Comments: 38 • Responses: 14  • Date: 

june6065 karma

How do you tactfully suggest to an actor that they may be gaining weight when taking measurements.

More importantly, how much more difficult does weight gain with stubborn actors affect you and your team?

NYCCostumer2 karma

Umm... Well you typically don't have to mention it, because it is very likely that they already know, and you don't want to make them feel bad about themselves/their body...it is possible that between the first fitting and second fitting, you'll have to let somthing out a bit (And in a high energy musical, you'll often have to take stuff in, because they will have been dancing intensely for 8 hours a day for weeks) Actors are people too, acting is just their job... and everyone goes through periods in life. However, if you are working with equity actors, and the weight gain is extreme, I do believe that it is in their equity contracts that they have to maintain their appearance from the time they were cast in the role through closing (Unless told otherwise by the costume designer) This includes hair, facial hair, piercings, tattoos, etc...sometimes people do break these rules, however...and sometimes they get away with it...but it depends on how much the costume designer wants to raise a fuss about it as well...

Newb872 karma

Wow so informative OP :) same time tomorrow?

NYCCostumer1 karma

Sorry...I waited an hour and no one posted...so I thought I wasn't cool enough, and fell asleep... LOL! Everything is answered now though!!

warf_on_the_wall1 karma

What advice do you have for someone preparing to go to college for costume design?

NYCCostumer2 karma

Be prepared for long hours. Long Long Hours. And be prepared to give it everything you have. Theatre school is very intense and takes a lot of time and dedication-- this might been missing parties, or not going to the big football game, because you have a rendering package due. It's a hard field, and I would recommend only diving in if you really really love it and want to dedicate your life to it for the art...because god knows, we aren't here for the money...lol! ALSO, NETWORK. Networking is how you get jobs later. And be nice to everyone!! You never know whose going to end up getting a random break.

Risesu1 karma

What is it that an actor can do for you to get them in your good books?

NYCCostumer2 karma

Honestly, for me as a dresser, I love my actors. It is very hard for them to be bad in my books...haha.
Actor's jobs are hard...and I think you have to understand somewhat what an actor is doing/going through to be a good wardrobe person. They are going through alot on stage, putting themselves out there, dancing, singing, wearing 4 layers of clothing in the heat of stage lights...as a dresser, I know my job is to support them in doing this--to give them one less thing to think about. They can trust that when they run offstage, their next costume is going to be there and pressed every night where it needs to be.
However, there are some really cute things actors have done that make me love them even more...I have worked with some actors who thanks me as they leave the theatre every night for everything... actors who are super easy going, and willing to try anything... actors who give out opening/closing night cards... Actors who start conversation with the backstage staff are always lovely... if something goes wrong (and it will eventually--it's live theatre) if they dont throw a tantrum, and just let you know what happened calmly... Umm...technically, it is actually a thing to "tip" your dresser...so if you want a really happy dresser, just give them a nice tip and they will sing your praises forever...lol.

On the other side, one thing that actors should know is how important it is to ALWAYS BE ON TIME FOR THEIR FITTINGS. I have seen some costume designers get super made about this...and it is kind of disrespectful to leave someone who is prepped and waiting for you waiting for ever... and then make them reschedule another hour of their life to try to see you again.

Trixsterxx1 karma

If you had advice for people looking to make a carreer what would you tell them to had sewing skill wise and what to be able to show off?

I'm assuming when you see it has to be perfection for even stitches .

