Some of my best childhood memories are of scampering around The Tacoma City Ballet and Pantages Theater, following around after my mother while she measured, marked and pinned dancers for costumes. My mother designed costumes for The Tacoma City Ballet for 6 years while my sisters and I took dance classes. Now as an adult, I just finished costuming my very own show “A Chorus Line” for the Bellingham Theater Guild. Putting together a show of any kind is hard work! I signed on to do 23 matching costumes for the final number of “A Chorus Line” (on a shoe-string budget, I might add.) I may not have ever costumed a full stage show before, but I certainly have years of experience watching the process, and I felt confident that I could do this huge project.
I decided to use pre-made black suit coats that I could find at thrift stores as my starting point, and most of the 23 I was able to find for under $2, much less than buying the same amount of yardage in new materials. I removed the arms and fitted each jacket to the actors, a process that took nearly 40 hours. Next I measured and cut the jackets into the correct tuxedo style lines, then opened the seams on the jacket arms and reattached them as tails. Each costume needed three fittings to reach perfection. First to make the general alterations, second to mark the hem lines so each jacket would hang in the same way on the multitude of body types I was working with, and a final fitting to set hook and eye closures and resolve unforseen fit issues.
I used black bras (thrifted) and white cotton undershirts to make the under pieces for the womens and dickies for the mens costumes. As an added challenge, the 16 main actors had a mere 45 seconds to change into their costumes, so every piece had to be sewn in or attached with a quick closure. In the end each costume was two pieces, bottoms and tops. If you’ve never been backstage for a quick change, you are missing out: clothes flying, muffled cursing, and frantic buttoning all in near darkness.
The fun part was glittering 27 top hats (two extra for the directors, and two for the theater guilds auction) and sewing nearly 100 yards of sequins and 150 yards of gold metallic ribbon on the finished jackets.
In total, I spent 120 hours building these costumes over about three weeks. I cannot describe the immense satisfaction I felt seeing each of these talented young people light up when they put on their costumes!
The exhaustion, muscle fatigue and frustration of putting together 23 costumes in just a few weeks is nothing compared to the deep gratification of seeing my work completed, glittering under the stage lights, while the audience clapped wildly.
I’ve been continually impressed by the talent, enthusiasm, and hard work of everyone involved in putting on this production. Getting up on stage and singing your heart out for a room full of strangers is no small feat. I am grateful to have such entertaining muses, and to be able to exercise my own special talents to make them look as fabulous as possible.
Special Thanks to directors Julie Zavala-Marantette and Ed Marantette for propositioning me to do this show!
If you would like to see my work, and the awesome entertainment that is “A Chorus Line” the show will be playing June 13rd-29th Thurs-Sun at the Bellingham Theater Guild.