How to Design a Costume
In anything you create the process is as simple as thinking of an idea and creating it, right?
I guess so, but there are countless other things that go through your mind when creating a piece of art, whether that’s a costume or a piece of scenery that ends up on stage.
When designing a costume for a show there are initial things to consider.
How to do research
Doing research on those questions can be as easy as googling the time period of the show or character that you are creating.
For example’s purpose, let’s use Hello Dolly! This show takes place in 1890.
We simply google “1890 attire” or 1890s clothing to get an idea of what we are looking for. Another option is to search Pinterest with similar search terms.
Click here to view the search: 1890s costumes on Pinterest.
Start a google document or a Pinterest board to save photos that are inspiring to you for your costume idea. Having reference images or what inspires you will help you start drafting your costume design.
Make a Draft
For a full musical production, the designer takes the cast of characters and does this same process for every single character. So in Hello Dolly! the designer would go down the list from Dolly, Irene Malloy, Minnie Fay, Vandergelder, Barnaby, Cornelius all the way to characters that are equally as important to creating the story like the waiters, townspeople, parade members and vaudeville girls.
That’s a lot of people to find reference photos and choose colors for! The designer does this process and then works with the costumers to discuss fabric choices, styling and accessories that are needed to complete the whole look.
Your Costume Tells a Story
While you are wearing the costume in the show, the costume serves a bigger purpose in creating the story on stage. Even though you might not like the color red, maybe the designer chose you to wear the red dress because in that scene you are helping convey emotions such as confidence and bravery? Anything that helps the audience picture the world you are living in and feel what you are feeling on stage is an important part of the art you are performing.
For your costume another way to complete a draft may be as simple as sketching a draft of what you are visualizing in your mind down on a piece of paper. Even if you aren’t the best artist, drawing and sketching what you are visualizing and talking it through with someone can help your idea come to life.
How Do I Make My Costume?
Finding materials like old clothes that can be repurposed or even visiting a thrift store to buy used items to make your idea come to life!
Sewing skills aren’t a common skill to learn anymore, so definitely go to Youtube for the sewing basics. There are some costumes that you can even put together without getting crazy with those skills. If you’d like to learn how to sew, send us a message so we can put together some resources for you.
Try it yourself by designing your own costume.
Still not sure where to start?
Click the button below to download a worksheet to start designing your costume using the process we just discussed.
Check back the last week of October to submit your photo of your costume in time for our contest.
Prizes will be awarded to creative entries, best design and best character! You don’t have to have a reason to get creating, though!
For more questions or to share your process, feel free to contact us.
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Fendig Summer Theater is a non-profit organization 501 (c)(3) for the advancement of theatre development in children.