Sunday, July 17, 2011

I Feel Pretty

Time flies when you're having fun.  Or when you're up to your eyeballs in theater projects.  It has been so long since my last post, so this one is a bit longer than usual.  I've been too busy doing to write about doing!

One of the tasks that often falls in my lap, sometimes by default, is costuming.  I am currently in a familiar mode.  Costumes are in various stages of completion and scattered all around the house.  I found someone willing to hem the 6 full skirts that are yet to be completed, but I have more work to do before I can get the skirts to her.  The tops are mostly done - mostly.  I've saved the hardest for last, probably because the progress is slowest with the more difficult pieces.  

I have a love hate relationship with costuming.  I am glad I know how to sew.  I would never go back to not having a serger and am loving my new dress form (since I am not the same size as everyone I sew for and trying things on repeatedly gets a bit tedious). However, I am not a confident designer, so I second guess every choice until a garment is completed.  Endless combinations of fabrics, patterns and trims swirl through my brain like a mad scientist trying to develop some magic elixir.  But the magic I seek is visual.  And since I can only dream what it would be like to throw down a piece of fabric and attack it with just imagination, scissors and a french curve (that's a design tool, right?), I am limited to using tissue paper patterns that I adapt and combine with an odd a blend of mathematical precision and reckless abandon.   I've developed a somewhat misplaced confidence in my ability to make any length of fabric somehow be enough for my design.  That means I've also developed some interesting skills at piecing together scraps.

I am learning as I go, however.  I have to fight my natural tendency, when costuming, to make clothing that is too street worthy.  I have come to realize that the best costumes are often a little bigger than life.  Wilder colors, extreme shapes, fanciful trims.  It depends upon the theme of the show, of course.  There is a place for understated and true to life, but an outfit that will likely be seen from a minimum of twenty feet away often needs to pop, needs to look like a costume.   Everything doesn't need sequins and beads, but there are certainly appropriate times to go for a big impact.   

The show I am currently costuming is set in middle America in the 1830s - 1840s.  It is still pre-civil war, pre-Victorian, but not prairie or frontier clothing.  Wedged somewhere between  the elegance of a feathered chapeau and the down home casualness of a calico bonnet, I've found skirts, blouses, vests and bodices that I hope will all appear unique, interesting, and fairly true to the period - or at least what is perceived for that period.  Oh yes, did I mention it all has to be done within a budget of less than $40 per outfit?  

What would theater be like if we had unlimited budgets, throngs of skilled and willing volunteers and (while I'm dreaming) endless queues of  patrons with bulging wallets? I'll probably never know, and don't have too much time to worry about it.  I've got sewing to do. 

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