NYCCostumer1 karma

Well...it's funny because it depends really on what you want to do in the costuming world as to how amazing your stitching ability needs to be... IE-- I know some designers that dont sew..however, it is definitely easier for a shop to work with a designer who does know how to sew, so the designer can communicate better what they would like something to be/ they would know if something is impossible or not. As a draper, you need very good sewing abilities...you need to understand how pieces go together to make a garment based off a drawing (rendering) you will receive. You also need to be able to communicate the steps to a first hand or stitcher...and you need to know how to successfully sew certain fabrics/ garment shapes and how to alter them to be successful onstage. You should also have a basic knowledge of the history of period clothing. As a wardrobe person, you really just need to be able to mend things (And quickly) so the show can go on if something happens, and you can adequately support your actors.

gazeless-stare1 karma

How important do you think costumes are to the overall audience and actor experience of the play? Are there certain plays/type of plays where you think costumes are more important than others?

NYCCostumer1 karma

I really think it depends on the piece, and the direction of said piece.

I have designed costumes for a show where the clothes were central, and everyone walk away from the evening more engaged in the story because it was visually beautiful to look at...

I have also been in the audience when there is very minimal design involved in a production, but the way the performers/ director work the story, it still remained powerful.

Costumes are very important to some actors, as they help the actor step out of who they are in real life, and become more the character they have been studying/ getting to know in the rehearsal room. Often, actors will have input on their costumes "I think this tie is too nice for him [their character]" "I dont think she is the type of woman who would wear jewelry" etc etc

PiratedParrot1 karma

What was the most fun costume you had to make?

NYCCostumer2 karma

Oh gosh...I love designing musicals...Big chorus numbers are kind of my thing...I love working with color...and I enjoy whimsical designs...

FeatofClay1 karma

How much do you buy versus sew? And what kinds of alterations do you make to bought garments to make them more customized and less identifiable as a modern (or particular brand of) garment?

NYCCostumer1 karma

It depends on the period/ budget/ size of shop! If it is a 1980s-2010s show, everything will probably be bought (save for maybe a specialty dress or jacket or something)... if the show is 1950s or earlier, there are typically more builds/pulls... for 1940-1960s, sometimes you can get away with modcloth/ unique vintage purchases with slight alterations. and it just all depends on the design...if you designed a dude in a red flannel with a blue shirt and some jeans, you dont really need to add anything to it...just buy. However, sometimes you need to be creative and make a 1980s dress look like a 1920s dress (all periods borrow certain things from each other) so then I might add some bead trim and fringe to the dress artfully, take out the shoulder pads, or shorten the sleeves, or something like that!

EricT591 karma

How do you feel about the sound of Velco back stage during quick changes?

NYCCostumer2 karma

haha...I dont mind it...whatever's needed for the quick change to be successful! But honestly, designers are all about magnets these days...lol...I dont think I have worked with a professional designer in the past year who hasn't said "magnets" atleast one time in the shop...lol!

EricT591 karma

I had a room mate in the 80s who worked as an actor for the Seattle Children's Theater. He said the wardrobe mistress hated Velcro. I'm sure she was just old school. Magnets seems really smart actually.

NYCCostumer2 karma

Lol yea...some people have very strong opinions about velcro... and magnets are alright...but they are expensive (one 1" magnet can be $14!!) and sometimes they stick to things they arent supposed to! lol

mentalsquints1 karma

Cool! Thanks for doing this! I'm an aspiring costumer myself. I've been designing and sewing my whole life, and I've also been in theater my whole life (primarily as an actor but occasionally as a dresser/costume assistant)! I just graduated with a B.A. in English (cue Ave. Q song) and a minor in Theater, and while I'm doing odd jobs for a local costumer I'm afraid I find myself rather baffled as to where to begin. My portfolio consists of renderings I've done for class and other doodlings, and I'm thinking that a Master's in Design would probably be my best bet if I want to be taken seriously as a designer. Before I commit to a grad school (and all its accompanying debt!), what advice would you give someone trying to break in? How did you get your start? And how much schooling is necessary? Thanks so much for your answer, in advance.

