Sunday, March 16, 2014

My Costume Design How To: Part 1

Recently I had a comment on one of my posts asking me "How do you costume design? I'd love to know how to do this." That is QUITE the question. And something that is hard to answer in one blog post. (Which is while I'll do a series of posts.) In just over a month I will be graduating from Weber State University with a Bachelor of Arts Degree in Theatre Arts with my emphasis on Costume Design. I have known I wanted to be a costume designer since I was a teenager. I've loved making costumes and designing them since I was a child and would do so for my American Girl Dolls and my Barbies. I would rarely actually color my coloring books, but draw dresses in the margins. But it wasn't until I went to college that I really understood what went into doing the costumes for a show. I am going to have a bachelor's degree and I know I still have worlds to learn.
I will also, through these posts, be sharing with you one of the greatest experiences I have ever had: Costume Designing for The Plain Princess at Weber State.
SO...How do you Costume Design? Part 1.


So when you costume design for a play or musical you always start in the same place.
READ THE SCRIPT! Seriously. You'd think this is common knowledge, but I can't tell you how many times I've seen designers think they know a show, because they've heard of it and read the wikipedia synopsis (I am serious) and then try to start designing. And personally, I am a HUGE fan of NOT WATCHING THE DANG MOVIE! It WILL affect your designs.
The first time you read the script, just read it. Read it for the story and plot. That's all. Don't try to start designing, just let the story and characters sink in.
Then read it again. This time, read it and try to visualize it, analyze it, do all the script analysis you want. Take notes in the margins, highlight things, think of colors or lines.
Also, this will not be the last time you read the script. You want to know this script incredibly well, know the characters as well as you know yourself (just for the record, I love talking to the actors about their realizations and discoveries of their characters.) You're dressing them, you better know who they are.
When I designed The Plain Princess, I didn't get a script until 2 days before auditions. Why? Because it wasn't finished. haha. One of the fun things of doing an original works, you don't know when you're going to get your script or when you'll get re-writes.
The director/writer gave me the book the story comes from to read over the summer. Since I didn't have a script, I read and reread the script.
This synopsis comes from the website for the musical:
"Princess Esmerelada seems to have everything that a young princess should...except that she is "plain." In order to overcome her dilemma, the King and Queen seek the help of anyone who can remedy their daughter's situation. After the wizards and physicians refuse the challenge, a clever widow accepts the task and takes Esmerelda to live with her and her five charming daughters.
The result is a special kind of magic that works a miracle."
Luckily for me, the playwrights stayed incredibly close to the story, so reading the book allowed me to think a lot of my design and wasn't radically altering when the story came out.

STEP 2: Talk to your Director

With Plain Princess, when my director, Jim Christian first talked to me about designing his show, he gave me a color palette to think about. This happened before the script was ever even close to being done, before I had read the script or book or anything. He showed me a bouquet of flowers. This was the direction my director sent me on. (The first direction)
The first time I read the script was actually a read-through at the playwright/director's house the Sunday before our Fall semester started. (I actually read/sang for the part of Dulcibelle at the read-through). Our first production meeting was a few days later. I did not have much time to do renderings. My shop manager and I went and started purchasing fabrics so when I got to the first production meeting, I had research to show (I will talk about research in my next post) some basic sketches, and some fabrics with color choices. Because I showed up prepared (as did my fellow designers) we all had a mutual direction to go. A lot of my color choices in fabric influenced set colors, prop colors, and definitely light colors.

I do want to also add: If you are not actually doing a show and you are just designing for fun, practice, or a class assignment, come up with a Design statement.

This week's book/s to check out (aka books I love and use a lot):
Costume Design 101 Which has tons of great info on the process and basics of costume design. It's always fantastic to have a guide or reminder.

1 comment:

Andrew-L'autre said...

Interesting post. I think it's great that you're getting to realize your teenage dream of becoming a costume designer. Early congratulations on your graduation from university. :)