Costume design

2007 Schools Wikipedia Selection. Related subjects: Theatre

Costume design is the design of the appearance of the characters in a theatre or cinema performance. This usually involves designing or choosing clothing, footwear, hats and head dresses for the actors to wear, but it may also include designing masks, makeup or other unusual forms, such as the full body animal suits worn in the musical Cats (designed by John Napier, winner of the 1983 Tony Award for Best Costume Design).

The Costume designer is the person whose responsibility is to design costumes for a film or stage production. He or she is considered part of the "production team," alongside the director, scenic and lighting designers. The costume designer might also collaborate with a hair/wig master or a makeup designer, with the latter two operating on a subordinate level. In European theatre the role is somewhat different as the theatre designer will design both costume and scenic elements.

Costume designers will typically seek to enhance a character's persona, within the framework of the director's vision, through the way that character is dressed. At the same time, the designer must ensure that the designs allow the actor to move in a manner consistent with the historical period and enables the actor to execute the director's blocking of the production without damage to the garments. Additional considerations include the durability and washability of garments, particularly in extended runs. The designer must work in consultation with not only the director, but the set and lighting designers to ensure that the overall design of the production works together. The designer needs to possess strong artistic capabilities as well as a thorough knowledge of pattern development, draping, drafting, textiles and costume/fashion history.

Professional costume designers generally fall into three types: freelance, residential, and academic.

  • A freelance designer is hired for a specific production by a theatre, dance or opera company, and may or may not actually be local to the theatre that he or she is designing for. A freelancer is traditionally paid in three installments: Upon hire, on the delivery of final renderings, and opening night of the production. Freelancers are not obligated to any exclusivity in what projects they are working on, and may be designing for several theatres concurrently.
  • A residential designer is hired by a specific theatre, dance or opera company for an extended series of productions. This can be as short as a summer stock contract, or may be for many years. A residential designer's contract may limit the amounts of freelance work they are allowed to accept. Unlike the freelancer, a residential designer is consistently "on location" at the theatre, and is readily at hand to work with the costume studio and his or her other collaborators. Residential designers tend to be more established than strict freelancers, but this is not always the case.
  • An academic designer is one who holds professorship at a school. The designer is primarily an instructor, but may also act as a residential designer to varying degrees. They are often free to freelance, as their schedule allows. In the past, professors of costume design were mostly experienced professionals that may or may not have had formal post-graduate education, but it has now become increasingly common to require a professor to have at least a Master of Fine Arts in order to teach.

Both residential and academic designers are generally also required to act as Shop Master or Mistress of an onsite costume shop, in addition to designing productions. In a resident theatre, there is almost always a shop staff of stichers, drapers, cutters and craft artisans. In an academic environment the shop "staff" is generally comprised of students, who are learning about costume design and construction. Most universities require costume design students to work a specified number of hours in the shop as part of their course work.

USA is the union that represents costume designers. Although most professional designers are union members, USA has relatively few colllective bargaining agreements with theatres when compared with other theatrical unions. However, most major US opera companies do have CBAs with USA. The majority of union contract work for designers is on a project by project basis, not as a part of Collective Bargaining Agreements with theatrical establishments.

Notable Costume Designers

Broadway and Off-Broadway

  • Theoni V. Aldredge - One of Broadway's most prolific designers, including Annie, Barnum and A Chorus Line.
  • Bob Mackie - On the Town
  • Desmond Heeley - Brigadoon
  • Julie Taymor - Lion King
  • Gregg Barnes - Dirty Rotten Scoundrels
  • Ann Roth - Assassins
  • Jane Greenwood - The Scarlet Pimpernel, Once Upon a Mattress
  • Santo Loquasto - Fosse, Ragtime
  • Susan Hilferty - Wicked
  • Ann Curtis - Jekyll & Hyde
  • William Ivey Long - The Producers, Chicago
  • Ann Hould-Ward - Beauty and the Beast, Dance of the Vampires
  • Willa Kim - The Will Rogers Follies

Film and Television

  • Colleen Atwood - Little Women (1994)
  • Cecil Beaton - My Fair Lady, Gigi
  • Jenny Beavan - Howards End, Sense and Sensibility
  • John Bright - Howards End, Sense and Sensibility
  • Milena Canonero - A Clockwork Orange, The Godfather, Part III
  • Ngila Dickson - The Lord of the Rings: The Return of the King, The Last Samurai
  • Danilo Donati - Romeo and Juliet
  • Adrian Greenburg - The Wizard of Oz
  • Edith Head - Sabrina (1954), The Sting
  • Dorothy Jeakins - The Sound of Music
  • Deborah Nadoolman - Raiders of the Lost Ark, The Three Amigos, Thriller
  • Jean Louis - From Here to Eternity
  • Orry-Kelly - Gypsy
  • Walter Plunkett - Gone with the Wind, Singin' in the Rain
  • Sandy Powell - The Wings of the Dove, Shakespeare in Love
  • Ann Roth - The English Patient
  • Irene Sharaff - Call Me Madam, Guys and Dolls
  • Theodora van Runkle - Bonnie and Clyde

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