Costumers Blog

Monday, 18 May 2015 00:00

More Details ...

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There are always more details we can add to a costume design to achieve the desired look; sometimes the details are as simple (or complicated) as adding some hose ...

Sunday, 17 May 2015 00:00

SOAR Festival 2015

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Soar Emerging Artist Festival,  is a 5 day, multidisciplinary arts festival for young and emerging artists. Soar  takes place from June 3 - 7, 2015. The festival will be held in conjunction with the Lieutenant Governor Distinguished Artists Awards. Soar will foster creative development by combining community-inspired ideas with administrative, promotional and facility support.

Monday, 30 March 2015 00:00

Costume Technologies

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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.

Cutting

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 The tool that was originally made from iron was now cast in steel.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?

Monday, 23 March 2015 00:00

Career Costumers

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The New Oxford American Dictionary defines a Costumer as a person or company that makes or supplies theatrical or fancy-dress costumes. ORIGIN mid 19th cent.: from French costumier. Indeed, it is a rather large umbrella that encompases us while we work in collaboration on amazing and beautiful costumes.


Place to Start

The very definition of a Costumer makes clear that even on your first day of work you bring with you a set of skills; no doubt you are able to do one or several of the following;

basic hand sewing

operate a basic domestic sewing machine

iron fabric or a garment

follow step-by-step directions

understand a pattern

follow basic dyeing or fabric painting techniques

basic laundry techniques

You might not know it, but of all the things on the above list, the ability to follow directions is one of the most important skills you bring to any work situation; and, taking notes with a pen and paper shows you don't want to forget a single item.

 

 

Some costumers work as Costume Designers or their Assistants for stage or film; there is a full array of jobs within the Wardrobe Department so there is room for everybody. But, each job designation brings along with it certain duties and responsibilities. Have no fear; experienced costumers are nearby and they help you learn to accomplish each task as it comes along. 

Most costumers are used to showing new crew members the proper method to accomplish the work. There is a lot to learn about in the world of sewing and no one can know everything all at once. Even if you think you'll never do that job again, you may find yourself teaching someone how to do that work on a later gig. Be as spongelike as possible; the more you know, the more you can do. For instance, if you walked by these tables, wouldn't you be interested in what is going on? 

Why, there's some sewing, beading and fabric painting ...

 

     
     

 Costume ageing or breakdown, pattern drafting and costume organizing and storage .... indeed, there is a job for everyone if they are interested to work in the wardrobe department. Sometimes, the Costume Shop even plays host to some important visitors ...

 

 Each task you learn and master, is like a separate chapter in your own book of Being a Costumer, if you will. Each skill can be added to your resume with confidence. Sometime you may get a very specific call for Cutter, Stitcher or Breakdown Artist. Dyers and Dressers may also be called separately; the mantle of Costumer includes many separate beautiful threads, all working together. As you work more, your resume begins to reflect all your abilities and talents, as well as your skills.

 

 

You may begin your career being a bit star-struck, and that's ok, because we have all been caught in that situation, and it is truly awesome to be talking with a performer whose career you, yourself has followed. Now, here you are, right in front of them; talking with them  like you know what you're doing! Oh yes, I think we have all been there. But after a while, and the more you learn about performers in general, you realize their day is much like your own; filled with precise times and locations, scheduled meals and breaks and plenty of time to work. The experience you gain shows clearly to others; you are able to take situations in hand and keep the day and project moving along.

 

 

For example, the more times you inspect, clean and maintain shoes, the better you are at identifying issues with those very important wardrobe items. Suppose you are working as designer on this gig; you will save your budget by buying or renting only footwear that is in good condition; to endure the production. If you are the buyer, you don't want to buy poorly-made or unsuitable expensive footwear, only to return them later, when you really don't have time. Dressers and costumers know how to care for wardrobe items but the work is much harder when the items are not sturdy enough or impractical for the job to begin with. Knowledge is revealed by experience.

 

Experience can take you into the Costume Shop or Workroom.  There, you work with other costumers, and the costumes. Now you have the opportunity to speak with them all; the Shop Manager, Cutter, Stitchers, Tailors, Breakdown Artists and other Costumers. Talk with them about their process, what they like about the work and, what they dislike too. The conversation is usually interrupted if someone finds an amazing textile, button or trim, worthy of sharing; or a costume labelled with the name of a very famous actor.

 

 

 

Approach the work like any other builder; you begin at the bottom and with nothing but an idea. Next comes a drawing,pattern or plan. Materials are gathered and the work of creation begins. The work is accomplished, painted, shined and polished until finally, it is given away or shared with others. Collect as many skills and abilities as you can; everything helps in this business - and make sure you include it on your resume. Go forth. Costumers, and conquer.

In conclusion, a little hand sewing zen .... 

Monday, 16 March 2015 00:00

Now Sewing ..... for Outer Space, Alyene Baker

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Sewing a replacement sunshield for the damaged Skylab. Left to right: Dale Gentry, Elizabeth Gauldin, Alyene Baker, and James H. Barnet Jr. Credit: NASA

Page 8 of 15

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.