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Laced in: The costume design for Intimate Apparel

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Elizabeth N. Clark
B.A., Centre College, 2005
A Thesis Submitted in Partial Fulfillment
of the Requirements for the Master of Fine Arts Degree.
Department of Theater in the Graduate School
Southern Illinois University Carbondale
August 2010
UMI Number: 1482609
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UMI 1482609
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Elizabeth N. Clark
A Thesis Submitted in Partial
Fulfillment of the Requirements
for the Degree of
Master of Fine Arts
in the field of Theater
Approved by:
Wendi Zea, Chair
Susan Patrick Benson
Dr. Anne Fletcher
Graduate School
Southern Illinois University Carbondale
2 July 2010
Elizabeth N. Clark, for the Master of Fine Arts degree in Theater,
presented on 2 July 2010, at Southern Illinois University Carbondale.
This thesis presents the written documentation and evaluation of
the costume design of Southern Illinois University Carbondale’s
production of Intimate Apparel.
Chapter One is a detailed analysis of the script, including the
historical background of the main character and the time period in which
the play is set. The second chapter discusses my design process and
collaboration with the director and other designers. Chapter Three is a
description of the build for the show as well as problems that arose
during the process and the resulting solutions. The final chapter is a self
evaluation of my design process and an assessment of the build. In the
appendices of this document are alternative designs for the show,
essential paperwork, renderings for each character, and production
This is dedicated to my husband. I tried to think of words to
express my gratitude, but they felt so small in comparison to your
unending love and unwavering support. I could not have done this
without you.
My designs would only be paper without Nicholas Jones, Stephanie
Molitor, Jane Pivovarnik and Caitlin Entwistle. Thank you for building
my show and keeping me sane. Well, sane-ish.
I also want to thank my parents for never asking me when I would
get a “real job.” Because of you, theatre has always been a part of my life
and thanks to you, it always will be.
ABSTRACT ........................................................................................ i
DEDICATION .....................................................................................ii
ACKNOWLEDGMENTS .....................................................................iii
LIST OF TABLES ................................................................................ v
LIST OF FIGURES ............................................................................. vi
CHAPTER 1 – Script Analysis and Research ............................. 1
CHAPTER 2 – Design Process ..................................................16
CHAPTER 3 – Production Process ............................................29
CHAPTER 4 – Evaluation .........................................................51
WORKS CITED .................................................................................61
Appendix A – Alternative Designs ............................................63
Appendix B – Paper Work ........................................................70
Appendix C – Working Roughs and Costume Renderings .........77
Appendix D – Production Photos ............................................108
VITA .............................................................................................120
Table 1: Costume Plot Act 1 ..............................................................71
Table 2: Costume Plot Act 2 ..............................................................72
Table 3: Budget ................................................................................73
Table 4: Check-in Sheet 1 .................................................................74
Table 5: Check-in Sheet 2 .................................................................75
Table 6: Check-in Sheet 3 .................................................................76
Figure 1: Alternative Design for Esther..............................................64
Figure 2: Alternative Design for Mrs. Dickson ...................................65
Figure 3: Alternative Design for George .............................................66
Figure 4: Alternative Design for Mrs. Van Buren ...............................67
Figure 5: Alternative Design for Mr. Marks ........................................68
Figure 6: Alternative Design for Mayme .............................................69
Figure 7: Working Rough of Esther in Walking Suit...........................78
Figure 8: Working Rough of Esther in Wedding Dress .......................79
Figure 9: Working Rough of Esther in Wedding Corset ......................80
Figure 10: Working Rough of Esther in Seduction Corset ..................81
Figure 11: Working Rough of Mrs. Dickson .......................................82
Figure 12: Working Rough of George in Panama Costume .................83
Figure 13: Working Rough of George in Gray Suit .............................84
Figure 14: Working Rough of George in Underwear ...........................85
Figure 15: Working Rough of George in Brown Suit...........................86
Figure 16: Working Rough of Mrs. Van Buren in Twin Corset ............87
Figure 17: Working Rough of Mrs. Van Buren in Magenta Corset ......88
Figure 18: Working Rough of Mr. Marks in Black Suit.......................89
Figure 19: Working Rough of Mr. Marks in Smoking Jacket ..............90
Figure 20: Working Rough of Mayme in Twin Corset .........................91
Figure 21: Rendering of Esther in Walking Suit .................................92
Figure 22: Rendering of Esther in Wedding Dress .............................93
Figure 23: Rendering of Esther in Wedding Corset ............................94
Figure 24: Rendering of Esther in Seduction Corset ..........................95
Figure 25: Rendering of Mrs. Dickson ...............................................96
Figure 26: Rendering of George in Panama Costume .........................97
Figure 27: Rendering of George in Gray Suit .....................................98
Figure 28: Rendering of George in Underwear ...................................99
Figure 29: Rendering of George in Brown Suit .................................100
Figure 30: Rendering of Mrs. Van Buren in Twin Corset ..................101
Figure 31: Rendering of Mrs. Van Buren in Magenta Corset ............102
Figure 32: Rendering of Mr. Marks in Black Suit .............................103
Figure 33: Rendering of Mr. Marks in Smoking Jacket ....................104
Figure 34: Rendering of Mayme in Twin Corset ...............................105
Figure 35: Swatches 1 ....................................................................106
Figure 36: Swatches 2 ....................................................................107
Figure 37: “Don’t tell me you’ve been in here all evening?” ..............109
Figure 38: “I’ve given him no children.” ...........................................109
Figure 39: “I stood thigh deep in crimson blossoms…” ....................110
Figure 40: “You’ll make something exquisite.” .................................110
Figure 41: “If feels like Fifth Avenue, does.” .....................................111
Figure 42: “We all bleed, Esther.” ....................................................111
Figure 43: “Like this?” ....................................................................112
Figure 44: “Why gamble it all away on a common laborer?” .............112
Figure 45: “May it be your first gift.” ...............................................113
Figure 46: “Unidentified Negro Couple ca. 1905.” ............................113
Figure 47: “I wanted you to know that about me.” ...........................114
Figure 48: “What is he like?” ...........................................................114
Figure 49: “You see how soft it is.” ..................................................115
Figure 50: “Coward!” .......................................................................115
Figure 51: “You wanna see what my songbird give me?” ..................116
Figure 52: “You can open your eyes.” ..............................................116
Figure 53: “Because, he belong to me as well.” ................................117
Figure 54: “May I?” .........................................................................117
Figure 55: “Have you rented this room?” .........................................118
Figure 56: “Unidentified Negro Seamstress. Ca. 1905.” ..................118
Figure 57: Production Photo Permission Letter ................................119
Research and Analysis
Lynn Nottage was born in Brooklyn, New York in 1964. Nottage
began writing plays as a child and often drew from the lives of the women
she knew. She graduated from high school in 1982 and received her
bachelor’s degree from Brown University in 1986. In 1989, she
graduated from Yale School of Drama with an MFA in playwriting. In
1993, Nottage’s short play, Poof!, premiered at the Humana Festival of
New American Plays at Actor’s Theatre of Louisville. At the festival, Poof!
