in the weekend prior to the show. In the meantime, Dr. J told me she just couldn't wear the one tight dress, so we needed to start over on that.

On Nov.9, I finsihed Dr.J's third dress, I delivered it and the 8 skirts to her at 5 p.m., and then all my costuming was finished. All that was left to be done was to attend the shows and enjoy the look of my work. And say, Thank God it's over! And make a vow to say "no" the next time I'm asked to make things with deadlines all during the same week! I'm sure I'll forget that promise, but I need to be more careful about it in the future.

1 comment:

NV said...

OMG! LOVE this!