COSTUMES.ORG -- THE COSTUMER'S MANIFESTO WIKI

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The Costumer's Manifesto: Idea Stealing
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The Costumer's Manifesto: Deep Theory, Ideas for Show Concepts
  
'''IDEA STEALING'''
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'''DEEP THEORY; IDEAS FOR SHOW CONCEPTS:'''
  
==IDEA==  
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==THE IDEA==  
  
STEALING: Ideas rarely, if ever,flow spontaneously forth in original brilliance from a mind untouched by outsideinfluences. God does not, in costume design, tap lightly on your shoulder and tell you theAll New Perfect And Inspired Way to design  
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COMES FIRST: There is a strange notionwhen you first begin designing costumes that some how "high concept" musttranslate to "high budget" or it isn't possible. I'm not exactly sure where oneacquires this stupid idea, but we, the design students at College of Marin and S.F. State,all had it
  
[[Shows100pagesMissjulie|IDEAMiss Julie]]
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[[Advice1pagesFootnote|THE IDEA1]]. This is simply wrong. Imagination, forethought,and unified concept are the three cheapest things you can do for a show, a fact that ourprofessors attempted to hammer into us in vain. In fact, my post graduate experienceshowed me that usually these things can make a show happen more cheaply. At all events,there is no excuse for not having them, simply because your budget is small. You need tolook at the play script, and talk to your director about ideas even before you talk aboutmoney. If you have the right idea, there will be a way to make it happen, money or not. Itis ideas in design that get the ball rolling, once you have them, money often becomesirrelevant. [Concept comes from
  
[[Shows100pagesMissjulie]] for your graduate designseminar. Some people's designs may look like she did, but she didn't. Design is a processthat works out of and through many pieces of information, from costume history, tocultural perceptions of color, to actor's body proportions, to budget realities, and more.Trying to design costumes without being influenced by outside factors is thereforepointless.
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[[Advice1pagesReadplay|Reading the Play]] forlecture notes on this topic
  
==ORIGINAL==
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[[Advice1pagesReadplay|click here]]
  
ITY: Originality incostume design, therefore, is much more a case of  finding the right idea than originatingit. Thought must mainly be expended in the looking for, and in the adapting of, ideassuitable for the purpose. Original thought is needed to arrange these ideas in new,different, and above all, appropriate ways for each show. Ideas can and should be drawnfrom everywhere, and it is the unoriginal designer who won't bother to look for ideasoutside of her own limited brain. "Idea stealing" is a matter of being open toall the ideas, colors, and textures the world has to offer, and using them in one's art.There are an incredible number of places that you can look for ideas that are worth"stealing," and your research for a show should not begin and end with onlycostume history and the script to guide you.
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''
  
==ASK==
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[[File:AdviceManifestobookCaligari1.jpg]]
  
THE DIRECTOR: First and foremost,you need to know what your director is doing, what she wants, and what opinions she has onthe costumes. Some directors are designers themselves and have valuable and interestingideas for the visuals of a show. Some may be unable to do a pencil sketch, but still needyour designs to coordinate with their concept. Rarely do they send you off without ideas.Tom Riccio, a director I work with in Alaska, is the sort costumers are sometimes inclinedto write off: he can't draw and he's color blind. However, he has consistently given methe best ideas for shows: a full length coronation cape of giant Xeroxed dollar bills forUbu Roi, a flown-in stage covering "entanglement" costume of vines and garbagefor
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[[File:AdviceManifestobookCaligari2.jpg]]
  
[[Shows100pagesEagle|ORIGINALASKThe Eagle's Gift]], and masks that "magically" adheredto the face without strings for
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The Cabinet of Dr. Caligari, 1919''
  
[[Shows100pagesQayaq|Qayaq]]
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[[File:AmazonBooks4Bsicmillinerystage.jpg]]
  
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[[File:AmazonBooks4Costumes_chemistry%20.jpg]]
  
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==ART==
  
[[File:h.t]]
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AND HIGH CONCEPT CAN MAKE DESIGN CHEAPER: The bestexamples I can think of are the set designs for the 1919 film The Cabinet of Dr.Caligari. The designer of the movie wanted a look like an Expressionist painting, allsharply angled buildings and weird lighting. The idea was that the film should look likethe incredible twisted imaginings of the insane character who is the "narrator".However, when they were to film the movie, UFA studios had not the money even to pay the powerbill, so their electricity was cut off, and the show had to be shot by daylight. The designer,instead of abandoning his concept, improved it by thinking quickly, and using spare paintto paint the floors and walls with the "lighting effects" he'd wanted, using theGerman Expressionist style. As a result it looked even more like an Expressionist paintingthan it would have looked if he had a larger budget. It was a sensation in Europe when itcame out, and then made a similar critical hit in the U.S. years later when it came here.To this day this movie is shown regularly in art-house cinemas around the world, and isconsidered one of the most famous designs for film.
  
Fashions
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[[File:h.t|ART The Cabinet of Dr. Caligari]]
  
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==COSTUMERS==
  
[[File:h.t]]
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CAN DO THIS TOO: Many of my own bettershows were at least to an extent "inspired" by budget constraints. A thin budgetthat doesn't allow for doing the conventional thing is a great argument for pushing adirector into taking a chance with an unusual idea. At UAF, where we are perennially shortof the budget and staff necessary to conventionally mount musicals and the classics, wehave an impressive record of unusual productions:
  
Fan Series 19th Century
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[[Shows100pagesAyli|COSTUMERSAs You Like It]],done c. 1971,
  
[http://affiliates.allposters.com/link/redirect.asp?aid=280808&c=a&search=Fan+Series|Fan Series]
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[[File:PortfolioDyepaintRosalind.jpg]]
  
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[[Shows100pagesWoyzeck|Woyzeck]]looking like Dickens filtered through an expressionist lens,
  
[[File:AmazonBooksThegluebook.jpg]]
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[[File:ShowsWoyzeckWoyzeck5.jpg]]
  
[[File:AmazonBooksThecraftersguidetoglue.gif]]
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[[Shows100pagesEagle|The Eagle's Gift]], aNative Alaskan show made out of garbage,
  
''
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[[File:AknativeTumaP6b.jpg]]
  
[[File:ShowsErrorsComedyb2.gif| Click here]] to see this enlarged rendering of Antipholus of Ephesus morph into a photo of Antipholus of Syracuse! And to think I wanted to do this show like 1950'sFlorida. This silent movie comedy idea from Tom was so much better!''
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[[Shows100pagesMuchado|Much AdoAbout Nothing]]done with "Omnigarments,"
  
ASK THE
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[[File:ShowsMuchadoOmni2.jpg]]
  
==ACTORS==
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and
  
: Whenever possibletalk to actors about character. This is what actors do. It's what they know about. Allthat stuff I talked about in
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[[Shows100pagesJesus|Jesus Christ Superstar]]draped and painted to look like Medieval illuminations.  
  
[[Advice1pagesFlex|ACTORS Chapter 2]] about Twenty Questions, Walk this Way, and soforth, is stuff actors do to get into character. In addition to designing the show as awhole, you also need to design each individual character's costume. Getting to know whatthe actors know about their characters is usually helpful in deciding what to do. Actorsfrequently come into the costume shop during the build of a show to ask questions aboutthe designs, and to offer suggestions. Treating this as normal, even helpful behavior,instead of an annoyance, not only is politic, but practical.
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[[File:PortfolioDyepaintHipriest.jpg]]
  
''[Just to give you a clue how much an intelligent actor can grasp and convey about clothing and fashion theory, here is a link to an article by actor Peter Coyote in ''
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Conventionally thinking administratorsat our institution were constantly perturbed by our "weird" productions, neverrealizing it is was their own budget cutting that often helps bring them about.
  
