Costumers Collective Resouce Website

Visit my website, The Costumers Collective, for entertainment costume resources like research links, how to videos, and paperwork downloads!

Tuesday, August 23, 2016

First Annual Survey of Summer Stock Costume Jobs

It's the end of the summer! That means the end of the Summer Stock season and back to reality. Well, as much reality as a job in theater provides.

We have all shared the stories. They range from images of theater bliss to those resembling war stories. There has been long work hours, work camaraderie, and summer love. Summer Stock has been described as a rite of passage. But what's the difference between a challenging but good experience and one that makes you question your life choices?

With this in mind, I created this survey to gather information about your experiences this summer. The goal is to take a bit of the mystery out of what to expect for next summer. My goal is not shame the worst offenders (an BOY have I heard some horror stories) but to highlight the places that are doing it right. When I publish the results in December, job seekers will hopefully be able to sort through the best places to work and have both a challenging AND rewarding summer experience.

Click here to take the survey!

Sunday, August 14, 2016

I Made a Tutu! (And so can YOU)

About a year ago, someone on a professional Facebook group of which I am a member posted this article. It is about a shortage of tutu makers in the UK and how the Royal Ballet wishes to fill the void.

This set off a deluge of responses that, in fact, there are many people who know how to make tutus; this article was simply an advertisement for the Royal Ballet's internship program where they will harvest their labor for cheep. Ah, yes, the ugly reality is not that there is a lack of tutu makers, but that no one wants to pay for the skilled artisans to do the work. 

I was a trained dancer, so my costuming work began with dance costumes. However, because I work mostly with modern dance and musical theater I have never made a tutu myself! But I also know that with my skill level in costume construction all I needed was someone to show me how to do it and then I too would have those skills!

That someone came in the form of Travis Halsey. A link to his workshops was posted on the same Facebook group.  It was as if angels descended to Earth, bearing tidings of tutu glory. What's more, the workshops are in Chicago, so I could mix in a visit to my parents and get a free place to stay. Score!
Little known fact: the proper way to test your tutu before a fitting is to put it on your head.

Friday, June 10, 2016

Costume Fun Times with Teenagers!

Earlier this month, I did a costume design workshop with students at the Academy for Performing Arts in Scotch Plains, NJ. It is a public charter school for kids in Union County and they are a fantastic bunch! I worked with Sophomore and Junior theater students.

Classes are an hour and twenty minutes; I had to explain the design process and do an activity that could be quickly understood. Given that no one wants to hear someone blabbing at them for too long, especially teenagers who won't be tested on this anyway, I prepared a short talk about what a costume designer does, followed by a design project. The kids jumped right in and created some fun things!

First, I explained what a costume designer does and the tool that one uses. I showed them examples of paperwork, one of my show bibles, and examples of costume sketches. Then I went through the "designer's toolbox" explaining how costume designers use color, shape, and texture to define a character's age, status, time period, environment, and personality. I gave lots of examples and showed some sketches, talking about all those choices and explaining why research is important to help make those choices. We then moved on to the activity.

Students sketching from their research.

Friday, May 13, 2016

Business Lady

It's a rough life trying to make a business out of something that most people view as a hobby.

In the last few years, I have devoured books written by women to inspire their readers to dive into their work and go for what they want. Lean In by Sheryl Sandberg, Bossy Pants by Tina Fey, Yes, Please! by Amy Poehler, and the latest The Art of Asking by Amanda Palmer. All these books have inspired me so much and, at this point in my life, have lit a fire under my ass.

The theater business covers so many different levels of professionalism. There are groups that put on a show simply out of fun. There are million dollar companies that pay thousands of people healthy salaries. And there's everything in between. What's more, most people don't even realize how much goes into a production. If you look at any business or company, no one in surprised when it employs thousands of people. But I have watched people look in wonder as I explain how many people are involved in just producing costumes for a show. Unfortunately some of these people are theater makers themselves.

What all these books have taught me is that how you approach your work plays a huge part in how other people treat you. Also, it plays a huge part in what type of work you are willing to do. These women all talked openly about their path and their struggles, offering up their experiences as an offering and a way to learn from their mistakes and discoveries.  Anyone in the arts can commiserate.

Wednesday, April 13, 2016

Military Costumes - it's all in the details

Like many of the men of his generation, my father served in the military. He graduated from High School in 1965; to avoid being drafted into the Army, and a guarantee of being sent to Vietnam, he enlisted in the Air Force in 1966. I am personally thankful for this, as I exist today in large part because he was stationed in Iceland, very far from the jungle.

In any event, I grew up with the stories, and repeated stories, so that after awhile I didn't pay much attention. Not that they weren't interesting. He was not in the service because he believed in the cause, he was an 18 year old that didn't want to die, plus he was a hippie (excuse me, a freak as I'm constantly reminded they called themselves). So his stories often involve antics of a kid who was making the best of not being exactly where he wanted to be.

Then recently, one of the stories resurfaced in my mind, as it was interesting as a costume detail. He has a few stories that involve a "short ribbon." Now, there is something official called a Short Ribbon, an actual medal. But this was not it. I knew this ribbon involved drinking a bottle of booze and wearing something from the bottle for your last month of service. So today, when recalling the story, I sent him a text.