So here’s the trouble with tutus… They are made of many, many layers of tulle*. And tulle, these days, is made of hate. I don’t want to sound all judgey-pants, but it’s true. Your average fabric store tulle is made of nylon, a fiber which suffers from a constant string of cheap, tragic affairs with single electrons. By the time you have 6 layers of nylon tulle mounted on the basque (that’s the shaped waist-band bit), you’ve actually sewn yourself a fluffy little Van de Graaff generator. A tutu-in-progress is amazing – you can actually watch threads fly from the floor towards the tutu where they permanently bond with with tulle. Effective for cleaning, perhaps, but not so good for the tutu which should ideally not look like some sort of worm-farm. Just in case you, dear reader, ever find yourself herding tulle through a sewing machine, here are a few tricks I’ve picked up from a couple years of sewing dance concerts at the shop…
One of the joys of live theater is that there is always the possibility that something might go catastrophically wrong. I costumed Dirty Rotten Scoundrels a few months ago. Monday of tech week, the day after the production photos were taken, one of the two leading ladies went into the hospital. She was, obviously, replaced. Her replacement could not fit the same costume – the size was off, and she played the character differently. That sort of left me scrambling for a new concept (I settled on something around early Loretta Lynn meets GCB) and a some western wear that didn’t fall into my budget. Bring on the franken-jacket!
A lot of sewers are afraid of bifurcated nether-garments. They look more complicated than skirts. I remember wearing bike shorts under costumes for years because I was afraid to attempt a bloomer. And that is an odd conundrum, because I had been making corsets for years. That’s just the power of the pant. But sister, don’t fear the bloomer… There’s a Really Easy Way(tm).
File this under “Reasons missa is going to milliner’s hell” for 100, Alex.” This is the WRONG WAY to recover a hat. DO NOT DO THIS. It’s bad bad bad Wrongy McWrong. It’s really bloody fast. But it is wrong, and will probably get you mocked by anyone who knows what they are doing. You have been warned… ;)
I worked wardrobe for a dance show over the weekend. I brought my trusty-not-so-rusty spindle with me, because I promised another woman I’d show her how to spin. So, imagine my surprise when it turned out that the tour manager for the show was also an avid spinner…
Sometimes, in theater, you need a specific period shoe and you don’t have the time to order it from the internet, the money to order it from the internet, or an actor who wears a size you can order from the internet. (In this case, it was an “all of the above” scenario – I had a Benjamin Franklin who wore something like a 13EEE. This is hard enough to find in a modern shoe at community theater prices. As for replicas, you can forget it!) This is not a demo that will show you how to make an exact replica. It’s more of an act of desperation, which might possibly inspire others to do a better job than I did. ;) I just needed something good enough for stage at the “this ain’t broadway, sweetheart” level.
I’m saving the best for last – I loved the way this costume turned out! It is, by far, the most wack-a-doodle set of design decisions I’ve ever made. I really wanted to do a rather prim dress for the Countess, what with how she’s rich and all. At the same time, there’s only so much “prim” you can use around a Steve Martin script, and the character is fairly exuberant. So she needed a costume with enough detail to be lavish, enough joy to match the character, an olde-timey silhouette, and it had to come from resale. You know, no bigs….
So, for the next installment in the series, I’ll tackle the character of Germaine in Picasso at the Lapin Agile. (Wowza, did that sound pretensious…) The rough inspiration for the costume was, “How would Miss Piggy do Steampunk?” This one is slightly more complex than the Admirer, but still pretty easy to wrangle out of resale…
So I’m doing Picasso at the Lapin Agile at Wheaton Drama right now – big funny Steve Martin craziness, right? It’s our studio show. Now, I figured the studio show was where we do something artistically risky, just to see how the audience responds and not care too much about how it sells. This should tell you how much I still need to learn about theater… Le sigh. Silly me. Apparently, “studio show” is theater-ese for “low budget”. So, what’s a costumer to do when she finds herself with an 11 person period show, and the show budget is 500$ less than what she wanted for the costumes? Steampunk.
During the week, when there are no shows going on, actors and most of the crew return to their regularly scheduled lives. Do you know what costumers do?