==VISIONS==  
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==HIGH CONCEPT==  
  
FROM DRUMMING: Each year atUAF for example, we do an Alaska Native show. The actors, many of whom are Eskimos andIndians from rural towns, come into speak to me about their roles. These roles are oftenbuilt out of Alaskan legends, rural experiences, and visions from group drumming inducedtrances, that these students are far more familiar with than I am myself. It would besheer idiocy of me to pretend I know more than they do about what elders in the bush wearnow, or to turn down a request to wear Grandpa's polar bear skin boots to portray a greatShaman/hunter character. Creating an atmosphere of openness gets actors to come bring youtheir good ideas, so you don't have to think of everything. It also doesn't hurt to joinrehearsals and group work occasionally if you have the inclination, or to try out drummingand trances along with them. Whatever works.
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CAN MAKE THE SHOW: One of my former students, an incredible director/designer named Diane Swanson, did Gertrude Stein'ssupposedly "unplayable" The Circular Play, using costumes that wereincorporated into the set to facilitate the flow of the play: The setting consisted of sixtubular canisters with round ashtray lids, borrowed from the university janitorialservice, that converted to containers, drums, echo-chambers, a "car", andmusical chairs. In addition the ashtray lids came off and were revealed to beeccentrically decorated pink hats which the performers wore through much of the play.Inside the canisters were round pink pillows, which were sat upon, juggled and used assymbolic props. "The set is the costumes, the actors are the props, the words are theactors, and the play is really weird," explained Swanson. The six female performers,dressed in humorous amalgamations of masculine and feminine dress pulled from stock inshades of pink, began the performance reading pink newspapers, while sitting on thecanisters set in a circle. On the line "Circle Hats" the performers jumped upand placed the ashtray-hats (decorated with stock pink flowers, pink plastic curlers,beads and bows) on their heads with the aid of audience members. The production went on towin student awards for best play production, directing, and costume design that year. Ithad a budget of $50, only $10 of which Swanson spent, buying hot glue to decorate the hatswith scraps from the shop, and pink dye to tint some pulled costumes.
  
''
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==COSTUMES==
  
[[File:AknativeTumaNaam9.jpg|VISIONS]]Ruth Grant And EvelynAlexander in Naam.''
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CAN BE OVERDONE: While less is notalways more, often one is "free" to do more avant garde costumes when the budgetdoes not "allow" literal period dress. One common mistake is to assume, becauseone is given a budget sufficient for doing a lavish period piece, full of detail andhistorical accuracy, that one necessarily should. The English have a wonderful put-downfor designers who do detailed realistic period work on shows that do not call for it. Theysay the show is "from the Laura Ashley school of theatre design," as if to inferthat the theatre designer is suffering from a love of prettiness for it's own sake, moreappropriate to an interior/clothing designer than a theatre artist. Good taste isthe enemy of good design. Simply because you have the budget to do a lavish,complex show, does not mean you must. What you must do is match the costume design to theshow, the characters, and to the directors concept.
  
BE
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==BREIF NOTE==
  
==OPEN==
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ABOUT OMNIGARMENTS: One method(outlined in detail in it's own chapter) is to try to develop a group offlexible costumes that can be controlled by the actors themselves.
  
TO SUGGESTIONS: The key iscommunication. The other folks working on a production are not the enemy. The otherstudents in design class are not your competition. Sit, and talk, and think, and look, andlisten. Ask for everybody's suggestions. There are no awards in design for thinking it allup yourself. Steal ideas liberally from anyone who gives you good ones. Get to know peoplewho give you good ones. Ideally you will create a group in your theatre of people who gettogether and swap ideas. This is why folks have production meetings, it's what theyare for.
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[[Shows100pagesMuchado|HIGH CONCEPTCOSTUMESBRIEF NOTEOmnigarments]](flexible costumes capable of multiple variations) are the choice that offers themaximum amount of actor input into the design. By designing a series of simple butflexible garments that can be tied, wrapped, or draped into a variety of choices, thedesigner may concentrate her work solely on suggesting the main show concept through colorand texture of materials. This leaves individual character's costumes to be worked outbetween the director and actors. This is an especially good choice for shows that developout of ensemble work through the course of rehearsals, or for directors and actors wholike to make lots of changes dangerously close to opening night.
  
==BORROW==
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[[File:ShowsMuchadoMuchado6.jpg]] Much Ado
  
ING CONCEPTS FROM OTHER MEDIA: One of the best ways to find good design ideas is to look at other media likefilm, painting, sculpture, etc. For example, nobody criticized film designer  for lifting her design for Dracula's gold robe in  Bram Stoker's Dracula
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==PULLING==
  
[[File:MwbhImagesDracula5.jpg]] from thepainting style of Gustav Klimt.  
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FROM STOCK: The difficulty withOmnigarments is that they must be made or bought, which rather means you must either haveenough money or labor to make/buy all the costumes from scratch. Depending on the quantityof actors to be clothed, and the cost of the materials involved, this may be medium tocostly. To do a show cheaply one usually needs to pull it largely from stock, or buy it atbottom prices from thrift stores. Making a show from garbage-stock need not require thatthe show look awful. More to the point, it can take a show where the costumes should lookawful like Sweeny ToddOliver, or The Good Woman Of Schezwan, andmake it look really beautifully, disgustingly awful.
  
[[File:AdviceManifestobookKlimtkis.jpg]] On the contrary, she received an Academy Award for Costume Design for doing so, because toadapt that style to that use was an impressively appropriate new idea. Idea stealing, inthis case, is unquestionably original thought. So, too was taking the musical City ofAngels, about a screen writer and his on film alter ego, and costuming it like one ofthe 1940's black and white movies that is the focus of the play. And, one need hardlyexplain that "borrowing" costumes from Seuratt's Sunday at la Grande Jatte,for Sunday in the Park With George, did nothing to reduce it's originality.
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[[File:ShowsWoyzeck09703_21.jpg|PULLING]]
  
''Harvard Law School Legal Brief on
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[[File:ShowsWoyzeck09703_22.jpg]]''
  
[http://leda.law.harvard.edu/leda/data/36/MAGDO.html|The copying of fashion design originals – “knocking off”] (Essentially, don't waste your time trying to copyright or patent a fashion design, you can't. If somebody is copying you, be flattered, most people's designs aren't worth stealing most of the time. )''
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[[File:ShowsWoyzeck09703_23.jpg]] Painted costumes for a "garbage" stock show:
  
==PAINTING==
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[[Shows100pagesWoyzeck|Woyzeck]]''
  
S AND DECORATIVE ARTS:Artwork is a far richer resource than even an art history class will indicate. Only thoseartists blessed by the art historians make it into those classes. There is also all theart made by the peoples of the
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DYE,
  
[[Ethnic1pagesEthnolnk|PAINTING Third World]]: masks, textiles, jewelry, carvings, painting.There is the art of "peasants" in the old world, made of straw, and fiber andwood. Art by women, like quilts, tapestries, fiber arts, rugs, samplers. Art that arthistory passed by because it went out of fashion like 19th Century Historicism, Realism,Pre-Raphaelitism, or 20th Century Symbolism, Mysticism, and the "Ash-CanSchool". There is art that "really isn't art" or is "minor art"because it performs a decorative or useful function, like furniture, automobiles, china,jewelry, or toys. Or art that isn't art because it is the product of modern technology,like photography, computer art, or items of mass production. There is art that is"bad art" because it was propaganda, or advertising, sponsored by Hitler orStalin or the Philip Morris Co. There is art that is forgotten because it was popular,naive and sentimental like Victorian engravings, or 1930's magazine illustrations. Thereis artwork everywhere you look, on food packages, in post offices, and all of it is fairgame for adaptation.
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==SPRAY-DYE==
  