was awarded the Heideman Award, the top prize for the National TenMinute Play Contest (“Lynn Nottage Biography”). In April 2003, Intimate
Apparel premiered at the South Coast Reparatory in association with
Center Stage. A year later, it debuted off-Broadway at the Roundabout
Theatre Company in New York City (Gener 144). Intimate Apparel was
nominated for and won several awards including the 2003/2004 Outer
Circle Critics Award for Outstanding Off-Broadway Play, the John
Gassner Playwriting Award, Steinberg New Play Award and two Drama
Desk Awards (“Lynn Nottage Biography”). Intimate Apparel became the
most produced play during 2005 season (Gener 144). In 2009, Nottage
won the Pulitzer Prize in Drama for her play Ruined (“2009 Winners and
Intimate Apparel was inspired by the life of her great-grandmother,
Ethel Boyce, a seamstress, specializing in undergarments, who married a
Barbadian immigrant, George Armstrong. George died shortly after their
marriage, after being struck by a rock. Nottage began researching turnof-the-century New York after finding a photograph of a wedding corset
from 1905 (Licktieg 3). While writing Intimate Apparel, Nottage worked
on a second play, Fabulation, or the Re-Education of Undine. She
considers Fabulation to be a companion piece to Intimate Apparel. In
Fabulation, Nottage “tried to imagine Esther 100 years later, after she’s
enjoyed the benefits of the women’s rights movement and become a fully
empowered African-American woman…” (Gener 144). Fabulation
premiered at Playwrights Horizon in 2004 and won an OBIE Award in
2005 (Jones; “OBIE 2005 Award Winners”).
At the turn of the century, New York was a changing city. With
increasing population and the invention of the Otis elevator in 1853,
buildings began to grow taller. In 1902, the twenty-story Flatiron
Building was completed, becoming one of the first skyscrapers (“The New
Colossus” 11). Advances in electricity, public transportation, building
and manufacturing offered many new opportunities, but the rising
population forced many families to live in unsanitary conditions
(“Immigrants, Inventors, and Engineers” 6).
During the end of the 19th Century and the beginning of the 20th,
what would come to be known at the Great Migration dramatically
affected the population of New York City. Lacking opportunities in the
post Civil War south, many African-Americans left everything behind to
seek prosperity in the north. By 1930, the African-American population
of New York City was over five times what it had been prior to the turn of
the century (Bragg and Jung, “Jacob Lawrence”). African-Americans
from the south were not the only people to find a new home in the
crowded streets of New York City. In less than twenty years, over fifteen
million people immigrated to New York City from hundreds of different
countries. Over half of the New York City school children were
immigrants by the end of the first decade. America, and particularly New
York, had become a melting pot of races, nationalities, languages,
cultures and religions (Bragg and Jung, “New York Evolution”).
By 1905, the women’s suffrage movement had already begun to
take shape. Women in New York had won the right to retain possession
of property own before marriage and Susan B. Anthony and Elizabeth
Cady Stanton were making the case for women’s rights. In 1890, the
National Woman Suffrage Association and the American Woman Suffrage
Association merged to become the National American Woman Suffrage
Association. In 1916, Jeanette Rankin became the first woman elected to
Congress and three years later, the 19th Amendment to the Constitution
granted women the right to vote (“Are Women Persons?” 7).
Intimate Apparel takes place in New York City is 1905, where an
African-American seamstress grapples with the challenges of love,
marriage and society through her relationships with a unique collection
of friends and customers in the melting pot of New York City. The play is
divided into two acts and multiple scenes; however, the action of the play
flows from one scene into the next without solid breaks. Each numbered
“scene" is titled with a distinct fabric or article of clothing that relates to
the scene or collection of scenes that occur within these delineations.
Each act ends with the live recreation of a photograph with a caption.
Act I ends with a photograph of George and Esther’s wedding with the
caption: “Unidentified Negro Couple ca. 1905.” The second act ends with
a photograph of Esther at her sewing machine, titled “Unidentified Negro
Seamstress. Ca 1905.” These “photographs” add a sense of truth to the
story, reminding the audience that people like Esther existed in the world
at this time, even if their stories were never told. While linear and
episodic, the play jumps and flows from one location to the next,
sometime skipping minutes, sometimes weeks. The locations and scenes
fade together, creating a dreamlike quality that allows Esther to walk
from Mr. Marks’s shop directly into Mrs. Van Buren’s boudoir weeks
later. The play has strong expressionistic qualities. As in expressionistic
pieces, the audience sees the play through Esther’s eye as a dreamlike
memory as the play depicts the protagonist’s journey. During the first
act when George reads his letters, the audience sees what Esther
imagines George to be. When George arrives, his accent is heavier than
in the first act and she later discovers that he had not written the letters
at all. She only leaves stage twice and both are very brief exits to allow
for costume changes. These moments when Esther is off stage are the
only time that we see the other characters without her. The first is a
collection of moments as the other characters assemble on stage for the
Act I finale. During the second exit, there is a brief, silent scene between
George and Mayme. This revelation to the audience that George and
Mayme are having an affair is the only time that the audience is privy to
information of which Esther is not aware. While most of the scenes are
realistic, in the opening of the second act, Mrs. Van Buren and Mayme
join Esther in her bedroom and dress her after her wedding night. This
non-realistic moment combines three scenes (Esther at home, and then
Esther in conversation with each of the women) and creates a very
theatrical reminder of how parallel Esther’s seemingly separate worlds
are. This scene also calls to attention the fact that the structure of the
play itself is very non-realistic as it moves us instantaneously across
time and space between interactions, interspersed with the
presentational scenes of George reading his letters.
While Intimate Apparel addresses the changing face of New York
City and the world at the turn of the century, it focuses these big ideas
through the lenses of six characters. Drawn together by their
relationships with Esther, each offers a glimpse into a unique world
different from her own. They also give the audience a doorway into the
history of the play by showing how the changes of the time affected each
Esther is an African-American seamstress who lives in a rented
room in New York City in 1905. She is a talented lingerie maker who
dreams of owning a beauty parlor for African-American women and saves
her money in order to realize her dream. Esther also feels the sting of
loneliness. Even though she seems very prudish, she is a romantic at
heart and enjoys the fantasy of her distant admirer. She is willing to
marry George after only barely meeting him. Esther wants her marriage
with George to be everything that she has envied about the other married
women she has seen. She is excited about dinners at Mrs. Dickson’s and
church socials. She is deeply hurt when George dismisses her hopes and
seems to care only about her money. Esther is honest and assertive.
While seemingly quiet, she is not shy about speaking her mind. She
often oversteps her bounds and finds herself apologizing for saying the
truth others did not want to hear.
