Interview with Costume Makers


Hi I’m Rain and I’m Katie and together we’re Wicked Rain Studio Today we’re gonna do a little video on what it is that we do and how we got here and I thought our job is pretty cool. We have a pretty interesting job So we thought we’d answer a few questions about what it’s like to be a costume professional and how you could be one too. And people who are interested in this field and like how do we get there? Because that’s not always clear. This is a little more obscure as far as how to get here. So Katie Why are you in costumes? So this is a little bit of a story because my background was originally in art I had taken a lot of art classes as a kid. I was always an art club in high school. I plan to go into animation And when I got to college I had never sewn before so I wanted to take a sewing class because more crafty abilities is what I enjoy and so I took an interest sewing and it was in the theater department and Part of it was working on a show and I learned that costume design was a career and I hadn’t known that before And I thought that was really cool. I enjoyed sewing and The rest was history And how about you? How did you get into this job? Because I know you had a different path from me My path is from the perspective of I always grew up making my own Halloween costumes with my mom they were terrible but adorable In high schooI really got into cosplay and I cosplayed from Sailor Moon and all those other fun things I had also been in theater But I knew I didn’t want to be an actor. I don’t really like being on stage I’m no…Surprise! Looking at the program for theater at the college I was going to go to and I saw that they had a costume design program, and it was like a light bulb went off So that’s actually where we met is we met in college. In two completely different paths to get to the same place Can you describe your typical day? So I’ll start with mine. I’m in the position of what’s called a stitcher and so my job almost all day is sitting at a sewing machine and sewing things I work in a shop that deals with a lot of different shows and we will have We have a whole rack of costumes that need to be worked on and each Costume has a list of things that has to happen. So they’re all a order of due date So I go I pick something off the rack. I read what needs to be done to it. Sometimes it’s adding a snap. Sometimes it’s take this thing completely apart and put it back together. Some projects take an hour or two some take a week It really is a nice variety of different things that I work with every day And then as soon as it’s done I sign off on it to say that I’ve done it and then it goes through a quality control. And so someone else in my team Looks at the notes and just make sure that it’s done correctly. Katie, you work on one show. I do I currently work on a … you could say It’s a stationary show. It’s been here in Vegas for Several years. It’s not planning to go anywhere So the costumes have been designed they’ve been made And we get regular new ones in. But my main job is actually just maintaining those costumes There are acrobatics in our show and so they tear those costumes a lot. I basically, I come in every day and I go through all the racks of all the costumes. We have several hundred costumes that I go through every day and I run my hands through them check them and Just make sure if any tears if any snaps have come off I spend my days sitting at a sewing machine and just fixing everything That got torn apart the day before and that’s a repetitive thing for me. Before I was this I was actually a dresser Which I think in the field is…like it other theaters. Is it still called a dresser? Yeah, or attendant or a dresser or a costume attendant. These are kind of the two job titles you might hear and so I was a dresser and so for that position, and that’s a pretty common entry position for a lot of theaters and a lot of shows and It’s a good job to look for if you don’t have a lot of sewing experience yet. Because a lot of theaters need people to just help other people get dressed, especially When you have quick changes when someone needs to quickly run off the stage get dressed in something and get back onstage They need someone helping them there to get that done in a time in a very fast manner some other responsibilities that dressers have is also Just making sure that every actor has the costume they need that night. Sometimes some places you’ll be assigned an actor Some places will be signed a dressing room Just kind of making sure at the beginning of the night at the end of the night that all the costumes are there and Then they’re also in charge of laundry, which is the thankless part Yeah – in the field.- The part that everyone thinks of when they think of a dresser, but it actually makes up It’s a smart part of the night, but it is important because no one likes to wear a dirty clothing ever. Nope No one wants their clothing shrunk. So you got to know exactly how all those costumes need to be washed How many different types of jobs are there in your field of work? Katie, do you want to talk a little bit about what it is to be a designer? Yeah. So, um when I originally went to college I did mostly go for design, not using it as much but, The designers job is to come in at the creation of a show and They’re going to read through the script and work with the director on what direction they want this show be like. Do they want it inspired by Game of Thrones? Do they want it like specifically time period? Do they want it to be set in an 80s nightclub? Like, you know, there’s all kinds of weird Ideas that you know usually come from the director and that designers job is to go through the script