USING
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, AND PAINT: The main problem witha garbage stock show is that the costumes, coming from a variety of other shows and thethrift store do not, as a rule, have a similar coordinated color scheme, textures, ordetails. The answer to all these difficulties can be easily met with a conscious thoughtprocess about what color, texture, and detail scheme you want, then putting it into actionwith some dye and paints. In other words, you can decide on a look that is borrowed fromany style of painting from Seurat, to Goncharova, to Lichtenstein, and simply dye, and
  
==LESSER==
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[[Advice1pagesDyeing|SPRAY-DYEspray and paint it]] onto pre-existing garments. This is an especiallygood method for us in Fairbanks where we have only one fabric store.We take garments from thrift stores, or made from cheap muslins and tobacco cloth, andsimply turn them into the fabric and painting style we want with dye and paint. I had
  
KNOWN ART: Forinstance, it seems absurd to me to consider doing Of Mice and Men, withoutconsidering the photography of Dorothea Lange who documented life in migrant farmer campsin the 1930's. It also seems a big missed opportunity for idea stealing that Tchaikovsky'scontemporary, Symbolist painter Mikhail Vrubel did a painting called "The SwanQueen" that no one seems to have adapted for use in Swan Lake. And I don'tthink anyone would complain about the designs for the film Edward Scissorhands,though the style is taken from decorative Kitsch of the 1960's and 70's, as well as sci-fifantasy drawings. David Hockney scored a hit with designs for The Rake's Progress,adapted from Hogarth engravings. I, myself once did designs for Marat/Sade,inspired by therapeutic drawings done by the insane.
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[[Shows100pagesWoyzeck|Woyzeck]], a huge low-budget show that was pulled almost entirelyfrom garbage stock, get a review in which the costumes were praised as "almostDickensian in their detail and richness." It was done by painting them all withdiluted RIT in spray bottles, and goosing them with highlights of fabric paint in GermanExpressionist style.
  
'''
 
  
[[File:CabaretPhotosResearch1.jpg|LESSER]]'
 
  
[[File:CabaretPhotosResearch2.jpg]] Color swatches for the KitKat Klub scenes were chosen to match a painting by
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[[File:WoyzeckPhotosBeggars.jpg]]
  
[[Shows100pages3p0links|Otto Dix ]](Clickthumbnails to see larger images).''
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[[File:ShowsWoyzeckWoyzeck4.jpg]]''
  
==LETTING==
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[[File:WoyzeckPhotosDrunks.jpg]] More
  
YOUR AVAILABLE MATERIALSSUGGEST DESIGNS: Another good source for ideas is the material at hand. Every nativeculture in every land on the planet has managed to make art, and costumes out of thematerials at hand. In Alaska, costumes were made out of
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[[Shows100pagesWoyzeck|Woyzeck]]''
  
[[Ethnic1pagesSheldjak|LETTING fishskin]], bird skin, and allsorts of fur bearing animals. Decorations were made from flattened porcupine quills,puffin beaks, and shark teeth. Almost anything can be made into costumes, and often thebest idea comes when you only have a few things to work with. As an example, on
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YOU
  
[[Shows100pagesJesus|Jesus Christ Superstar]]we had only enough money to costume allthe actors in the show if fabric cost $1 a yard. The only fabric we could get at thatprice was tobacco cloth, a kind of extra strong cheese cloth in a sheer beige. When washedit forms into a sort of lumpy
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==NEED NOT==
  
[[Advice1pagesFortunyfake| Fortuny pleating]] and takes dye well. So that was the idea.We just swathed everybody in pleats, and then
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BE LIMITED BY THE AVAILABLE FABRIC:As long as you can get light fabrics you can make heavy ones by interlining, as long asyou can get pale fabrics you can get dark ones by dyeing, as long as you can get plainfabrics you can get patterned ones by painting them yourself. This is not a new trick, ora lowly one. The unbelievably lavish 189? Irving-Terry Macbeth used these tricks onits most famous costume. Ellen Terry wrote in her memoirs that she had gone with thedesigner to the London department store Liberty's in search of a rich Byzantine lookingfabric for her gown as queen at the banquet. They found the perfect fabric, but at anoutrageous price that not even the Lyceum Theatre could afford. The designer, whileconvinced that it was the right choice, only bought a small sample of the yardage, and alarge quantity of a cheap fabric of the same weight, much to Terry's disappointment. Terryhowever was suitably thrilled a few days later when she saw that the cheap fabric had beenpainted and decorated into a replica of the expensive one that actually looked better fromthe distance of the stage. This is the fabric of the gown that appears in the famous JohnSinger Sargent portrait of Terry in the English National Portrait Gallery. Modern fabricpaints make this kind of slight of hand easy, as well as aesthetically pleasing.
  
[[Advice1pagesDyeing| spray dyed]] the pleats with RIT to look likedrawings in Medieval gospels. The concept was a direct result of the budget requiring weuse only this one fabric. Limitations of this kind actually make design decisions simple.
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Image
  
''
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==NON-REPRESENTATIONA==
  
[[File:PortfolioDyepaintHipriest.jpg]]
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L COSTUMES: Manyinteresting costume concepts come out of the ideas developed in modern art. Symbolism,Cubism, Expressionism, Surrealism, Futurism, Dadaism, Constructivism, Bauhaus,Suprematism, and Abstract Expressionism, all were inspirational in the most interestingcostume designs of the 20th Century. Sonya Delaunay's designs for The Gas Heart,and Cleopatra were part of the Dada movement, Alexandra Exter's work on the Sovietsci-fi fantasy film  was influenced by Suprematism, Picasso'swork on the ballet Parade, and Dr.Seuss's Oscar winning work on the film The5000 Fingers of Dr.T, were examples of Cubism and Surrealism respectively. The mainthrust to all these art movements was a turning away from the Realistic, representationalstyle that dominated Western art from the Renaissance through the 19th Century. In costumedesign this freed up designers to make designs that were based on the internal life ofcharacters, or on movement, or on abstractions of external appearance, and a whole gamutof other ideas besides Realism. Courtesy of these pioneering designers, you have a choiceof a much broader range of expression than a 19th Century designer had. Studying these artmovements as they apply to costume design, can often yield interesting ideas, useful forshow concepts.
  
[[File:PortfolioDyepaintMarymagd.jpg]] Close ups of
 
  
[[Shows100pagesJesus|Jesus Christ Superstar]] fabric painting.''
 