Mrs. Dickson is a middle-age African-American woman who owns
the boarding house where Esther rents a room. She is a warm and
welcoming woman who finds purpose and pleasure in marrying off her
boarders. Mrs. Dickson is a bit of a gossip, always eager to pass along
the latest news about the other girls in the house. She has developed a
special friendship with Esther and is the only friend of Esther’s that is
not also a client. When Esther’s relationship with George becomes
serious, Mrs. Dickson becomes a motherly figure. She tries to keep
George’s letters from Esther, fearing that he will take advantage of her.
Having grown up the daughter of an unmarried washerwoman, Mrs.
Dickson married for station and not for love. Mrs. Dickson fears that
Esther will throw away her talent for love. When Esther is packing to
leave, Mrs. Dickson explains telling Esther, “Don’t you let a man have no
part of your heart without getting a piece of his” (Nottage 33).
Esther and Mrs. Dickson have a close relationship. Esther is
honest with Mrs. Dickson about her fears of being an old maid and her
unhappiness with her prospects. Esther’s parents have died and Mrs.
Dickson has no children and the two form a mother-daughter like bond.
Mrs. Dickson is protective of Esther and worries that she will marry
someone who does not love her for who she is. When Esther is packing
to leave, Mrs. Dickson is clearly distraught and tries to prepare Esther
for being a wife. When Esther returns to Mrs. Dickson after George has
left, she does not pry into why Esther has returned. Mrs. Dickson will
always be a soft place for Esther to fall.
Mayme is a young African-American woman who works as a
prostitute and buys corsets from Esther. She dislikes her occupation
but understands that there are not many opportunities for AfricanAmerican women. She longs to be treated like a proper lady, indulging
Esther’s fantasies of owning a beauty parlor and wanting to own corsets
like those worn by wealthy women. Mayme is a talented pianist and
dreams of becoming a professional musician. But she is also rebellious,
risking a beating by her father for playing ragtime as a child. She seems
jaded when it comes to sex and love, telling Esther, “I ain’t waiting for
anybody to rescue me” (Nottage 22). But when she meets George, she is
swept off her feet. She tells Esther that she is going to marry him and
fantasizes about their life together. When Mayme sees the true George
and discovers his marriage to Esther, her dreams of a better life are just
as crushed as Esther’s.
Mayme and Esther have a close, almost sisterly relationship.
Esther lets down her guard when talking to Mayme and confesses very
personal information to her. Mayme and Esther share their dreams with
each other and support each other through their ups and downs. When
George proposes to Esther, she asks Mayme to be her witness. Esther
does not see Mayme as just a customer, but as a friend. Similar to how
Esther will reject Mrs. Van Buren, Mayme is quick to point out that
beyond her bedroom they cannot be friends because of their disparate
social classes. When Esther discovers that George is cheating on her
with Mayme, Esther is furious with Mayme, but then pities her.
Mayme meets George when he comes to the brothel where she
works. Mayme calls him Songbird, because “he sing to speak” (Nottage
47). George comes to see Mayme three times a week and Mayme believes
that they are in love. She sees George as a man who can take her away
from the life she lives and make her the kind of woman that she wants to
be. She tells Esther that he does not come to her with the same kind of
anger that other African-American men have. Mayme allows George to
be the successful man that he wishes he was. Mayme sees him as a
gentleman with pockets full of hard earned money.
Mrs. Van Buren is a wealthy customer of Esther’s. Mrs. Van
Buren feels betrayed because of the rejection of her husband. Unable to
have a child, she feels that she has failed both as a wife and as a woman.
Mrs. Van Buren feels abandoned by the other women in her society and
she finds Esther’s kindness and understanding comforting. Unable to
exist among her own society, Mrs. Van Buren is drawn to the bohemian
lifestyle, dressing up like a “tart from the Tenderloin” (Nottage 11) and
writing romantic letters to a man in Panama. Mrs. Van Buren selfishly
believes that Esther feels the some closeness in their relationship and
when Esther rejects her, she loses her temper, lashing out at Esther.
Mrs. Van Buren desperately wants to be Esther’s friend. Mrs. Van
Buren has been ostracized from her society friends and has no one else
to whom she can turn. She clings to her friendship with Esther, who
does not judge her for her inability to have children. She lives vicariously
through Esther, happily writing to George, trying to capture the
excitement of new love. Mrs. Van Buren longs to feel the closeness with
someone that she once shared with her husband and misinterprets
Esther’s kindness as love. Esther is quick to put Mrs. Van Buren in her
place, pointing out that while Mrs. Van Buren believes that they are close
friends, Esther has never been in any other room of her house and is not
allowed in through her front door. Mrs. Van Buren cannot see the social
disparity between them and is surprised when Esther rejects her.
There are two Georges in Intimate Apparel. The first is the George
that we see through the letters that Esther receives. In these letters,
George is passionate and romantic, with adventurous and poetically
tragic stories of working on the Panama Canal. However, the man in the
letters is not the man who arrives in New York to marry Esther. George
purchased the letters from another canal worker with the intentions of
finding a wife, not to trick or hurt Esther. George is a hard-working man
and strives to be a strong, traditional husband. Seeing America as a
land of opportunity, he finds that there are little opportunities for dark
skinned immigrants. Too proud to take the jobs that are offered to him,
George finds himself emasculated by his dependency on Esther’s
success. Defeated, he becomes intoxicated by the fantasy the saloon
offers him – a place where the money in his pocket is his own week’s
The relationship between Esther and George is one based on
falsehoods. Both he and Esther start their relationship wanting to be
married, not married to each other. George wants to have the American
dream and part of that dream is a wife. He wants someone who needs
him. Esther wants to be a part of society, and she feels that the only way
to be included in the social functions she longs to be a part of is with a
husband. Esther has turned down suitors before but believes that
George is different from the other men that she has met. Neither George
nor Esther enter the marriage maliciously, but both contribute to its
As an Orthodox Jew and a recent immigrant from Romania, Mr.
Marks is torn between the life his religion demands and the possibility
this new world of America offers. Lacking the discipline to follow in the
family tailoring business, Mr. Marks takes pride in his knowledge of
fabrics and easily persuades Esther to purchase fine silks and laces that
she hadn’t come in for. Rarely displaying his true feelings, Mr. Marks
tries to remain courteous and positive, showing his disappointment by
the simple act of sewing on a button. Passive to a fault, Mr. Marks
seems to have made a life out of waiting for something to happen. Filled
with excuses, he lacks the discipline to learn to sew, does not call on
Esther because he does not have her address, is unwilling to pursue
Esther because of his religion, but also does not bring over his fiancé.
He does not even seem interested in competing with the other fabric
stores even when he begins to lose customers. His one act of boldness is
breaking his religious law by allowing Esther to touch him. In his
attempts to be polite and friendly with Esther, he is shy and awkward –
trying to balance what he believes with what he feels.
