Amalgamation of Life, Costume Designer

I’ve been thinking…

I’ve been having these moments where I shift back and stop to think for a minute, “how did I come to that decision?” Or, “was that the best decision to make?” It’s a bit alarming. You know you did well, every one has clothes and every one has been taking care of things pretty well (one ‘minor’ pants rip, and I call it a successful run so far). But I am hesitating on calling it a victory, or even a minor win, because I’ve been thinking of things as I go along.

Let me tell you what’s been going through my head, and it’s only a few minor things but they are clearly important to me since they’re ‘haunting’ my rests between production weekends for All Shook Up.

  • Jailhouse rocker hats with numbers. The show opens with our roustabout getting released from jail, so the ensemble is dressed as both roustabouts (all black) or as jailbirds (striped shirts, striped hats, black pants). At the same time, our pit is dressed and playing as the Jailhouse Rockers and they have generally the same outfit throughout the course of the show. It works and I’m glad the Music Director has the forethought to do this every production (she always finds something cute to gift the band).
    But…she bought them hats, similar to the ones I have some of the ensemble wear, and she put, or had the band member do it, prisoner numbers on the front of the caps. Not only is this a nice way to monitor which hat belongs to whom, but it’s that extra edge over adorable and into realism. She did this early enough before production, I could have done it to the hats for the ensemble but then hats started disappearing and I was frustrated with other items therefore couldn’t focus on this minor, but delightful, detail.

 

  • Jailhouse striped shirts for the men. Can I tell you how hard it is to find standard shirts of all the same coloring and stripe width for both male and female body types? It. Is. Damn. Near. IMPOSSIBLE. I got to the point, about two weeks before opening, where the frustration (referenced above) was so overwhelming that I had to make a decision; men would be in all black as roustabouts and women would wear the striped shirts, caps were spread in an unorganized fashion (first come, first serve).
    It doesn’t sit well with me because it could have been prevented with a couple different kind of solutions. A) I could’ve made black striped white shirts a la what I did for the sailors in Curtains!. B) I could’ve started searching and purchasing pre-made shirts much earlier in our production schedule. I gave myself a month, to be completely done Curtains! before planning and purchasing for All Shook Up. While my sanity was thankful, now my present mind is kind of regretful.
    I do get a lot of compliments on this scene and how beautifully it’s dressed. It is something that still bothers me, but I try to ignore the unrest and enjoy the visual impact of the costumes and lights in this scene.

 

  • My mechanic’s jumpsuit. Should I have made it dirty? For example, should I have done the same treatment to the jumpsuit as I did to her two greasy dresses. Here is a proud and fortunate moment: this character has a quick change from her jumpsuit to a dirty dress, a dress she uses on stage as a grease rag. I found multiples of the same dress and ‘dirtied’ them with strategically place spray paint. I’ve been trying to tell myself, that, for longevity sake and use for posterity, it doesn’t make sense to have dirtied up the jumpsuit.
    But…it’s a jumpsuit specifically meant to go over clothes, to prevent them from getting dirty and here we have a character playing a mechanic in a perfectly clean, never used jumpsuit? It’s kind of shenanigans and I am truly upset that I had this thought so late in the game.

 

  • A suit jacket prepared/available for my soon-to-be married men. It was literally the end of the show; my brides were walking down the aisle and towards the men they’re about to spend the rest of their life with and I cocked my head.. why are these dudes wearing clothes they had worn the whole show? With minor exceptions, there’s no real reason why I hadn’t given them a different outfit to change into post engagement and pre wedding. One actor would have been mildly inconvenienced, but as I sat there thinking why I didn’t do something, I had figured out to make it the most minor of inconveniences.
    They look normal and unprepared. I think I am most upset by this costume decision, as compared to the others, because they are all *literally* ready to be dressed in something (anything) else for their own wedding. Maybe it’s the formal, anal costume designer that lives inside me that’s not letting this go but hopefully one day I can forget this moment.

These emotions have been a first for me, I can’t recall second guessing major decisions or feeling like I’ve left things undone. Maybe I’ve had too much free time on my hands, maybe I really regret owning the dual roles of costuming and performing in the same production. While I am certainly glad that I wasn’t doing these two roles in two separate shows (and nay, definitely not in two separate theaters), I have come to the conclusion that this may not have been the best decision of my theater career. Now, I haven’t gotten any negative feedback or irritable questions, I personally just don’t feel fulfilled.

I am personally and professional disappointed in my output for this production, it could have been better and it’s been a disservice to my peers and fellow staff members. However, It’s been a good run and I am proud of accomplishing what I did (both dancing, singing, dressing, maintaining sanity, etc.) but I do wish there had been more thought in some of the design. ‘Til next time–AND(!) maybe there will be a next time. I’ll be thankful I’ve hashed out some of these thoughts if this production ever crosses my way again.

Really ’til next time now.

1 thought on “I’ve been thinking…”

  1. I think costuming a show like this must be similar to writing a book – you can always go back and find things you wish you had done differently, and given more time you can always add/improve. I thought the costumes in All Shook Up were great. The jailhouse scene in particular looked wonderful so don’t beat yourself up on those details! Same for the jumpsuit, I didn’t give it a second thought (though to be totally honest, what did strike me was the fact that she was a mechanic, and obviously a big tomboy, but had perfectly manicured nails. That bugged me haha). For the wedding scene I feel like it’s just one of those “typical corny musical” things. I thought it worked in the style of the show! It might seem silly for them to be wearing the same clothes, but it’s also silly for them to all be instantly getting married so I think it actually works well with that theme 😉

    I thought the costumes for this show were great and you should 100% consider it a win.

    Liked by 1 person

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