  
==NOTE==
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[[File:WatercolorsonwebPagesDelaunay16.htm]]
  
ALL GOOD STEALABLE IDEAS: Yournotebooks, idea boxes, scrap books, Xeroxes and costume books which you were encouraged tosave in the chapter on
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[[File:WatercolorsonwebPagesDelaunay2.htm]]
  
[[Advice1pagesFaking|NOTEFaking Creativity]] come in handy here. Anyidea that is worth stealing is worth writing down, drawing, or Xeroxing for later use.When you come upon a good idea at the library, in an art gallery, out in the world, or inthe movies, you need to record it in some way so you can use it when you need it.
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[[File:WatercolorsonwebPagesDelaunay31.htm]]
  
==MOTHER==
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[[File:WatercolorsonwebPagesDelaunay8.htm]]
  
NATURE DIDN'T MAKE NO UGLYCHILDREN: Now the title at left is a perfect example of the above idea about noting thingsdown. I don't remember when or where I heard this statement, but I wrote it down as acatchy title to introduce an otherwise obvious idea: You can steal ideas from nature, notonly plant and animal forms, but microscopic views of things, outer space, decay, sky,weather, fractals, rock formations, patterns in sand and sea, you name it. Regular contactwith nature is also renewing to the spirit and psyche. I myself have been findingincredible inspirations in color, texture and shape lately from a study of mushrooms inthe wild. Even fungus is incredibly beautiful when you really look at it closely.
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[[WatercolorsonwebPagesDelaunay16|delaunay16.jpg]]
  
==EXPLORE==
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[[WatercolorsonwebPagesDelaunay2|delaunay2.jpg]]
  
TACKY CRAFTS STORES: Neverunderestimate the aesthetic possibilities of Kitsch and its building materials.Dimensional fabric paints were commonly used in designing tacky T-shirts long beforecostumers regularly used them. Ditto for metallic Friendly Plastic. Chenille yarn, oftenused to make sweaters and appalling stuffed toys, also makes excellent period Victorianchenille fringe. Costumers are a tiny, impoverished bunch, but amateur crafts people comein all incomes and cover the earth. As a consequence, companies rarely waste time makingand marketing crafts materials for us, but shoot to the bigger market. So, in big craftemporiums like Ben Franklin Crafts, you can find hundreds of materials that, while theyare usually put to dreadful use, can be made to do much more exciting things than usual.Wander through the aisles, look at the supplies closely, and try to imagine how they couldbe used in the costume shop.
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[[WatercolorsonwebPagesDelaunay31|delaunay31.jpg]]
  
[[File:20011Mvc-028f.jpg|MOTHEREXPLORE]]
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[[WatercolorsonwebPagesDelaunay8|delaunay8.jpg]]''Copy drawings of Delaunay drawings done by Lorraine for Advanced designClass''
  
[[File:20011Mvc-003f.jpg]]
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[[File:EthnicRussiaRussiandancer.jpg]]''
  
[[File:20011Mvc-005f.jpg]]''Costumes for
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[[File:EthnicRussiaMeditdancer.jpg]] Two Russian
  
[[Shows100pagesAlice2001a|Alice in Wonderland]] decorated with flowers taken from tacky afghans.''
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[[Ethnic1pagesRussian_deco_mystery_designs|"Mystery Designs"]], c.1930 showing the influence of modern art.''
  
==HARDWARE==  
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==REALISM==  
  
STORES: Ditto the abovefor hardware stores. Besides which it is incredible fun to stand in the aisles lookingwith intense keenness at dryer hoses and other hardware, trying them on the head, aroundthe neck etc. as clerks and home handymen look at you like you just slipped your moorings.Hardware stores too have a constant rotation of new, inspiring supplies. I should mentionin a historical footnote, that hot glue was a little used carpentry supply adopted bytheatre people in the late 60's and early 70's almost twenty years before they hit thecraft stores. If costumers never went to hardware stores, they could have waited anothertwenty years for them to come to their attention.
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: Because this is a tremendously over usedstyle, it is a tremendously underrated one. Mainly, it is put down because too often it isused on inappropriate plays, or more often is simply poorly done. Certain plays andplaywrights, particularly Shaw, Chekhov, Shepard, O'Neill and Wilde, desperately need allthat period detail to set the plays in context. Many 20th Century American playwrightsworks are so low-key and realistic in style that any unusual costuming would distract fromthe script unduly. These are the plays that need Realism as the design style. Theimportant thing to remember about Realism is that it is a style, like all theother "isms," and it consequently requires the designer go with the stylewholeheartedly. Realism absolutely requires a passionate search for appropriate detail,fabric, color and underpinnings, with no sloppiness about research, cut, accessories, orcharacter. Realism is the most difficult style to do well, but one of the most satisfying,since when you pull it off, absolutely everyone can see you did so. Use it sparingly, onappropriate shows, but with great precision when you do, and it can work.
  
''
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[[File:ShowsVirginiawoolfGeorgea.jpg|REALISM]]
  
[[File:ShowsInspectorP4b.jpg|HARDWARE]]
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[[File:ShowsVirginiawoolfMarthaa1.jpg]]
  
[[File:ShowsInspector09703_06.jpg]]TheInspector General, AK (1992)''
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[[File:ShowsVirginiawoolfMarthaa2.jpg]]
  
==ARTIST'S==
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[[File:ShowsVirginiawoolfNicka.jpg]]''Costumes designed for
  
PAINTING STYLES/INTERIORDESIGN BOOKS FOR COLOR PALATE: Color palate is one of the things I do least well on myown. My color sense tends towards the conventional and even cliché. This fortunately isnot a problem. I simply steal them. One can take them from color swatches in interiordesign books, or do as I often do, take them from a painter with the appropriate mood.
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[[Shows100pagesVgwoolf|Who's Afraid of Virginia Woolf?]]''
  
[[Shows100pagesOm&men|ARTIST'SOfMice and Men]]
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==BASE COSTUMES==
  
[[Shows100pagesOm&men|'s]] colors I stole from dull 1930's Sears Catalogs,  
+
: Occasionally shows arise thathave so many costume changes in them that budget and shop time seem to loom larger thanconcept. The natural temptation is to simply pull anything available from stock, andthrust it on the minor actors in a kind of shoddy realistic style, while concentrating onprettifying the leads. The thing is, usually these plays with actors playing multipleparts are a far cry from realism. A good way to force concept to the fore again is toadopt some type of "base costume" that sums up the overall look of the show youwant, and then differentiate between multiple characters with one or two simpleaccessories. The shows Our Country's Good, and
  
[[Shows100pagesWoyzeck|Woyzeck]]'scame from Breugel the Elder, Frank'n'Stein's I stole from black and white movies,  
+
[[Shows100pagesMaratsad|BASE COSTUMESMarat/Sade]] are actuallywritten around this costume method. However, it is simple to use on any non realist play.Back in Alaska we did
  
[[Shows100pagesQayaq|Qayaq, The Magical Man]]'s came from Eskimo masks,  
+
[[Shows100pagesQayaq|Qayaq, The Magical Man]], a traditionalNative show, with neutral historicist base costumes on all the actors, while differentspirit characters were simply indicated with masks and props, much as was done in precontact ritual theatre. The insanely irreverent Ubu Roi was designed aroundridiculous base costumes consisting of brightly colored long underwear and ConverseBasketball shoes, with absurd bits of costume to indicate character: The ghosts of thedead kings of Poland for instance had paper crowns from Burger King, worebedsheets and held flashlightsup to their chins like children playing at being ghosts, soldiers were armed with helmetsof all nations, Nerf Bats, and water pistols. The idea is that you can state your conceptfor the show clearly with the base costumes, and for each of the characters withaccessories. This lets you concentrate on only designing the essentials for the play.
  