Esther and Mr. Marks have a delicate relationship. Both feel
attraction to each other, but they feel that their relationship cannot
progress beyond shy flirtation. While Esther dismisses the relationship
with Mayme, she confesses to Mrs. Van Buren that she is in love with
someone other than her husband. Because they cannot touch each
other, their only contact is through the fabric he sells to her. Esther
does touch Mr. Marks twice after he tells her that he cannot touch
anyone other than members of his family. The first time it is without his
permission, but at the end of the play, he allows her to smooth the collar
of the smoking jacket that she gives to him.
Intimate Apparel weaves together the themes of desires versus
expectations, self actualization and touch. Who, how and why people
touch and do not touch is central to the play and the characters within
it. Touch is used in many of the characters’ relationships as a means of
intimacy, rejection and manipulation. When George and Esther first
meet, their touch is direct. He undresses her out of her wedding gown
and places her hand on his crotch. As their relationship sours, George
becomes disgusted at the thought of touching Esther. She tries to
seduce him with a seductive corset fashioned after Mayme’s, but is
forced to bribe him with the money from her quilt because she “wanted
to be held” (Nottage 53). Mrs. Van Buren finds herself in a similar
situation with her own husband. Her inability to become pregnant has
forced a wedge between Mrs. Van Buren and her husband who has
become increasingly distant. Mrs. Van Buren, like Esther, craves the
touch of another person. When Esther runs her fingers down Mrs. Van
Buren’s corset, touching the delicate silk, Mrs. Van Buren mistakes the
touch as affection directed at her. Touch is most evident in the
relationship between Esther and Mr. Marks. Because of his religious
beliefs, Mr. Marks cannot touch Esther and all the physical contact
between them must come through the fabric. When admiring the
fabrics, both Esther and Mr. Marks use romantic and tactile language
describing the way the fabric feels against the skin. Toward the end of
the first act, Esther touches Mr. Marks on the back of his collar. She
tells Mrs. Van Buren, “I touched someone who I knew I wasn’t supposed
to touch. I touched them because I wanted to, it was wrong, but I
couldn’t help myself” (Nottage 28). When Esther touches Mr. Marks at
the end of the play, it is with his permission. The emotion behind the
simple gesture of smoothing a lapel becomes magnified because of the
physical void that the play has placed between these two characters.
As described above, each character in Intimate Apparel finds
themselves pulled between their own desires and the expectation of
others. Unable to fulfill her role in society as a mother, Mrs. Van Buren
dreams of escape. Mayme earns her living as a prostitute, but dreams of
the respectable life she mistakenly believes she can have with George.
He believes that he has found a good wife in the quiet Esther and that
through his marriage he can attain the American Dream. Mr. Marks is
torn between his emotional attraction to Esther and the demands of his
religion. Esther, too, wrestles with her own desires and expectations
within the play. She feels disappointment watching girl after girl leave
Mrs. Dickson’s boarding house on the arm of a husband. At thirty-five
she already feels like an old maid and confesses to Mrs. Dickson that she
fears that she will “turn to dust one day, get swept up and released into
the garden without notice” (Nottage 32). Esther feels the pressure to
marry, not only because it is what is expected of her as a woman, but
also, because she longs to be loved and to share her life with someone.
But the reality of marriage to George is not what she envisioned. She
desired the benefits of being a married woman – attending church socials
and dinner parties as Mrs. Armstrong, but George is uninterested in
those things and becomes hostile to the idea. The person with whom she
feels a real romantic connection is Mr. Marks, an Orthodox Jewish fabric
salesman. Mr. Marks is also torn between passion and obligation. While
he clearly has feelings for Esther, he cannot be with her because of the
strict rules of his religious beliefs.
The idea of reaching self-awareness and inner fulfillment is very
important in Intimate Apparel. Esther believes that marrying George will
make her happy and bring her life the fulfillment that she feels she is
lacking by being a single woman. However, what she discovers through
the course of the play is that others cannot bring her happiness and that
the independence and drive that she had all along is what brings her the
most joy. Just after they are married, she tells George, “It was as though
God kissed my hands when I first pulled the fabric through the sewing
machine and held up a finished garment. I discovered all I need in these
fingers” (Nottage 38). It is Esther’s talent and success that drives George
away. In the end, Esther is able to let go of George and the dream of
being married because she finally feels the confidence and power that
she has had all along. Despite having lost everything we know that
Esther will succeed because she has discovered who she is.
Design Process
Prior to the first design meeting, I began working with Wendi Zea,
the faculty costume design professor, to develop a concept board. The
concept board would be a collection of images that I related to the play
on an emotional level rather than an intellectual level. I had done
historical research into the lives and clothing of the time, but the concept
board allowed me to address the play on a personal level. I searched for
images inspired by key words that had spoken to me from the script.
“Touch”, “torn”, and “intimate” were some of the first words that I
searched for online. I also looked at images of corsets, but I felt
dissatisfied with the images I found. I felt it difficult, as a woman far
removed from the days of corset wearing, to relate to the historical
photographs of corsets. Corsets were an understood part of womens’
lives. Even children were expected to wear constricting garments that
shaped their bodies (Steele 49). To understand a woman’s ready
acceptance of the pain and physical limitations imposed by the corset in
order to improve her appearance and meet social norms, a modern
audience would only have to look to a pair of high heels, a contemporary
fashion accessory that can cause discomfort, effect posture and damage
tendons in the foot (Praetorius and Cox 3). But corsets, even at the turn
of the century, had a duality. They were constricting and binding, but
also gave women of the time a sensuality and sexuality that was absent
from most of their daily lives. Corsets today are still used for fashion,
but not for body modification and are rarely laced to the point of causing
pain. Most of the images that I found were for weddings or connected to
fetishes. I then came across images of corset piercings. A corset piercing
is when a person has two rows of loops pierced down their back and then
laces them together with ribbon. There was something very grotesque
about these photos, but also very beautiful. They were painful and
striking, repulsive and fascinating all at once. To me, these images
related more to the historical corsets than a modern woman in a corseted
wedding dress. As fabric was such an important part of the play, I found
myself searching for images of textiles and was drawn to an image of
cloth under a microscope. This extreme close-up of the woven fibers
worked as an allegory of the play itself. Just as the image was focused
on the individual threads woven together to make a single piece of fabric,
so are we focused on the individual lives of the characters that are woven
together to make New York at the turn of the century. After I had
collected the images that most spoke to me, I used Photoshop to
manipulate and arrange them to form a single image that communicated
my feelings about the play. Creating the concept board allowed me to
step back from the historical research and really focus on the overall
feeling of the play and what I wanted to communicate to the director, the
other designers and the audience artistically.
