April 5, 2011

A few weeks ago, the costuming class took a field trip to the Lamplighters Costume shop in San Francisco. The Director of the production of the H.M.S. Pinafore we are costuming for was kind enough to talk to us about her vision, and the General Manager gave us an insightful overview of how community theater works. It’s amazing to think that there was a time that I was completely unaware of community theater, especially when you consider how much “community” goes into it!

After the talks, we were given the opportunity to use the industrial serger, sewing machines, and irons. Then we took a tour of all of the “stuff” that encompasses a theater company! We saw a wall of hats (which Elizabeth took a great picture of), several shows worth of costumes, corsets and accessories. The shop is beautifully organized, right down to their fabric library. One of the things I learned was that each show has it’s own “fabric library” which includes additional fabric purchased when the costumes are made so that alterations and repairs can be made out of the same fabric over the lifetime of the costumes for a show. The costumes that we are replacing are were made 30 years ago!

The head of the costume shop, whose name I failed to write down, showed us how she manages the large amounts of fabrics in the fabric library: a swatch ring.

swatch ring

She carries this ring of fabric swatches around so that she knows what they already have, and if some new acquisition is actually going to work with they already have. I was so excited I ran out and bought my own shipping tags to go with the binder rings I’d bought for some long forgotten project. I plan to write down yardages, washing instructions, and date of purchase on mine. I’m still going to try to take a picture of the bolt with my phone, too.

Another nifty thing was the “ditty” bags that each character gets. It’s a labeled bag with many pockets that hangs on a hangar for the actor to put their accessories in. It’s about the size of a coat, so you can fit shoes in some of the pockets. I want to make something something similar for when I go to horse shows. A coat can fit over the bag, so everything is all in one place.

They had quite a library of costume books, which I’m hoping got peruse at a later date, but some that were specifically pointed out to us as good were:
Patterns of Fashion 2: Englishwomen's Dresses and Their Construction C.1860-1940
Period Costume for Stage & Screen: Patterns for Women's Dress, 1800-1909
Costume in Detail: 1730-1930

I’m can’t wait to go back up to the costume show again!

By levanah