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Suit Conversions With Paint Project at The Costumer's Manifesto Costume Design & Construction Suit Conversions With Paint (4D+6C)

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What you will need:

A suit jacket with a smooth surface texture (male or female)

Fabric Paint(s)

Tailor's chalk or marking pencil

Brush(es)

Background: Here at UAF we were blessed some years ago with a donation of a box of old white 50's tuxedos, and were annoyed when a coolant leak in costume storage stained them all with beige splotches. It proved a blessing in disguise, since it made it "OK" for us to paint and dye them.

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Here is a leopard skin jacket I painted for the design Elizabeth Emory, (a student) did for the prom scene in

Grease (1992). It has gold and black knit lame sewn to cover the collar, and spots painted with black and brown acrylic fabric paints. After this layer dried, I toned the background down in spots with a diluted rust color mixed with water. After this dried, I applied gold glitter fabric paint to the spots as a highlight.

This Jacket was used again in

The Bacchae

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PortfolioStudiocostumeshotsErrors5.jpg Here is another one of those tuxedos, painted by student Jason Chapman to a design I did for Duke Solinus in

The Comedy of Errors

Shows100pagesErrors (1995).

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PortfolioStudiocostumeshotsPaintedsuits2.jpgAs you can see, paint allows us to put patterns on costumes that would be labor intensive to sew as appliqué. The down side is that it is generally inadvisable to wash or dry clean the finished product, so this process is only suitable for outer garments.

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Comedy of Errorswas a show where we painted nearly all the costumes. We actually did not sew a single garment from scratch for that show.

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PortfolioStudiocostumeshotsErrors4.jpg Here, actor Karl Kalen helps paint his own pants for Errors

ImagesCostshop92916 04.jpg Fabric painting is a project one can safely give to students who can't yet sew well.

This shows another example of how fabric paint can transform an ordinary jacket

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Alice in Wonderland

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High school students at the UAF Summer Fine Arts Camp took a beige jacket and made it into a more cartooonish jacket for Nicely-Nicely in

Guys and Dolls

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254images254photos1Suits19.jpg Although as you can see the close-up of the painting is quite sloppy looking, we still found the jacket very useful later for our own show,

Yahoo Nation, because the minor errors in painting simply do not show up from the distance of our mainstage,

PhotosDisk13Mvc-002f.jpg yet the large graphic design makes this simple item a great, strong theatrical statement.

As you can see not all fabric painting need be cartoonish:

254images254photos1Suits26.jpg I wanted a brown black and pink plaid jacket for the cross dressing girl as boy in

The Mystery of Edwin Drood, and simply used black and pink fabric paint pens to add these colors to an existing brown plaid jacket. Paint alterations may also be combined with

applied decoration (in this case outlining and a converted, covered collar) to totally change the look of a suit.

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Fabric paint also can be used to apply surreal elements to fairly normal garments, so you can let a costume convey multiple messages. Here we have a design for King Pentheus in

The Bacchae, where his business suit is decorated with business graphs and charts that outline his conservative priorities.

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AccredcostexhibitDisk1Mvc-015f.jpg We later reused this suit in

Yahoo Nation to portray a corrupt American Business man. In the same scene we needed a similar Japanese Business man and so decorated another suit with the text and graph of a Japanese newspaper article on currency devaluation. The fine lines on both these suits were made with fabric paints squeezed directly from the container. To do this accurately, it is best to draw all the markings on the suit with tailors wax first, and then concentrate carefully on applying the lines of paint over the markings.

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Former UAF student Mike Grogan painted this boring gray three piece suit on one side with a wild pattern of pinks and purples. the wearer can turn to the left and look dull and gray, or turn to the right and look totally wild:

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More than suits can be converted in this way:

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254images254photos2254b062.jpg here an ordinary set of jeans is converted to a 1972 funky style for Touchstone in our Nixon era As You Like It.

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Thr2542004finalsPict0022.jpg A painted vest with fake fur trim.

What To Do:

Render your costume design on paper to give yourself a plan to work towards. You may end up changing your plan slightly, but starting without a plan is definitely a mistake.

Find a suit jacket that fits your performer and has a semi smooth surface texture like poly knit, linen, or very flat wool (slubbed silk and tweedy wool are more difficult). Make any alterations the suit needs (cuff shortening, collar moving) before you begin painting.

Using a pencil (light colored fabrics) or tailor's wax (dark fabrics) draw out your design onto the suit jacket.

Put fabric paint onto the suit according to your plan. Remember that most designs require several steps or layers, and you should leave time for drying between the steps.

When you think you are close to finishing, look at the suit from the distance you would see it onstage (this varies based on the size of the theatre) and check it against your original design. Does the design as painted on the suit "read" as strongly as your drawing, or is it fading away? If it isn't bold enough , go back and use highlight and/or shadow colors to make the painting stronger.

When it is finished, photograph the jacket and the rendering as jpeg files and post them to your File folder at the class

[1]. Post a message to the group letting everyone know you have posted these pictures so you can get feedback.

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"The Costumer's Manifesto"
by Tara Maginnis