At the first design meeting, the director, Susan Patrick Benson,
explained her vision for the show. For her the most important thing was
to tell the story. The director stressed that she saw this as a “quiet
show” without a lot of moving scenery or spectacle. She wanted to keep
things simple, but meaningful and deliberate. While the events in the
play occur over the length of about eighteen months, the director saw the
events as more of a memory and not necessarily linear. She wanted a
romanticized version of the characters’ lives, as if Esther was reminiscing
about her life. She wanted the designers to think outside of realism and
embrace the theatrical and expressionistic qualities of the play. During
the meeting, I showed the director and the other designers my concept
board and other research images I had collected. I had been particularly
drawn to the corset advertisements I had found in the book Corset: A
Cultural History by Valerie Steele. I noticed that many of the
advertisements used a similar color scheme and I wanted to use these
colors in my design. One image in particular seemed to capture the
three main colors: rose, blue and gold.
This first design meeting was in December, shortly before the end
of the semester, and we would not be meeting again until late January.
This gave me a chance to further analyze the play’s structure and
An early step in processing the play is to make a costume plot that
tracks the characters and any mention of their costumes either in
dialogue or stage directions (see Appendix B, tables 1 and 2). This gave
me a quick visual outline of the show and a reference to any specific
costume needs. There were many descriptions of the characters’
costumes, especially the fabrics and embellishments. Many of the
descriptions were in the dialogue, requiring that I make sure the
costumes and the fabrics matched what was being said by the
characters. I also needed to make sure that I incorporated the specifics
of the script with my design as a whole so that those elements were not
incongruous with the other costumes.
A major issue that stood out in the costume plot was Esther’s two
costume changes. In both instances Esther only leaves stage for a
moment, so both changes would have to be fast and any costumes
related to the changes would need to be quick rigged. At the end of the
first act, Esther leaves briefly and then returns in a wedding dress, only
to have George undress her from the same wedding dress at the
beginning of the second act. This required the dress to have two closures
– one for the quick change into the dress and one historically accurate
closure for George to use onstage. During the second act, Esther leaves
stage again in order to change from the wedding corset to the corset that
resembles Mayme’s. Esther is off stage only for a quick scene and must
undress, change corsets and redress. While a traditional front busk
corset is easy to remove, putting on a corset with a front busk and a
laced back can be difficult and time consuming. The second corset
needed to have some form of quick rigging in order for the change to go
quickly and smoothly, but still look like a historical corset.
The break also allowed me to look for the fabrics that I wanted to
use. I am not as knowledgeable with fabric as I would like to be and I do
not feel comfortable ordering fabric online without having touched it first.
The feeling of fabric is very important to the play, as the types of fabric
and their textures are specifically mentioned in the script. If I was
unable to find or afford the type of fabric mentioned in the script, I
wanted to know how the fabric looked, felt and draped. This was
important, not only to be accurate with the specifics in the script, but
because it would affect how the actors reacted to the fabric. Fabric that
was stiff or uncomfortable would change the way they moved in the
costumes, whereas fabric that was soft and silky would encourage them
to touch it. In the shop we had two swatch catalogues from online fabric
stores, but I wanted to see what else I could find. The break between
meetings allowed me time to travel to Chicago to look for fabrics. I went
to several stores looking specifically for embroidered or brocade silks and
satins as well as the brown wool for George’s suit. I found a few fabrics
that would work for the show, but it was difficult finding fabrics that did
not look too modern or too flashy. I was looking for fabrics with a soft
color palette. Not many of the stores carried wools and the wools they
had were often lightweight wools and I was looking for something a little
During the break, I constructed image boards for each of the
characters. Each board was a combination of historical images I had
found online and in books that captured the visual essence of each
character. I had the most difficulty finding images that related to Mr.
Marks. Most sources I found that discussed Hasidic clothing only listed
the items worn and there were very few images, especially taken during
the first half of the century. I wanted to make sure that I was accurate
with Mr. Mark’s clothing because I knew that Hasidic clothing had deep
religious meaning and I did not want to offend any audience members.
At the next design meeting, I showed the director and other
designers the fabric swatches and image boards that I had for each
character. I was not wholly satisfied with the swatches I had, especially
for the five corsets. I wanted them to really stand out because they were
so vital to the feeling of the play. I had found several swatches with soft
blues and pinks, but I did not feel that those colors were strong enough.
The dramaturg showed me an article about the costume designs from a
previous production. The article discussed aniline dyes and their use at
the turn of the century. Aniline dyes produce vibrant and vivid colors
(Rattner). Using colors based on aniline dyes would allow me to make
the corsets bright so they would stand out from the other costumes. One
of the corsets is already described as being magenta, so I selected a
purple and a teal as the other two colors for the corsets. I wanted the
corsets bright so they would stand out against the drabber costumes of
the other characters, especially Esther. Keeping Esther in more muted,
darker colors, would make the scene where she undresses to try to
seduce George even more out of character.
I drew some rough sketches and met with the director privately to
go over them before the third design meeting. I showed her the new
colors and she liked the bright, bold colors. We discussed the rough
sketches of the costumes and she was a little concerned about the length
of the combinations worn by Mrs. Van Buren, Mayme and Esther.
Historically, combinations of the time would have been long enough to
cover the leg to about mid-calf, but I had shortened them to about knee
length. I had raised the hem of the combinations in order to give a
modern audience the feeling that these garments were sexy and
revealing. The director wanted to shorten the combinations further and
have them be mid-thigh or higher. At first, I was reluctant to raise the
hem line as I wanted to preserve the historical feeling of the garments.
We decided to raise the hemline, but not to make a final determination
until we saw them on the actresses to see what length was the most
The play describes corsets worn by Mrs. Van Buren and Mayme in
Act 1 as being similar. In the stage directions it describes the corsets as
having different features: Mrs. Van Buren’s has lavender flowers and
Mayme’s is a light blue satin foulard with royal blue beading. However,
in the dialogue, they only talk about the corsets having floral embroidery
and being like the other corset (Nottage 11, 19). In Act 2, the stage
directions call for Mrs. Van Buren and Mayme to be wearing “matching
corsets” (Nottage 36). While this was not directly stated in the script, I
wanted to use the corsets from Act 1 for these matching corsets and to
make them identical to show the mirroring of Mrs. Van Buren and
Mayme. I discussed this option with the director and she liked the visual
of the two women in matching corsets. This would play up that each
coveted the other’s life and perceived freedom.
I needed to make a decision on the interior rules of the costumes
in the world of the play. Though the play takes place over several
months, the play transitions from one scene to another – and one month
to the next - with Esther leaving the stage only twice. The director
wanted to maintain this quick flow without taking extra time for costume
and scene changes. This would mean Esther would be in one costume
for the majority of the play, with the exception of her wedding dress and
when she undresses. This decision not only affected Esther’s costume,
but also the other characters'. I wanted to remain consistent in that
passage of time is not reflected in the costumes. This would not be a
problem for Mr. Marks because his religious beliefs dictated that his
clothing would be the same regardless of different days. However, this
decision would affect Mrs. Dickson and George.
