*(Sonnet 43 by Elizabeth Barrett Browning)

New Technologies in the Wardrobe Department come in the manner of all shapes, textures and materials.

In the beginning ...

The sewing machine was a huge new techology when it arrived in 1790s. No doubt this machine gradually brought affordable clothing and home furnishings into the realm of everyone.  Personal seamstresses and tailors had been employed to create fashionable gowns and men's attire, but now clothing of all types could be sewn at home or mass produced using the sewing machine. Later on, industrial sewing machines, embroidery machines, blind hemming, buttonholeing and serging machines took their rightful places in sewing workrooms. 

Technology has not let these sewing machines alone; computer components help our new sewing machines to do a variety of stitches; sergers are threaded via a puff of air, and machines can sew with multiple needles at high speeds; indeed, modern embroidery machine can stitch as many designs as a person can scan into it.

Fabrics and thread changed along with technology as fibers we knew were being mixed together to provide stronger garments. Metal closures such as hooks and eyes moved over to accomodate the zipper and snaps, and later on, velcro. Some clothing nowadays even employ magnets to keep edges together.


As mentioned in a previous blog, scissors have been around since early days; in Egypt. These ancient tools look just like our modern snips...

Scissors evolved from a one-piece spring-action device to the pivot-type we know today. The tool that was originally made from iron was now cast in steel. Scissors became quite fashionalbe, even sporting elaborate handles such as these ... 

But now, fellow costumers, we have cutting tools that rock ...





Including these amazing fabric cutters that allow us to cut multiple pattern pieces at the same time ...



For decades, cutters used only their cutting shears to cut out several of the same pattern pieces. Modern fabric cutters allow them to cut several peces at once; for example, you can cut the pattern pieces of a vest, plus the lining pieces at the same time! I first saw this technology in action while working with Wendy Partridge; she uses a similar style to the one shown in the first block. These cutters are excellent for shows that require 50 vests, or 40 petticoats, or 30 blouses ...so much easier than hand-cutting each vest, petticoat or blouse.

Pattern Drafting

Cutters have been drafting patterns by hand for over a centry; do you recognize any of these stages?


 Pattern Drafting on a Computer

While professional industry cutters may prefer to draft patterns by hand, we can embrace new computer technology developed to do this work. Once the pattern is digitized, you can easily adapt the design elements such as adding or removing darts and changing cuffs and collars. You can take a sleeve from one pattern, a collar from another, the body from another and make a completely new pattern without working several all-nighters in a row. These programs also help solve the layout challenges before cutting as the program organizes pattern pieces to generate 15% waste or less. Gotta love that. The program will also place pattern pieces properly if you are matching stripes or plaids. All the patterns you make can all be stored in a digital format; no need for another cabinet of drawers to hold those patterns. Check out this video to see how a computer pattern drafting program works ...

3D Digitizer

Once you add the dimensions into the computer program, the digitizer allows you to create a digital version of the paper pattern. Similar to other computer programs, the digital patterns can then be organized and saved by show, style or both. Once the pattern is transfered to a CAD program, a new pattern is easily created. You are able to see the pattern pieces, print them on paper and begin to cut;

3D Scanner

Wouldn't we all love to have this technology in our homes? Too bad the machine is the size of a room and this machine is likely far too expensive for most costume shops to afford. 

The 3D visualizer can import the performer's 3D body scan into the computer so the cutter can use the digitally stored patterns and fit them to the performers' body. The final result is a reference that is accurate to the performers own body

For example, you can adapt the pattern in real time by dropping the armhole, or adding fullness to a gathered skirt or the rise on a pair of trousers. These programs also allow the user to import textile colours and patterns which gives you the opportunity to see what the garment will look like, before you've made a single cut. As you become proficient with these types of programs, you may find you don't need to make as many mock-ups; so are saving time and material.

There is another available option to costmers who need this technology. Take a look at this David Laserscanner video, its very helpful ...

It seems that no modern workplace is immune from new technology. I have blogged about folks using LEDs in costumes; making them light up in amazing ways such as this outfit worn by Katie Perry;

It starts out glowing white, but picks up the colour from the lights ...

Technology will continue to support our work; to enable us to create amazing costumes that work on stage and in film. Industry representatives tease us with a future that includes lots of 3D works and maybe hollographs. The future is very exciting, don't you think?

The Costumer's Notebook,

The book The Costumer's Notebook is a 295 page comprehensive handbook for Costumers for stage and film including a full Glossary of stage and film industry terms. Sections include methods and tricks for laundry, dyeing, breakdown, Dresser guidelines and protocols for Stage or Film and various size charts for men and women from shoes to gloves. Other Sections include diagrams showing How to Iron A Shirt, How to Tie a Tie and How to Tie a Bow Tie. Costume fittings, costume lay out and costume storage are also discussed.