[[Shows100pagesCabaret|Cabaret]]'s came from painter Otto Dix, and The InspectorGeneral, AK's came from the Monopoly game. I could go on, but I'm sure you get theidea. If you feel yourself falling into a color rut, jack yourself out with an infusion ofan outside color scheme.
+
==GARBAGE==
  
[[File:TravelRussia92876_16.jpg]]
+
: I've been thinking a lot about garbagelately. Over the last few years it hit me as a suitable concept in all its manysubtleties. I've even written
  
THE BEAUTY OF THE
+
[[Shows100pagesKioskman|GARBAGEa play]] about it. There are a lotof ideas that garbage engenders. For example, what is garbage? Is it a particular thing?No. Is it everything? How old must an old thing be before it's garbage? How old must oldgarbage get before it is a pile of artifacts worthy of study? Just as all men, no matterhow noble are future food for worms, all material things that we now covet, pay for, andvalue are future garbage. One man's garbage, is another man's valued object. Things =garbage = things. As in the statements: "Your junk" and "My things".Or like the old roadside sign: "We buy your junk. We sell antiques." Recycling,too, figures into the picture. The ability to see goodness and usefulness in an object orperson that isn't valued by others is a rare, positive virtue with practical value.
  
==GARBAGE==  
+
==GREENING==  
  
HEAP: Myfavorite place for stealing both ideas and materials, is of course, the waste basket. Butwhy stop there? There is Salvation Army for the show with a budget, and the city
+
THE THEATRE: With all thetalk of "greening" theatre by intelligent recycling of set and costume elements,nobody seems to have really advocated embracing the idea of using garbage from the outsideworld as a major building material. Perhaps this is because in a small way we have alwaysdone this to save money, and the idea does not seem particularly new. However, I wouldurge designers to consider garbage as a major design element for aesthetic reasons aswell. Many forms of garbage are alarmingly pretty: bubble wrap, packing puffs, cardboardfood containers, plastic bottles, dead audio tape, old Christmas cards and wrap, bottlecaps, chip bags, etc. American garbage often includes wondrous design elements fromadvertisement and packaging that simply beg to be reused, so colorful, and festive as theyare.
  
[[AdviceDumpdecorDumpdecor|GARBAGE dump]] forthe show without. The dump, in fact is an inspiring experience, not to be missed: shoppingfor free! And such materials! Curly metal shavings in all colors and sizes, dead packagingof all kinds, beautifully distressed textiles, strange broken objects of industrial andmechanical use, strips and sheets of metal and plastic punched out in different designs,dead doll and toy parts, crates of all sorts, plastics, papers, you name it. All free, andall looking for an idea to make them useful again.
+
==RUSSIAN GARBAGE==
  
[[File:ShowsBell92873_16.jpg]]
+
: I had toyed with usingbits of garbage in my shows till about three years ago. I had only made whole costumes outof garbage with my costume class as an in class project, pretty much for the theoreticalexercise. Then I went to Russia. At the Interstudio Theatre in Pushkin I saw they didwhole productions of shows like Don Juan and The Magic Flute using garbageas the main construction material for both sets and costumes. The Russians had differentsorts of garbage: metal shavings, plastic doll parts, Visquine, cloth strips, plasticcutouts, keys, machine parts, punched out metal strips, etc. but the uses of the garbagewere still mainly aesthetic, not structural. The use of the garbage was so constant, andthe design so strongly theatrical, that, strange to say, the fact that the main materialwas garbage was hardly even noticeable in viewing the show. Garbage had simply beenincorporated into the strong designs as a basically available material, without drawingattention to itself.  
  
==WHAT==
+
[[File:AknativeTuma09703_09.jpg|GREENINGRUSSIAN GARBAGE]]
  
YOU ARE LOOKING FOR: Moreimportantly, the garbage objects themselves are ideas, about color, texture, and material,and it is really just a case of identifying the idea you need. In all the above cases,artwork, crafts supplies, garbage, or whatever, you are simply sifting through preexistingideas. Your job is then to find the appropriate one, or ones for your show. The newidea, the one that '''you''' will have to produce, is how to adapt theold idea to the needs of your production. This is where idea stealing metamorphoses intooriginal thought.
+
==NATIVE AMERICAN==
 +
 
 +
FAMILY VALUES: Some timeafter my return to Alaska, I was presented with an unusual show,  
 +
 
 +
[[Shows100pagesEagle|NATIVE AMERICANThe Eagle's Gift]],that was a consciously modern show about traditional Eskimo values. The look had to bemodern, not traditional, but the thrust of the story was that traditional Native valueshave a useful application to modern life. One of the main traditional Native values asregards clothing is that when an animal is killed for food, all the parts of the animalmust be used in order to appease it's spirit and preserve the eco-system.
 +
 
 +
[[Ethnic1pagesAknative| TraditionalNative dress]] therefore used hides of birds, fish, and all the fur bearing animals. Puffinbeaks and deer hooves were made into rattling mittens for dancing, walrus ivory and evenwhiskers were made into hat decorations and tools. Nothing was wasted. "Garbage"did not exist. When early Alaskans encountered Western garbage, they used it-turning oldshell casings into noisemakers, buttons into decorations. Trying to apply this concept tothe modern world was my show "concept." Since we do not hunt for our food in thecostume shop, but rather go up to the soda and potato chip machines, I resolved we mustuse "the hide of the chip bag and the shell of the Coca-Cola" todecorate the spirit characters in the show.  
 +
 
 +
[[File:AknativeTuma09703_10.jpg]]Chip bags were stitched together andstuffed with fiberfill to make parkas.
 +
 
 +
[[File:AknativeTuma09703_11.jpg]] For the duration of the production,nothing was thrown out of the costume shop, all food packages, fabric scraps, etc. wereused to cover Root Woman, a kind of angry Mother Nature figure who arose up out of theearth and covered the stage with entangling vines, like Glinda the Good arising out of alandfill.  
 +
 
 +
[[File:AknativeTumaP5.jpg]] Inthis case it was the intention of the design to draw attention to the recycling, as a wayof showing Native values adapted to the modern world.
 +
 
 +
[[File:AknativeTumaEagle1.jpg]] Root Woman
 +
 
 +
SMALL
 +
 
 +
==METAL OBJECTS==
 +
 
 +
: I'm now back in Russiaagain, (1994-95) and while here I am exploring the aesthetics of garbage. To this end, I have atlast visited a garbage dump. According to my diary "I am 35 years old, I'vealways wanted to visit a dump, but I've never done it before. It's better than ValueVillage. There you can 'shop for less,' but at a dump you can shop for free." Ifyou have, like me, put off a
 +
 
 +
[[AdviceDumpdecorDumpdecor|METAL OBJECTS dump visit]] till now, you need to overcome your inertia andgo. It is artistically inspiring as well as useful. Now I'm working on a dress, to beentirely covered with garbage. I have limited my search to small metal objects that caneasily be sewn onto the dress. What is enlightening is what a great variety of things fitinto this tiny limiting category. Like contemplating the infinite possibilities ofsnowflakes, the dress is already a symphony of different little clinking objects. Thereare dozens of different sorts of bottle caps, keys, watch parts, broken metal toys, painttubes, toothpaste tubes, filter canisters, hair curlers, army and religious medals,computer bits, machine parts, you name it. And the act of finding them and sewing them onhelps to fix the varied colors, textures and shapes of each in ones mind in the same wayas a butterfly hunter determines the slight variations in a species. Each object, notnecessarily attractive in itself, becomes a part of a glittering whole. Suddenly I findbeauty in any object that is different from the others because it makes a counterpoint tothe main theme of bottle caps. This is useful. Looking at things closely from an aestheticstandpoint is one of the main ways to come up with ideas. This exercise with the metalobject dress is making me do this with a whole class of items.
 +
 