Mrs. Dickson would have time to do costume changes between her
scenes, if necessary, but because Esther and Mr. Marks were not going
to change costumes, I decided to find an iconic costume for Mrs. Dickson
– iconic not only of the historical period, but also to represent the way
Esther remembered Mrs. Dickson, as the director had stated that she
saw the play as taking place in Esther’s memory. The only thing said
about Mrs. Dickson's clothing in the script is that she calls one of
Esther’s dresses “frumpy” (Nottage 31). This indicated that she dresses
more stylishly than Esther. The lack of dialogue about how Mrs. Dickson
dresses allowed this character to be the only one that I was able to
design with no stipulations from the playwright. We are only able to see
two women fully dressed during the production, and with the need for
Esther to be more conservatively dressed, Mrs. Dickson offered me my
only opportunity to play with the style and silhouette of the time in a
fashionable way.
The design of Esther’s wedding dress was one of the trickiest.
Most of the research images that I had found of wedding dresses of the
time were frilly and lacey. They were very delicate with ruffles and soft,
draping fabric. A dress that was frilly and girlish did not seem very
Esther. I wanted Esther’s wedding dress to be something that spoke to
her as a character because it is one of the only things that she makes
and then wears. This is also when we see Esther at her happiest and
because the fabric is given to her by Mr. Marks, I thought that it was a
garment that she would take extra time and care in creating. The frilly
dresses did not seem to suit Esther, so I began looking at other non-
wedding dresses of the time.
During the design process, the dramaturg,
Wendi Zea and I met with Dr. Laura Kidd, a professor from the Fashion
Design and Merchandising Department and the curator of the
university’s historic costumes collection. Dr. Kidd had pulled several
items from the collection to show us actual garments from the turn of the
century. I was most drawn to one of the wedding dresses. It featured
beautiful pin tucking covering almost the entire garment. I really liked
how striking and delicate such a straightforward detail could make the
dress. I wanted Esther’s wedding dress to have the same simple elegance
without the frilliness. I used the basic silhouette of the turn of the
century wedding dress and then incorporated different aspects from
dresses I had seen in my research to create a wedding dress that I
thought would capture Esther’s style.
Before the final design meeting, Wendi Zea had asked me to do an
assignment for one of my classes in which I would design Intimate
Apparel as if there were no restrictions: no time period, no dialogue
descriptions. I was to design the costumes based on how I felt about the
characters. At first, I was wary of the assignment. I was not sure how
designs with no parameters would be helpful in designing a play with so
many of them. What had struck me most about the play was the idea of
being bound: by society, by custom, by religion, by expectations, by
circumstance, by perception and by ourselves. Esther was the first
character I started drawing and I really liked being able to capture her
character without having to worry about all the restrictions of time and
script (Appendix A, figures 1 – 6). Because fabric was such an important
part of the script and the character’s interactions, I draped Esther in
fabric and then wrapped her with strips of fabric to show how she is
bound by her world. After I had Esther, I thought about how the other
characters in this world would dress. For Mayme and Mrs. Van Buren, I
had to decide what this world’s underwear was. I did not want to go as
literal with the binding with these two, so I explored how both are
weighed down by their circumstances. I gave Mayme bracelets attached
to long swathes of fabric that she would be forced to carry with her,
much in the way that she carries her discarded hopes and dreams. I
gave Mrs. Van Buren a choker necklace with fabric draped down her
back. Like Mayme, Mrs. Van Buren is weighed down by her failures, but
she has yet to possess them. Instead, they follow her, holding her back.
George was one of the hardest characters to address. I went back and
looked at his lines and what he says. Most of his lines deal with very
physical things: work, dirt, sweat, digging, plants and death. George also
is very aware of how he is different from Esther and her friends. While
both Mr. Marks and George are immigrants to New York, Mr. Marks has
adapted to life in a new country whereas George seems to wallow in his
“outsider” status. Instead of giving George draping fabric, like the other
characters, I chose to leave him unclothed and covered in mud and dirt.
I wanted to reflect, not how the other characters see him, but how he
sees himself.
I met privately with the director before the fifth design meeting and
showed her the drawings I had done. She liked them and we both agreed
they would be exciting choices if we had to do the show with only muslin.
However, the director still wanted to show them to the other designers at
the final design meeting. I met this request with reluctance, as it felt a
little like being asked to read aloud from my diary. I understood why the
director wanted me to show them, but it still made me feel a little
embarrassed. At the design meeting, I presented the designs and they
were well received. The director wanted to use my drawing for Mayme as
inspiration for a statue that would be beside Esther’s bed.
By doing this exercise, I was able to use ideas from the alternative
drawings in my final designs – Mayme’s bracelets and Mrs. Van Buren’s
pearl choker necklace – and I was better able to understand my feelings
towards the play. The alternative designs did not, for the most part,
change anything that I had previously rendered, but they helped me
understand and better articulate why I had chosen to incorporate certain
elements into my design. I tend to make choices and not over analyze
why I have made them, but having to scrutinize why I was making a
choice in another related design, allowed me to make the connections in
my original concept and see why I had made the choices that I did and if,
perhaps, there was a better choice. I’m not sure if this assignment would
be as helpful on more abstract shows, but when dealing with such a
structured play, it allowed me to think outside the box and discover new
ways of looking at the show before returning to that structured world.
The Production Process
The production process for Intimate Apparel consisted of an eight
week build period and a week of tech rehearsals. The previous semester,
my faculty advisor and I discussed having another student work on the
show as my assistant. We decided to ask an undergraduate student who
had worked in the shop previously. He and I had worked together before
and I knew that it would be helpful to have another pair of hands in the
shop. Before the build began, I sat down with my faculty advisor and the
costume shop manager to discuss who would build each item. Three of
the corsets would be covered by the two other graduate students and me
in the advanced costume construction class. As the class focused on
corset construction, this offered an opportunity for our class work to tie
into our actual production work, and, in theory, would give us more time
for the other build items as these corsets would be constructed outside of
normal shop hours. We divided the other items among ourselves and the
other shop workers. The show crew consisted of my assistant, the
costume shop manager, two other graduate students and me. The five of
us would serve as the main cutter/drapers for the show while we had
several undergraduate work study and lab students to assist as needed.
We tried to keep in mind everyone’s experience level while also giving
them something that would showcase their abilities.
During week one, the costume shop was in the middle of a build
for another show. The other two graduate students and I were exempt
from working on the show so that we could focus on starting the build
for Intimate Apparel. This only affected our shop manager who was
designing part of the current show and building George’s brown suit for
Intimate Apparel. The costume shop manager and I met with the shop
crew members individually to go over the build items and discussed any
questions or concerns. The show had been cast prior to the start of build
and the actors had already come down to the shop to have their
measurements taken, so my assistant and I were able to create a pull list
and begin pulling costumes. The director and I had previously discussed
wanting to get the actors in rehearsal corsets and their actual shoes
early in the rehearsal process. I needed to make sure we had those items
available so I would have time to purchase them if they were not in our
stock. We both felt this was important for the actors because we wanted
them to feel accustomed to wearing and moving in these items. In
addition, there were a few items that we were not sure if we would have
to build or not. After pulling what we could, I had a much clearer idea of
what would have to be bought, what would have to be built and what we
could use.