NYCCostumer2 karma

I have been toying with the idea of grad school for quite some time as well...and I've talked about it with basically everyone I have crossed in the industry, and the protips I have recieved are 1) Dont pay a penny for grad school. You will never be able to pay off the debt with a designer's salary. 2) If you are going to go to grad school (and figure out what you want to get out of it before you commit...) you need to go to a well known one--- because you are going there for the networking mainly...so where are people from that school working? will they be able to get you jobs? Honestly, many regional theatres do year long apprenticeships/internships, and I think if you are trying to get a foot in the door, it's an excellent way to do so! They will usually pay for your housing and give you a small weekly stipend, and you will work in the shops (Where, believe it or not, a lot of big name designers might pass through) and they will learn your names and you will get a ton of connections that way. At my current theatre, I have met many broadway designers who have talked to me/ given me tips/ told me who to email/give my resume to...I am booked for the next year, and half of my jobs have come from random connections I have made. Also, do summer stock!! It is a great way to get to know people and network... cuz everyone is away from home/looking to hang out/ working the same long hours you are...and it's also a lot of fun!

NervousRect1 karma

Thanks for doing this AMA! Just wondering: how did you get to where you are now? Internships, connections, education..

NYCCostumer2 karma

All of the above!! I strongly recommend internships because not only do they give you professional theatre experience, but the supervisors know you are there to learn. I did an internship at a large shakespeare festival, and one of my supervisors liked me so much that she just kept hooking me up with all of her professional friends, who also took a liking to me, and put me in contact with their professional friends..etc etc...this one connection is how I got a foot in the door in NYC, and it is also how I got my first staff position at a theatre. You never know where you'll meet someone. You never know who people will know. Theatre is a very small world. Just try your best to be the kind of person that people want to work with and, well, people will want to work with you! haha. Also, your school network doesn't hurt either. I went to a school who has very strong alums in NYC and at large theatre festivals like Williamstown, and people are more likely to want to hire someone with whom they share an alma mater with!

romps1 karma

What was your biggest challenge when making costumes? How do you have time to create enough costumes for a production? It takes me six months to make one dress...

NYCCostumer1 karma

Well, depending on the size of the shop/ production, there are usually multiple people working on costuming any particular show. When designing, you typically have to take into consideration the size of shop that you are designing for. I have designed shows where it is just me in the shop, and for those shows, 1-2 builds are all you can do, because in addition to those, you have to consider that for a show with 10 cast members, you could have upto a page of alteration notes for each actor, and those take time too!
Also, sometimes people can speed sew things for theatre, because it doesn't necessarily have to look great close up (Unless it's an intimate house) so everything doesn't have to be perfect as if you were to make a dress to wear yourself in public...if that makes sense? Also, most theatres have stocks that you can pull from for free...or you can rent from another theatre's stock if you worked somewhere and remember that they have the perfect thing that you need... In NYC, there are so many people working on any particular show, and there are people who specialize in very specific things to get the job done... for example, there are hat makers, beaders, shoe makers, wig makers, pleaters, button holers, stitchers, shoppers, drapers, dyers, crafts people, etc etc...so a single look could be a project of 10+ people, which really expedites the process.

chtucker180 karma

How do you modernize a Shakespeare play like Hamlet?

NYCCostumer1 karma

Well...you and everyone on the production will read the script...Then the director will talk to everyone about why the script is important to them/ what their ideas are/ what they want to achieve...and as a designer, you take these ideas and key words and do a ton of research. Slowly, you start to understand the rules of the world you are creating and how the characters in the script fit into these rules. Sometimes the director will have an outright concept-- "Post-Apocolyptic Hamlet!!" sometimes it's more like "I want Hamlet to be relatable to audiences today...and we have a composer who is writing rap music for it, and we will have a chorus of poor people who see all!" and then you ask yourself what clothing is relateable to today? What clothing works with rap music style? Are we thinking modern dress? like 2010's? Or hip hop? How does Hamlet's costume relate to the chorus of poor people? then you show a bunch of images to the director, and they will love some and they will hate some...and you take the ones they love and research more things that feel like that world...if that makes sense?