Tuesday, December 3, 2013

Humble Pie Tastes Crap.

It's ok, Meatloaf says, "Two outa three ain't bad".

You know how the saying goes, "You can have it good, fast, or cheap; you can only pick two". Last week I had to drop the "good", and the result was "bad". Quite bad. I was frantically making costumes for a show; my first attempt at professional costume design. Now, I do judge my work harshly, but calling it "bad" wasn't a product of my hyperbole. My client straight-up told me how awful these costumes were; told me how my lack of professionalism and shitty time-management screwed over the show. That sounds kind of mean--except for the fact that it's all true. If I manage to book any future clients, I owe it to them to learn from this clusterfuck. I owe it to myself to break my bad habits.
Working really hard to get something done and knowing that it's still not going to be good enough sucks balls.

MICE can do it better than I can?! RAGE QUIT

Okay, pity-party is over. Who likes reading list articles? I love me a good list article. Throw in some fun pictures, cussing, and plenty of kitties--click-throughs shoot right up. Writing about this embarrassing, devastating experience as a light-hearted list hopefully will take away the sting of failing so miserably. So here is my list of


1) Sketch, sketch, sketch. To get a solid idea of how a costume will be built and how it will look, you must sketch. A lot. Because how a costume looks effects several other factors; lighting, set design, costume changes, movement, combat (if you're lucky), and overall theme. The director has an idea of how the show will look, your costume ideas had better line up with that. 

There's crazy in my creativity? It's more likely than you think.

2) Make mock-ups for large costume pieces first. When somebody puts on something you made; something that matches up with all the measurements you carefully took, and it doesn't fit, is really discouraging. Having to take the costume back, disassemble it, adjust it, rebuild it, or even...kinda
fudge it into looking better burns up your time and is just fucking frustrating. Make adjustments
at the beginning of the process. Do the largest/most complicated pieces first; to make sure they
get done even if you run out of time. The actors need as much time as possible to rehearse with
large-slash-complicated costumes. Because...

Even Dior had to make mock-ups

3) It's hot on stage. Yes, the costumes have to look good, but they also have to be some degree of comfortable for the actor inside them. This actor is embodying somebody else; remembering script, cues, choreography, costume changes, exits, and entrances. All of that is ever harder to do if they are roasting under the cans. Simplify and fake the structure at every possible opportunity. It also cuts down on the amount of work you'll have to do. Back to your Sketches!

She burst into flames, but they gave her a standing O for it.

4) Meet a deadline? Tell director. Miss a deadline? Tell director. Directors love communication. They have to keep pretty much the whole production in mind while they are directing. The stress of juggling all of those balls (heh, juggling balls) is exponentially multiplied if you can't add your ball in when it's expected. Keep the director up to date, in the loop, whatevs; so they won't have to waste time chasing you down to check in. If you're running behind, they need to know that, too. Swallow your fucking pride and tell them what you can do to make up for lost time; the director may even shuffle some crew around to get you more help. There is nothing wrong with accepting help (as long as they can manage to not sew their fingers to the costume)

I drew a blank for a helpful picture. So here's a kitteh.

5) Efficiency throughout costume changes; a mixed bag. If you plan the costumes changes carefully, you may be able to streamline your workload. Reusing or concealing pieces means less things to make, and less time to change. However, building the costumes to be changed in a hot minute takes some clever engineering. Also, testing. A lot. of testing. You don't want a snap popping open or a velcro strap giving out at the wrong time.

Even Dame Edna's wardrobe malfunctions were classy.

6) Collaboration happens, whether you want it or not. The director will give you feedback (because they're the director). The actors will also have feedback; because they have to wear whatever monstrosity you've created. It's important to not take it personally, because it's about the costume, not your skill. Feedback is not about just the costume; directors and actors discuss entrances, exits, costume changes, accessories, props, character development, and script--and you have to be there for all of it. Maybe a costume gets cut, or ensemble is changed; it's still not personal. It's part of the job; listen to
everything laid out so you can glean the info you need to improve the costumes.

"Hm...not what I had in mind for Rum Tum Tugger..."

7) I should probably get some training. When it came to the actual process of designing costumes for a show; I was in over my head. I wasn't even aware I was about to drown. The job isn't just designing and sewing costumes; it's about you helping the director to create people. The show is a world inside the theater, the costumes become possessions of the characters; stains, patches, tears and all.

The day-to-day process of designing costumes isn't a piece of cake, either. You've got to use your resources to procure all the correct clothing to be used. Sometimes you build it, sometimes you buy/borrow/rent it. Sometimes you delegate certain tasks to other people. You must stick to the deadlines for each phase of building; making sure every actor is has a complete costume. You also have to keep track of costume changes, when they happen, how they happen, and make sure the director is on board with all of it. Sounds exhausting? It is, and I didn't even do it right!

Tim Gunn be like- Corduroy? Really?

I didn't know any of that shit. I had hoped I could just pick it up as I was doing it; by way of osmosis for the routine of costume design. Pretty sure it doesn't work like that. If I can assist a real costume designer to watch and learn what is actually done, I'll be way more comfortable trying to design for a show again.


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