These are questions I get every time I do a show and you, my students, will probably get them too. Here are your answers.
What do you do as the costume designer?
This is long and boring. Feel free to read the underlined answer and skip down to the next question if you really don't want all the details. This answer is generally the same every time, every production. As the costume designer I:
- Read the script. I usually read it about 4 times. I read it once for the story line. I read it once to understand individual characters. I read it once to look for details like time changes, seasons, specific stage directions or reference to clothing that will affect costumes. And then I read again to make sure I didn't miss anything. I also make my costume-crew (students) read it and have them double check to make sure I haven't missed anything (I always miss something). And then I always keep it on hand to refresh my memory of bits and pieces as I go along.
- I research the show. I read the book, watch the movie, find the play on YouTube. I look for reviews online of people that have watched productions and people who have worked on them.
- Meet with the director and discuss the artistic look he desires and the mood he wants to portray. We also talk about each character and his vision of them. If the actors are going to have special movement requirements like dance or climbing or rolling on the floor that is something else I like to know really early.
- I do more research, this time on the people, places and times. I try not to do too much of this before meeting with the director because often the director likes to switch things up. He'll change the time period or the setting or perhaps make a male part a female part or whatever. This is where I start collecting inspiration images and start sketching out what I want the characters to look like.
- I design the costumes. Sometimes I come up with all the designs and tell my students what we are doing and sometimes I let them in on the process. It depends on the students and the production. Either way the buck stops at me and I ultimately make the final decision on what goes on the stage.
- I source the materials. I shop for fabric, articles of clothing, trims, shoes, accesorries, whatever is needed to make the costume I find it. I shop online, at Savers, Walmart, Target, Fabric Mart, Goodwill, wherever I've got to go to find what I need. Before purchasing anything however, I always make my students dig through our costume wardrobe and fabric and supply closet to see if we've got it first. I have recently made arrangements with the BYUH Give and Take to borrow items without payment (service hours) as long as we return items when finished.
- I oversee the work of the students. Teach them skills they need to know, make sure everything is on track and that quality is satisfactory. The students style or produce the costumes, clean them if necessary and prep them for the stage.
- I finish up whatever the students cannot. Sometimes that means I spend a lot of time sewing and sometimes I find volunteers who can pick up the slack as well. I try hard to not make the costumes more sophisticated than the students can complete but it can't always be avoided.
- Paperwork. I map out a costume plot. I keep track of what character is wearing what and when. I make directions for actors and for dressers. I keep track of receipts and budgets and I send a lot of emails to the director, actors, costume crew, and my assistant.
How much time did you spend?
The long answer: I had a big costume crew and they did a great job helping out so that dramatically cut down on the amount of time I spent on One Tattered Angel. I spent about 20 hours reading and researching the script and talking to the director. We didn't have a lot we needed to buy for this play but I did have to go into town twice to get it. I spent 5 hours sourcing materials. I spent 64 hours in class working with my students and overseeing their work. I spent 5 hours doing various paperwork and email communications. I spent NO time finishing up unfinished student work--they were great!. And lastly I spent 30 hours at dress rehearsals and show nights. That comes to a grand total of 124 hours spent on One Tattered Angel.
My students each had 4 hours of class plus 2 hours of lab every week. We've been working on the show for 7.5 weeks but we did take one week off to work on the Laie Elementary play. They also attended one dress rehearsal and one show night at 5 hours each. (6x6.5)+(5x2)=49 hours each. I had 5 students. 49x5=245. At least two of those students put in a lot of extra hours. I know they put in at least an additional 10 hours each for a total of 20 more hours. Add that all up and my students put in 255 hours of work.
That's not all! My student assistant works 19 hours a week. She manages the labs and fittings and does a lot of the nitty gritty that keeps the show going. She put 5 weeks into the show for a total of 95 hours.
The short answer: Put that all together and we've got 474 man hours into the costumes for One Tattered Angel.
Where did you find everything?
We always check what we have on hand first. We have a large room in the attic of the auditorium that is smushed full of years of costumes and we have a storage room full of fabric, trims and patterns. If we can't use, alter or make what we need from what we've already got we ask actors to bring things from home. We also look at Give and Take, advertise our needs on Facebook, shop online, and shop in town when necessary.
How much did it cost?
We got really lucky with this show and found most of what we needed right here on campus for free. We bought:
jelly bracelets $4
pajama set $20
polo shirt $8
Just over $50! We really got away cheap this time!