 +
Russian Metal
 +
 
 +
[[File:TravelRussia92876_16.jpg]]Garbage
 +
 
 +
==YOU CAN==
 +
 
 +
NEVER HAVE TOO MANY IDEAS: Research intothe
 +
 
 +
[[History100pagesCosthistpage|YOU CAN history of costume,]] art and theatre, intense scrutiny of physical objects as varied asbottle caps and fungi, conscious study of playscripts and character all can help you findideas for shows. Life for a costume designer must be a continual study of aesthetics,drawn from both history and daily life, as it applies to design. You take thisinformation, process it into ideas, collect and expand on these ideas in your notes, andultimately use the ideas in designing shows. Concentrated exploration of new ideas throughreflection and discussion as they appear before one, multiplies them like bacteria. One ortwo ideas here and there for a show are not enough to last through past one productionmeeting, so you need to make all efforts to fertilize single ideas (like, "Gee,what is garbage really?" or "Could we let the actors design their owncostumes?") into whole groups of ideas, capable of seeing a production throughto its finish. This is why I study garbage in detail and do dozens of doodles and notes onpossible Omnigarments. Ideas don't just pop up by themselves. You need to plant them withsensory input and multiply them by working on them. With enough ideas to work with,designing shows is fun, and carrying them out is simplified as well as economical.
  
 
==Product Links==
 
==Product Links==
  
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[[File:AmazonVideoDancetime15th19thcent.gif|link=http://www.amazon.com/exec/obidos/ASIN/0966207408/thecostumersmani| Dancetime! 500 Years of Social Dance Vol I : 15th-19th Centuries]]  Dancetime! 500 Years of Social Dance Vol I : 15th-19th Centuries
  
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+
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+
[http://www.amazon.com/exec/obidos/ASIN/0896762149/thecostumersmani|Costumesand Chemistry : A Comprehensive Guide to Materials and Applications]
  
[http://www.amazon.com/exec/obidos/ASIN/1561582220/thecostumersmani| The Glue Book]
+
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[http://www.amazon.com/exec/obidos/ASIN/0801986117/thecostumersmani| The Crafter's Guide to Glues (Craft Kaleidoscope)]
+
[[File:AmazonBooks8Saris-illustrated-guide-.jpg|link=http://www.amazon.com/exec/obidos/tg/detail/-/0966149610/thecostumersmani|Saris: An Illustrated Guide to the Indian Art of Draping]] Saris: An Illustrated Guide to the Indian Art of Draping
  
[http://www.petercoyote.com/vogue.html|Vogue Homme]
+
[http://sunsite.auc.dk/cgfa/sargent/p-sargen46.htm|NEED NOT John Singer Sargent: Ellen Terry as Lady Macbeth]
  
[http://www.newline.com/nlcauction/eiko_interview.html|OPENBORROWEikoIshioka]
+
[http://www.amazon.com/exec/obidos/ASIN/B000006PE3/thecostumersmani|NON-REPRESENTATIONA Aelita - Queen of Mars]

Revision as of 00:54, 23 January 2014

The Costumer's Manifesto: Deep Theory, Ideas for Show Concepts

DEEP THEORY; IDEAS FOR SHOW CONCEPTS:

THE IDEA

COMES FIRST: There is a strange notionwhen you first begin designing costumes that some how "high concept" musttranslate to "high budget" or it isn't possible. I'm not exactly sure where oneacquires this stupid idea, but we, the design students at College of Marin and S.F. State,all had it

THE IDEA1. This is simply wrong. Imagination, forethought,and unified concept are the three cheapest things you can do for a show, a fact that ourprofessors attempted to hammer into us in vain. In fact, my post graduate experienceshowed me that usually these things can make a show happen more cheaply. At all events,there is no excuse for not having them, simply because your budget is small. You need tolook at the play script, and talk to your director about ideas even before you talk aboutmoney. If you have the right idea, there will be a way to make it happen, money or not. Itis ideas in design that get the ball rolling, once you have them, money often becomesirrelevant. [Concept comes from

Reading the Play forlecture notes on this topic

click here

AdviceManifestobookCaligari1.jpg

AdviceManifestobookCaligari2.jpg

The Cabinet of Dr. Caligari, 1919

AmazonBooks4Bsicmillinerystage.jpg

AmazonBooksThehatbook.gif

File:H.t


AmazonBooks4Costumes chemistry .jpg

More online info about:

an Illustrated guide to the Indian Art of Draping

ART

AND HIGH CONCEPT CAN MAKE DESIGN CHEAPER: The bestexamples I can think of are the set designs for the 1919 film The Cabinet of Dr.Caligari. The designer of the movie wanted a look like an Expressionist painting, allsharply angled buildings and weird lighting. The idea was that the film should look likethe incredible twisted imaginings of the insane character who is the "narrator".However, when they were to film the movie, UFA studios had not the money even to pay the powerbill, so their electricity was cut off, and the show had to be shot by daylight. The designer,instead of abandoning his concept, improved it by thinking quickly, and using spare paintto paint the floors and walls with the "lighting effects" he'd wanted, using theGerman Expressionist style. As a result it looked even more like an Expressionist paintingthan it would have looked if he had a larger budget. It was a sensation in Europe when itcame out, and then made a similar critical hit in the U.S. years later when it came here.To this day this movie is shown regularly in art-house cinemas around the world, and isconsidered one of the most famous designs for film.

ART The Cabinet of Dr. Caligari

Images online

COSTUMERS

CAN DO THIS TOO: Many of my own bettershows were at least to an extent "inspired" by budget constraints. A thin budgetthat doesn't allow for doing the conventional thing is a great argument for pushing adirector into taking a chance with an unusual idea. At UAF, where we are perennially shortof the budget and staff necessary to conventionally mount musicals and the classics, wehave an impressive record of unusual productions:

COSTUMERSAs You Like It,done c. 1971,

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Woyzecklooking like Dickens filtered through an expressionist lens,

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The Eagle's Gift, aNative Alaskan show made out of garbage,

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Much AdoAbout Nothingdone with "Omnigarments,"

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and

Jesus Christ Superstardraped and painted to look like Medieval illuminations.

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Conventionally thinking administratorsat our institution were constantly perturbed by our "weird" productions, neverrealizing it is was their own budget cutting that often helps bring them about.

HIGH CONCEPT

CAN MAKE THE SHOW: One of my former students, an incredible director/designer named Diane Swanson, did Gertrude Stein'ssupposedly "unplayable" The Circular Play, using costumes that wereincorporated into the set to facilitate the flow of the play: The setting consisted of sixtubular canisters with round ashtray lids, borrowed from the university janitorialservice, that converted to containers, drums, echo-chambers, a "car", andmusical chairs. In addition the ashtray lids came off and were revealed to beeccentrically decorated pink hats which the performers wore through much of the play.Inside the canisters were round pink pillows, which were sat upon, juggled and used assymbolic props. "The set is the costumes, the actors are the props, the words are theactors, and the play is really weird," explained Swanson. The six female performers,dressed in humorous amalgamations of masculine and feminine dress pulled from stock inshades of pink, began the performance reading pink newspapers, while sitting on thecanisters set in a circle. On the line "Circle Hats" the performers jumped upand placed the ashtray-hats (decorated with stock pink flowers, pink plastic curlers,beads and bows) on their heads with the aid of audience members. The production went on towin student awards for best play production, directing, and costume design that year. Ithad a budget of $50, only $10 of which Swanson spent, buying hot glue to decorate the hatswith scraps from the shop, and pink dye to tint some pulled costumes.