While my assistant and I were pulling from stock, the other
graduate students began work on their build items for the show. My
initial build list consisted of one woman’s shirt, a walking skirt, five
corsets, four combinations, a smoking jacket, a man’s three-piece suit
and a wedding dress. Since there was a large number of build items for
the show we could not schedule any fittings until week three. Also
during this time, most of the shop crew would be attending the
Southeastern Theatre Conference, which would take almost all of the
second week of our build, followed immediately by the school’s spring
break which would close the shop for another week. When planning the
build for this show, I took into account these missing weeks as well as a
third that would be lost to another conference.
During week one and the two work days we had of week two, I
ordered the majority of the fabric we would need for the show. Most of
the fabric was ordered online and would need to be dyed once it arrived.
This required that the orders were placed early enough so we were not
waiting for fabric once the muslin fittings were done. Knowing this build
would consist of a lot of detail work – beading, trims, hand stitching, etc.
– I wanted to make sure the basic structures of the garments were
finished with enough time to complete the final touches without them
needing to be rushed. As the scenic designer was purchasing a larger
amount of fabric for the set, I was able to order some of the fabric along
with him to save on shipping costs. When ordering the fabric, I kept in
mind I needed to order two extra yards of each for props as several of the
garments we were building were created in the world of the play from
material that Esther buys from Mr. Marks. The smoking jacket fabric
was ordered from a fabric store I had visited in Chicago and when I called
to order the fabric, the price was higher than I had remembered. I was
thrown by the price and forgot to order the two extra yards. I thought we
would still have enough after the jacket was finished, but I was worried
and spoke to the cutter/draper of the smoking jacket. We discussed
being conservative with the fabric and cutting the jacket early enough so
if I needed to order more fabric I could.
During week two, the director informed me the actress playing
Mrs. Dickson had decided not to do the play and would be replaced. We
had already purchased and dyed the fabric for Mrs. Dickson’s skirt, but
had not yet started working on her mockup. The new actress came to
the shop to have her measurements taken and we pulled new rehearsal
items for her. The change in actresses was actually beneficial to our
build as we would have had to buy shoes and build a shirt for the
original actress, but we found shoes and a shirt in stock that actually
worked better for my design than what I was planning on building.
During week two, we had a master class with Tetsuo Tamanaha, a
professional tailor, on patterning and building men’s suits. The master
class was incredibly helpful, not only because we were building George’s
brown suit, but also because Mr. Tamanaha gave us helpful advice on
his techniques for all garments. During the class, the draper in charge of
George’s suit was able to pattern the suit. However, because the actor
was very high-waisted, after looking at the pattern, we decided to lower
the waist and re-pattern the suit in order to give the actor a more
proportioned look.
When I returned from spring break, I discovered that my assistant
had built the mockup for Mrs. Dickson’s skirt even though it had been
assigned to another person. As everyone was at the conference, my
assistant felt the need to get ahead on the work, believing that
completing this early part of the garment’s build would help move things
along when we returned. He said that we did not have to use the
mockup if the other person who had been assigned the skirt wanted to
make her own or that they could switch garments if there was any issue
with his actions. I told him that he needed to discuss the situation with
the other draper and the shop manager and work out who was building
what, and to clarify it quickly, as the mockups needed to be done for the
fittings that were scheduled later that week.
One of the items that I had difficulty finding was underwear for
Esther, Mayme, and Mrs. Van Buren. Each of the women appears in
combinations and corsets, but the fabrics for the combinations were very
sheer. I did not want to ask student actors to be nude onstage, so I
sought out flesh toned underwear for them to wear. However, I wanted
the appearance of them being nude under the combinations and the
director wanted Mrs. Van Buren to appear in a nude silhouette at the
beginning of her first scene, so I need the underwear to be as
unnoticeable as possible. The bra proved to be the most difficult, as the
needs of the play called for it to be unstructured. Not only would this
help continue the illusion that the actresses were not wearing bras, but
also because wearing a bra underneath a corset can be painful. I first
looked at dancewear, but I had trouble finding anything in darker skin
tones for Mayme and Esther. I called different companies to see if they
knew of any place that provided dance underwear in African-American
skin tones, but they did not know of any. I looked at the option of
buying white bras and dying them to match, but I knew that matching
skin tones in dye was difficult and most of the bras that I found were
made with materials that are either difficult or impossible to dye.
Eventually, I did find a set of bandeau tops at Dillards that came in a
variety of skin tones and fit within my budget.
During this week we had our first three fittings. I had originally
wanted Mrs. Van Buren to have two different combinations – a longer
one for the twin corset and a shorter one that would be suspendered for
the magenta corset. When we fit her in the mockup, we decided to cut
the longer combination and just have her wear the shorter one for the
twin corset. This allowed us to save time by not having to build a second
combination and also gave us extra silk that would come in handy later –
although I did not know it at the time.
The cast had started their table work that week and the director
came to speak with me about one of the actors. The director had
discovered that the actor who was playing George might not be able to be
in the show. She would not know until later if he would need to be
replaced, but she told me to continue working as if there would not be a
change. While replacing an actor at this point would not have been a big
deal, the farther we got into the build, the harder it would become. The
reality of him being replaced was slim, but it concerned me because we
had already started work on the brown suit and I could not afford to
purchase another suit’s worth of wool.
During week three, my faculty advisor pulled me aside and asked
how much money I would need to finish the show. I had originally been
budgeted at $3000, but the school was undergoing financial difficulties
and the department was trying to limit any unnecessary spending. I had
already spent about $1000 of my budget on fabrics, dyes and other
needed items, but that had also covered the largest quantity of the fabric
I needed to purchase. I went back to the rough budget I had worked out
before we had started and told her that I could finish the show for a
budget of $2000, two-thirds of my original budget. While this meant that
I would have less room for error and that I would have to go with cheaper
alternatives for certain items, I felt that this new budget would still give
me enough money to not have to compromise the actual design. I was
not sure if this new budget would be approved or if and when our budget
would be reduced further, so I decided to purchase the remaining
expensive items that I knew we needed that week.
During week four, the previous show was going into their tech
week and we would soon be getting more workers to help with Intimate
Apparel. This was not an issue as we had not had many alterations
come out of the three fittings during week three because most of the
costumes for those characters were build items.