Make note of every costume piece that needs to happen; when changes need to happen. And they design every costume. Sometimes that means Drawing out the costume, which is where my art background came in and it means drawing out each character in each costume sometimes it means creating a mood board and Really just putting together like This is the vibe that this character is going to have And then essentially with that you’d then like shopping for that character’s wardrobe Mm-hm when they start going into tech for a show The designer is there to watch things on stage if something’s not working You know, they’re there to be like, okay. I’m going to find something else for this talk with the director Like they’re really the go-to person for the director to talk to, to make changes Some other training that I’ve had is in costume shop management And so the shop manager is the person who’s in charge of everyone who’s physically making things, right? so The shop manager and the designer will work together to kind of help decide. The designer will say “I really want this gorgeous ball gown” and the shop manager goes “Okay, that’s gonna take 40 hours to make so you can only get this ball gown Or if you can find one we’ll alter it” And so that’s a conversation that the shop manager and the designer will have together But ultimately the final look is all determined by the designer. Other jobs that you would find in a costume shop are sometimes there’s someone who’s a Shopper and so their job is to buy everything that the shop needs whether that’s clothing for the designer to approve Or thread and snaps and anything in between A draper who is someone who makes the patterns and also runs a team. You have a first hand which is a Draper’s assistant They are in charge of cutting out fabric and also keeping track of all the notes that the team needs to have The costume designers will often have assistants Larger productions you’ve got assistants under assistants Yes, and if you’re like a big fancy -like we’re talking Hollywood- Or if you’re on if you’re a costume designer on Broadway you might have more than one show at a time and then you might have Assistant designers and then even associate designers Things that aren’t necessarily in this theater field but also relate. -Yes- That you could with this education possibly pursue A stylist for magazines Commercials someone to be told. “okay, This is what we want the look to be” and they go shopping at department stores Or they go shopping through whatever the particular designer it is And they put together a look with that and often with props and other things like that. -Yes- Actually my sister’s job Oh, yeah, that’s right. I forgot she did that Another field that has dressers are musicians All musicians usually have a team of dressers that follow them with their costumes and their job is to make sure the costumes are Maintained and make sure those costumes are where they need to be when they need to be. You better believe Lady Gaga has a team of dressers. -Oh yeah- There’s things like costume historian. I have a friend that has her undergraduate degree in Theatre and Costuming but then she went on to get a masters degree in Museum Studies And so her entire focus is to be a museum curator for historical fashion. And a lot of times at those museums they have entire teams that do things that are like restoration but for clothing So you might take apart of garment and put some like stronger fabric behind it to make it last longer But you’re still trying to keep it within its authentic origins and so that’s like, oh I’ve never done it. I’ve seen videos. It looks really cool. -It’s so cool- Is your job mainly physical strain mental strain or both? -I would say mainly physical.- It tends to be a physical job And mostly in kind of in the same way of what an office worker where you’re sitting or standing in one position for long periods of time So one thing that I regularly do to try to fight the physical strain that sometimes happens is I try to split up my day So I’m not constantly sitting like this like a gremlin I try to remember to, like, sit up. To make sure about my posture is good I mean, it’s not as physically demanding as like a heavy weight lifting sort of job But as a dresser, there’s also some physical demands there’s physical demand because you are carrying costumes around a theater and Those costumes can get heavy like you layer those on top of each other and eventually they get really heavy I would also say the one thing kind of specific to costume shops That would be a mental strain is they’re often put in the basement and you will spend long hours without ever somehow seeing the sunlight Which is why Katie’s studio has so much nice natural light. It’s beautiful working here So can you live and work anywhere in the world or can your job be done only in certain places? It’s a mix of both. Yeah, because there are theaters kind of all over the world Perhaps there is a really strong regional theater in a medium-sized or smaller city and throughout the country But they usually have a shop of maybe four or five people at most and a lot of times those people really like their jobs And I don’t blame them! -They park themselves- So it’s hard to get a job opening there, but there’s also more than just New York and LA Yes Absolutely. We live in Las Vegas, which Has a lot of shows as well. -huge entertainment city- There’s also Chicago has a lot of theatre and Washington DC is a big one. Minnesota actually has a lot of theatre um if you’re willing to Tour. Yes that’s actually a really exciting thing because a lot of times if you’re on tour you’re doing a mix of the job of a dresser and a stitcher because you’re helping them get in out of costumes at night But then you’re also doing repairs to keep the costumes going and depending on where what you’re needed at each location could be different. -Absolutely.