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On the Inner Workings of a Costume Shop

Parade opens tomorrow, and as a Costume Design it is the single most challenging, overwhelming, and brutal thing I have ever tackled. But it is beautiful, it is so beautiful. My problem that I am running into is as far as the clothing goes I cannot bear the credit and I find that I am consistently complimented and praised for work that both is and completely is not mine. So, if nothing else this is a love letter to the beautiful women of the Boston University costume shop but also a brief outline of just how much goes into skirts, shirts, pants, and suspenders.

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Designer

-That’s me. I research, I render, I present. These are all things you are familiar with. Basically I make decisions, anything that is subjective falls to me. That’s anything from style lines on a skirt or the color of shoes.

Design Assistant

-God Bless assistants. They make it so I don’t have to think about anything but making decisions. They do paperwork, tracking, budgeting, setting up and breaking down fittings, pulling, sourcing, returns. They work so very hard and never get thanks. So here it is, I have told you a million times Alyssa how this would never happen without you but really truly I would have cried daily if I had to shoulder all the million things you did for this show. A good assistant means a designer gets the luxury of mental health.

Drapers

-I give drapers a rendering and they make it a thing. It’s magic, its actual witchcraft. The amount of knowledge and problem solving required to be a draper is something I cannot fathom. I draw pleats and they determine how many. Drapers will, in all likelihood call themselves technician but they are every bit as artists as me if not much much more. They are sculptors. They mold fabric onto bodies. If a draper understands shape, color, and drape any less than me this would not work and so they are every bit as responsible for the beauty of this show as I am. And did I mention they also head all alterations of existing garments? Because they do. Witchcraft. Thank You Erika, Amanda, and Kristyn.

First Hands

-The assistants to drapers. If a draper makes a pattern the first hand largely executes it. For this reason, first hands must have extensive garment production knowledge and communications skills because there are a million different ways to do waistbands, hems, collars, ect. In the same way that design assistant preserve designer’s sanity so do first hands to drapers. They are life savers. Thank You Megan, Sam, and Annalyn.

Stitchers

-Stitchers usually take jobs that require lots of time but not necessarily much skill (buttons, snaps, straight hems.) Grunt work. But don’t be mistaken, stitchers are essential. Nothing matters if all of the snaps come down and the hems fall. What stitchers do they must do well and so I love them very very much. Thank you Ros, Steven, Julie, Hannah, and Grace.

Shop Manager

-Shop Mom! The shop manager oversees the shop in that they handle budget and receipts as well as time line. Checking in with the shop and managing calls to make sure everything happens on a humane but efficient time line. Occasionally the shop manager will also sew on the show if needed. Thank you Karen.

Costumes is the kind of thing that just kind of shows up in tech. You get to your dressing room and voila, look at your beautiful costume. But it’s important to know just how many hands and hours it takes to get a show on its feet. We begin weeks before the first rehearsal even starts. I hope this helps to express that its not magic, its very real work and so you see how I could never take the credit for this show which is the universal theater truth that I am so very drawn towards. You could never do a show on your own. Never. It isnt possible. It’s this collaborative selflessness that makes it worth it. None of us are in it for ourselves, its for the sake of others. Its for the greater story. So for these reasons thank you, thank you, thank you.

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