COSTUMES

CAN BE OVERDONE: While less is notalways more, often one is "free" to do more avant garde costumes when the budgetdoes not "allow" literal period dress. One common mistake is to assume, becauseone is given a budget sufficient for doing a lavish period piece, full of detail andhistorical accuracy, that one necessarily should. The English have a wonderful put-downfor designers who do detailed realistic period work on shows that do not call for it. Theysay the show is "from the Laura Ashley school of theatre design," as if to inferthat the theatre designer is suffering from a love of prettiness for it's own sake, moreappropriate to an interior/clothing designer than a theatre artist. Good taste isthe enemy of good design. Simply because you have the budget to do a lavish,complex show, does not mean you must. What you must do is match the costume design to theshow, the characters, and to the directors concept.

BREIF NOTE

ABOUT OMNIGARMENTS: One method(outlined in detail in it's own chapter) is to try to develop a group offlexible costumes that can be controlled by the actors themselves.

HIGH CONCEPTCOSTUMESBRIEF NOTEOmnigarments(flexible costumes capable of multiple variations) are the choice that offers themaximum amount of actor input into the design. By designing a series of simple butflexible garments that can be tied, wrapped, or draped into a variety of choices, thedesigner may concentrate her work solely on suggesting the main show concept through colorand texture of materials. This leaves individual character's costumes to be worked outbetween the director and actors. This is an especially good choice for shows that developout of ensemble work through the course of rehearsals, or for directors and actors wholike to make lots of changes dangerously close to opening night.

ShowsMuchadoMuchado6.jpg Much Ado

PULLING

FROM STOCK: The difficulty withOmnigarments is that they must be made or bought, which rather means you must either haveenough money or labor to make/buy all the costumes from scratch. Depending on the quantityof actors to be clothed, and the cost of the materials involved, this may be medium tocostly. To do a show cheaply one usually needs to pull it largely from stock, or buy it atbottom prices from thrift stores. Making a show from garbage-stock need not require thatthe show look awful. More to the point, it can take a show where the costumes should lookawful like Sweeny ToddOliver, or The Good Woman Of Schezwan, andmake it look really beautifully, disgustingly awful.

PULLING

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ShowsWoyzeck09703 23.jpg Painted costumes for a "garbage" stock show:

Woyzeck

DYE,

SPRAY-DYE

, AND PAINT: The main problem witha garbage stock show is that the costumes, coming from a variety of other shows and thethrift store do not, as a rule, have a similar coordinated color scheme, textures, ordetails. The answer to all these difficulties can be easily met with a conscious thoughtprocess about what color, texture, and detail scheme you want, then putting it into actionwith some dye and paints. In other words, you can decide on a look that is borrowed fromany style of painting from Seurat, to Goncharova, to Lichtenstein, and simply dye, and

SPRAY-DYEspray and paint it onto pre-existing garments. This is an especiallygood method for us in Fairbanks where we have only one fabric store.We take garments from thrift stores, or made from cheap muslins and tobacco cloth, andsimply turn them into the fabric and painting style we want with dye and paint. I had

Woyzeck, a huge low-budget show that was pulled almost entirelyfrom garbage stock, get a review in which the costumes were praised as "almostDickensian in their detail and richness." It was done by painting them all withdiluted RIT in spray bottles, and goosing them with highlights of fabric paint in GermanExpressionist style.


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Woyzeck

YOU

NEED NOT

BE LIMITED BY THE AVAILABLE FABRIC:As long as you can get light fabrics you can make heavy ones by interlining, as long asyou can get pale fabrics you can get dark ones by dyeing, as long as you can get plainfabrics you can get patterned ones by painting them yourself. This is not a new trick, ora lowly one. The unbelievably lavish 189? Irving-Terry Macbeth used these tricks onits most famous costume. Ellen Terry wrote in her memoirs that she had gone with thedesigner to the London department store Liberty's in search of a rich Byzantine lookingfabric for her gown as queen at the banquet. They found the perfect fabric, but at anoutrageous price that not even the Lyceum Theatre could afford. The designer, whileconvinced that it was the right choice, only bought a small sample of the yardage, and alarge quantity of a cheap fabric of the same weight, much to Terry's disappointment. Terryhowever was suitably thrilled a few days later when she saw that the cheap fabric had beenpainted and decorated into a replica of the expensive one that actually looked better fromthe distance of the stage. This is the fabric of the gown that appears in the famous JohnSinger Sargent portrait of Terry in the English National Portrait Gallery. Modern fabricpaints make this kind of slight of hand easy, as well as aesthetically pleasing.

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NON-REPRESENTATIONA

L COSTUMES: Manyinteresting costume concepts come out of the ideas developed in modern art. Symbolism,Cubism, Expressionism, Surrealism, Futurism, Dadaism, Constructivism, Bauhaus,Suprematism, and Abstract Expressionism, all were inspirational in the most interestingcostume designs of the 20th Century. Sonya Delaunay's designs for The Gas Heart,and Cleopatra were part of the Dada movement, Alexandra Exter's work on the Sovietsci-fi fantasy film was influenced by Suprematism, Picasso'swork on the ballet Parade, and Dr.Seuss's Oscar winning work on the film The5000 Fingers of Dr.T, were examples of Cubism and Surrealism respectively. The mainthrust to all these art movements was a turning away from the Realistic, representationalstyle that dominated Western art from the Renaissance through the 19th Century. In costumedesign this freed up designers to make designs that were based on the internal life ofcharacters, or on movement, or on abstractions of external appearance, and a whole gamutof other ideas besides Realism. Courtesy of these pioneering designers, you have a choiceof a much broader range of expression than a 19th Century designer had. Studying these artmovements as they apply to costume design, can often yield interesting ideas, useful forshow concepts.


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delaunay8.jpgCopy drawings of Delaunay drawings done by Lorraine for Advanced designClass

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"Mystery Designs", c.1930 showing the influence of modern art.

REALISM

Because this is a tremendously over usedstyle, it is a tremendously underrated one. Mainly, it is put down because too often it isused on inappropriate plays, or more often is simply poorly done. Certain plays andplaywrights, particularly Shaw, Chekhov, Shepard, O'Neill and Wilde, desperately need allthat period detail to set the plays in context. Many 20th Century American playwrightsworks are so low-key and realistic in style that any unusual costuming would distract fromthe script unduly. These are the plays that need Realism as the design style. Theimportant thing to remember about Realism is that it is a style, like all theother "isms," and it consequently requires the designer go with the stylewholeheartedly. Realism absolutely requires a passionate search for appropriate detail,fabric, color and underpinnings, with no sloppiness about research, cut, accessories, orcharacter. Realism is the most difficult style to do well, but one of the most satisfying,since when you pull it off, absolutely everyone can see you did so. Use it sparingly, onappropriate shows, but with great precision when you do, and it can work.

REALISM

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ShowsVirginiawoolfNicka.jpgCostumes designed for

Who's Afraid of Virginia Woolf?