- And so that’s a really cool way to see the world It really is you -is to get on a tour. We have a friend that’s on tour right now and she’s always sending pictures from London and Mexico and we’re like, that’s so cool Are there any limitations on your personal and/or social life because of the nature of your work? Yes, yes well, if you’re touring you definitely never stationed in one particular town your family basically becomes who you’re touring with so you better hope that You like them, -You like them- But also it’s a very odd hour kind of job Especially if you’re a dresser. When I was working as a dresser I worked from 4:00 to midnight was my typical shift because I had to be there during the show and If you’ve ever gone to see a show, people go in the evening. -People go see shows at night It also often means that you’re working holidays. -Yes- People like to go see a show on Thanksgiving. -Yes- Yeah, -real popular- Especially in this town. -in Vegas.- A lot of luck will come to Vegas for the holidays What classes should I take in high school or college? There’s some of the obvious ones where it’s like if you have a sewing class that you can take Absolutely I highly recommend taking theater in high school so that you have a background of it and Art classes for sure If you can go into an admission program for a theater department and show that you’re artistic that you know how to draw It goes a long way Some things that you might not expect that are really good are history classes. -Yes- If you’re doing a show and the director comes up to you and says “hey I want this set in Russia in the early 1900s” Like it helps to know that you’re talking about The Nicholas and Alexandra time. like it helps to know that Because then you have something to start with and then it’s also useful because if you’re taking history classes, then you’re learning how to research And -absolutely- being like having the knowledge of how to research and then you learn like what sort of things do I search for? Where are there useful library tools? art history specifically is almost essential. It’s Yeah, you pretty much need it because if you’re trying to figure out, all right We’re doing this Shakespeare play and they want it full Elizabethan. Well, what did they wear the only way we know is through paintings. Yeah Yeah and so being able to know like oh that time period is called the Baroque time period and so I know to look up baroque paintings or that one is The Jacobean and like what those words mean? Where to find those images? Yeah Absolutely I’d like to talk a little bit about what to look for in a college program if you’re interested in going into Costume design or costume technology. -Yeah. We both went to the University of Arizona for our bachelor’s degrees. I highly recommend it. -It’s a very good program. The teachers are amazing One reason why I think it’s a very good program is because it has both classes in costume design and Classes in how to make things Which is not always the case There are some programs out there that focus exclusively On the designing side of things and then you just kind of have to figure it out yourself for how to sew And I know some very talented designers who went to programs like that Absolutely And they’re all self-taught and sewing but I feel like having a really strong base on how to sew really Opens up your career options. -Yeah, you also learn how garments are constructed which not only again, expands your hirability it also expands your understanding of a designer because there’s definitely been times when a designer comes to me and like shows me a costume that I go that’s actually not physically possible. “I don’t want a seam here.” Well, you have to have one there. So having that knowledge can be really helpful even as a designer expanding yourself in the field because you are seen as someone who’s good to work with Some good questions to ask your potential program about are can I see a list of the classes you offer If they have any networking with local shows. I went to grad school at the University of Minnesota and we had a really cool program Where in the evenings they would have three-hour master classes where they would bring in Professionals from the theater community. And they have the Guthrie Theater there, which is a really wonderful theater They would teach us things like dyeing and painting how to build corsets classes on working with unusual materials and costume prop making also Wig and makeup -ah yes wig and makeup There’s one last thing to really make sure to ask about “what are your alumni doing?” then you can see like oh Wow people who have graduated from here now work at the Guthrie or they work on Broadway, or they they do film If Everyone who graduated from this school all works in film and you’re not interested in working in film That’s probably not the school for you. Yeah, but if that’s what you want to do, then that’s gonna be great And there are certain schools that just have better connections in certain fields. I think we can wrap this up All right. If you have any questions at all, feel free to ask us. If there’s something you’d like to see more about Go ahead and comment. -Comment down below and be sure to- Like and Subscribe! Absolutely, that’s what I was going to say Haha That one! Subscribe! Also if you’re interested You can check out one of our other videos including maybe the one about how to take measurements as a start on your costuming career

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