BASE COSTUMES

Occasionally shows arise thathave so many costume changes in them that budget and shop time seem to loom larger thanconcept. The natural temptation is to simply pull anything available from stock, andthrust it on the minor actors in a kind of shoddy realistic style, while concentrating onprettifying the leads. The thing is, usually these plays with actors playing multipleparts are a far cry from realism. A good way to force concept to the fore again is toadopt some type of "base costume" that sums up the overall look of the show youwant, and then differentiate between multiple characters with one or two simpleaccessories. The shows Our Country's Good, and

BASE COSTUMESMarat/Sade are actuallywritten around this costume method. However, it is simple to use on any non realist play.Back in Alaska we did

Qayaq, The Magical Man, a traditionalNative show, with neutral historicist base costumes on all the actors, while differentspirit characters were simply indicated with masks and props, much as was done in precontact ritual theatre. The insanely irreverent Ubu Roi was designed aroundridiculous base costumes consisting of brightly colored long underwear and ConverseBasketball shoes, with absurd bits of costume to indicate character: The ghosts of thedead kings of Poland for instance had paper crowns from Burger King, worebedsheets and held flashlightsup to their chins like children playing at being ghosts, soldiers were armed with helmetsof all nations, Nerf Bats, and water pistols. The idea is that you can state your conceptfor the show clearly with the base costumes, and for each of the characters withaccessories. This lets you concentrate on only designing the essentials for the play.

GARBAGE

I've been thinking a lot about garbagelately. Over the last few years it hit me as a suitable concept in all its manysubtleties. I've even written

GARBAGEa play about it. There are a lotof ideas that garbage engenders. For example, what is garbage? Is it a particular thing?No. Is it everything? How old must an old thing be before it's garbage? How old must oldgarbage get before it is a pile of artifacts worthy of study? Just as all men, no matterhow noble are future food for worms, all material things that we now covet, pay for, andvalue are future garbage. One man's garbage, is another man's valued object. Things =garbage = things. As in the statements: "Your junk" and "My things".Or like the old roadside sign: "We buy your junk. We sell antiques." Recycling,too, figures into the picture. The ability to see goodness and usefulness in an object orperson that isn't valued by others is a rare, positive virtue with practical value.

GREENING

THE THEATRE: With all thetalk of "greening" theatre by intelligent recycling of set and costume elements,nobody seems to have really advocated embracing the idea of using garbage from the outsideworld as a major building material. Perhaps this is because in a small way we have alwaysdone this to save money, and the idea does not seem particularly new. However, I wouldurge designers to consider garbage as a major design element for aesthetic reasons aswell. Many forms of garbage are alarmingly pretty: bubble wrap, packing puffs, cardboardfood containers, plastic bottles, dead audio tape, old Christmas cards and wrap, bottlecaps, chip bags, etc. American garbage often includes wondrous design elements fromadvertisement and packaging that simply beg to be reused, so colorful, and festive as theyare.

RUSSIAN GARBAGE

I had toyed with usingbits of garbage in my shows till about three years ago. I had only made whole costumes outof garbage with my costume class as an in class project, pretty much for the theoreticalexercise. Then I went to Russia. At the Interstudio Theatre in Pushkin I saw they didwhole productions of shows like Don Juan and The Magic Flute using garbageas the main construction material for both sets and costumes. The Russians had differentsorts of garbage: metal shavings, plastic doll parts, Visquine, cloth strips, plasticcutouts, keys, machine parts, punched out metal strips, etc. but the uses of the garbagewere still mainly aesthetic, not structural. The use of the garbage was so constant, andthe design so strongly theatrical, that, strange to say, the fact that the main materialwas garbage was hardly even noticeable in viewing the show. Garbage had simply beenincorporated into the strong designs as a basically available material, without drawingattention to itself.

GREENINGRUSSIAN GARBAGE

NATIVE AMERICAN

FAMILY VALUES: Some timeafter my return to Alaska, I was presented with an unusual show,

NATIVE AMERICANThe Eagle's Gift,that was a consciously modern show about traditional Eskimo values. The look had to bemodern, not traditional, but the thrust of the story was that traditional Native valueshave a useful application to modern life. One of the main traditional Native values asregards clothing is that when an animal is killed for food, all the parts of the animalmust be used in order to appease it's spirit and preserve the eco-system.

TraditionalNative dress therefore used hides of birds, fish, and all the fur bearing animals. Puffinbeaks and deer hooves were made into rattling mittens for dancing, walrus ivory and evenwhiskers were made into hat decorations and tools. Nothing was wasted. "Garbage"did not exist. When early Alaskans encountered Western garbage, they used it-turning oldshell casings into noisemakers, buttons into decorations. Trying to apply this concept tothe modern world was my show "concept." Since we do not hunt for our food in thecostume shop, but rather go up to the soda and potato chip machines, I resolved we mustuse "the hide of the chip bag and the shell of the Coca-Cola" todecorate the spirit characters in the show.

AknativeTuma09703 10.jpgChip bags were stitched together andstuffed with fiberfill to make parkas.

AknativeTuma09703 11.jpg For the duration of the production,nothing was thrown out of the costume shop, all food packages, fabric scraps, etc. wereused to cover Root Woman, a kind of angry Mother Nature figure who arose up out of theearth and covered the stage with entangling vines, like Glinda the Good arising out of alandfill.

AknativeTumaP5.jpg Inthis case it was the intention of the design to draw attention to the recycling, as a wayof showing Native values adapted to the modern world.

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SMALL

METAL OBJECTS

I'm now back in Russiaagain, (1994-95) and while here I am exploring the aesthetics of garbage. To this end, I have atlast visited a garbage dump. According to my diary "I am 35 years old, I'vealways wanted to visit a dump, but I've never done it before. It's better than ValueVillage. There you can 'shop for less,' but at a dump you can shop for free." Ifyou have, like me, put off a

METAL OBJECTS dump visit till now, you need to overcome your inertia andgo. It is artistically inspiring as well as useful. Now I'm working on a dress, to beentirely covered with garbage. I have limited my search to small metal objects that caneasily be sewn onto the dress. What is enlightening is what a great variety of things fitinto this tiny limiting category. Like contemplating the infinite possibilities ofsnowflakes, the dress is already a symphony of different little clinking objects. Thereare dozens of different sorts of bottle caps, keys, watch parts, broken metal toys, painttubes, toothpaste tubes, filter canisters, hair curlers, army and religious medals,computer bits, machine parts, you name it. And the act of finding them and sewing them onhelps to fix the varied colors, textures and shapes of each in ones mind in the same wayas a butterfly hunter determines the slight variations in a species. Each object, notnecessarily attractive in itself, becomes a part of a glittering whole. Suddenly I findbeauty in any object that is different from the others because it makes a counterpoint tothe main theme of bottle caps. This is useful. Looking at things closely from an aestheticstandpoint is one of the main ways to come up with ideas. This exercise with the metalobject dress is making me do this with a whole class of items.

Russian Metal

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YOU CAN

NEVER HAVE TOO MANY IDEAS: Research intothe

YOU CAN history of costume, art and theatre, intense scrutiny of physical objects as varied asbottle caps and fungi, conscious study of playscripts and character all can help you findideas for shows. Life for a costume designer must be a continual study of aesthetics,drawn from both history and daily life, as it applies to design. You take thisinformation, process it into ideas, collect and expand on these ideas in your notes, andultimately use the ideas in designing shows. Concentrated exploration of new ideas throughreflection and discussion as they appear before one, multiplies them like bacteria. One ortwo ideas here and there for a show are not enough to last through past one productionmeeting, so you need to make all efforts to fertilize single ideas (like, "Gee,what is garbage really?" or "Could we let the actors design their owncostumes?") into whole groups of ideas, capable of seeing a production throughto its finish. This is why I study garbage in detail and do dozens of doodles and notes onpossible Omnigarments. Ideas don't just pop up by themselves. You need to plant them withsensory input and multiply them by working on them. With enough ideas to work with,designing shows is fun, and carrying them out is simplified as well as economical.

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