We had received all of the fabric and dye that had been ordered, so
my assistant and I got to work experimenting and finding what colors we
wanted to dye the fabrics. Most of the fabric we were dying was silk and
so it was uneventful – I picked a color and we dyed it that color. The
fabric I ordered for the twin corsets was a silk/rayon blend and because
silk and rayon dye using different techniques, I was unsure of what the
result would be when we dyed the fabric. It had a floral pattern and we
had hoped that the blend would cause the background to dye, but leave
the flowers white. We only had a small sample of the fabric in a swatch
book, so we could not test the fabric until it arrived. We decided that if
the fabric dyed a solid color, we would still use it for the twin corset, but
embroider the necessary flowers post-dyeing and if the fabric did not dye
at all or dyed poorly, we would use it for the wedding corset. When we
began dyeing samples of the fabric, an option that we had not considered
happened. The blend of materials in the fabric reacted differently to the
different colors in the dye powders causing the background of the fabric
to dye one color and the flowers to be dyed a different one. This
discovery was unexpected, but the result was stunning. We tried a few
color combinations before I settled on a blue-green background with
bright blue flowers. This combination had not been in the plans, but the
accident turned out better than I had hoped.
Monday evening was the actors’ first rehearsal on their feet and the
director had asked the designers to give a presentation on the design of
the play. I passed around my designs as well as samples of the different
fabrics. After the presentations, I gave the cast their rehearsal shoes and
corsets. I showed the actresses how to lace each other into the corsets
and helped the actress playing Esther lace another actress in since she
would be doing this onstage. Originally, I had planned to have front
busks in all of the corsets. This way, the corset could be laced and the
actress could fasten it in front and tighten the laces. However, after a
few attempts, I saw that the front busks were too difficult and the
director and I discussed cutting the busks and having Esther lace them
in completely in the back. The lacing would now take more time, but it
would be easier for both actresses. We did decide to keep the busk in the
wedding corset because Esther would be putting that on during
intermission where she would have more time and having the busk
would make her quick change out of that corset and into the seduction
corset easier.
That week we also had the first fittings for Mr. Marks, Esther and
George. In Mr. Marks’ fitting we discovered that the coat we had pulled
for him was too small and would not work. We did not have another coat
for him to wear in stock, but my faculty advisor said that she knew of a
company that might have a period looking coat we could buy. I was
concerned about how much the coat would cost, as I had not planned on
buying one, but I knew that we did not have many options.
In George’s fitting, we had issues with the brown suit mockup.
The draper was one of the designers of the previous show and had been
rushed in making the mockup. There were too many adjustments that
needed to be made with the pants and jacket to have them be a good
indication of what the actual garment would fit like, so we decided to
have another fitting with George the next week. By then, the draper
could make another muslin mockup of the suit and we would be able to
have a better idea of the changes that needed to be made to the pattern.
I was concerned about the suit because I knew that it is a difficult thing
to build from scratch.
During week five, the shop was only open Monday and Tuesday
due to the United States Institute of Theater Technology conference. On
Monday we had the second muslin fitting for George. There was still
something off about the pants and we hoped that rotating the leg of the
pants would fix the problems. The suit fittings were very frustrating for
me. Because we do not often built pants in the shop, none of us were
very experienced with troubleshooting the problems with them. The
fittings felt more like guessing than problem solving and by the end of
them, I felt exhausted. It also did not help that we were dealing with a
period pattern that was constructed in a way that we no longer build
My advisor showed me the website that she had mentioned with
the period coats. I picked out one that was the style I was looking for
and we ordered the coat. We were a little pressed for time because the
school wanted to perform a scene from the play for Drama Daze, a day of
theater workshops for high school students hosted by the theater
department. The scene that they wanted to perform for the event was a
scene between Esther and Mr. Marks. We had been focusing on their
alterations, knowing their costumes would be needed for the
performance, but we still did not have the coat. We had a week before we
needed it and the company told us they had the coat in stock and would
be shipping it that day. We would just have to hope it got here in time.
I also wanted to order the remaining supplies for the corsets.
Originally, I had planned on using flat steel bones in the corsets, because
they were more historically accurate. However, we had recently used
them in a class project and I had been unimpressed with them. They
were not as bulky or rigid as I had expected. Also, I had to order them in
the specific lengths that were needed and if I did need to resize them, it
was a hassle. In an earlier show, the costume shop had used heavy duty
zip ties as corset boning. The zip ties were inexpensive, locally available
and easy to resize if needed. Also, the plastic zip ties were thicker than
the flat steel bones and I liked their bulkier look in the corsets. I wanted
the constrictiveness of the corsets to stand out and using them made the
bone ridges more prominent.
We had been having some issues with the pleating on Esther’s
wedding dress. The wedding dress had an underskirt with small knife
pleats and I had planned on using the same material to do the
underskirt as the rest of the wedding dress. I had purchased the silk for
the wedding dress hoping that it would be thick enough to hold the
pleats. The draper, costume shop manager, my faculty advisor and I
troubleshot several ideas for the pleating, including having it
professionally pleated, but we decided to try having a work-study student
handle the pleating. I knew that it would be time-consuming and
tedious, but it would be less expensive. By the end of week six, it was
clear that the hand pleating was not going to work. The silk simply
would not hold the pleat as cleanly as I wanted and it was taking far too
long. I discussed this with the draper and we decided to purchase taffeta
for the pleated section on the underskirt. Taffeta is a stiffer fabric and
would hold a crisper pleat then the silk. I found a taffeta that matched
the silk and the pleating went much faster and the look was what I had
The department usually arranges a publicity photo shoot two
weeks before the production and the photo shoot for Intimate Apparel
was scheduled for the Monday of week six. The photo was to include
Esther, Mayme and George and the director wanted Esther and Mayme
to be in corsets and combinations. Mayme’s combination only needed
some decorative stitching, but Esther’s combination was not yet done.
Instead, I had Esther wear Mrs. Van Buren’s combination since that one
had been completed. The corsets also were not ready in time for the
photo shoot, so I pulled two decorative corsets that we had in stock.
While they were not quite the right style, I felt that they would still
communicate the same idea for the photo. I had already purchased the
wig for Mayme, but I was not planning on using a wig for Esther. The
actress was planning on having her hair straightened, pulling it back and
using a bun cover. However, the photo shoot was too far away from the
actual show to have the actress straighten her hair for the photo.
Instead, I used the wig that had been purchased for Mrs. Dickson and
had it styled similarly to how I planned to have Esther’s hair. I planned
to use the same wig a few days later for the Drama Daze performance.
By the time Drama Daze arrived, we had not yet received the new
coat for Mr. Marks. During his first fitting, I had fit him in a jacket that,
while not what I wanted for the show, would work if we had to use it.
Luckily, we had this jacket available for the performance. As I was
setting up the dressing rooms for the show, I realized that the wig that
had been styled for Esther had been mistakenly taken down. I called my
assistant, since I would be needed for other activities during Drama Daze
and he stopped by and quickly fixed the wig. Other than the jacket and
the wig, the Drama Daze performance went well.
During week six, we had the final fittings for several of the
characters. Most of the notes were finish work that needed to be done,
such as trims or hems. The director had mentioned she wanted Mrs.
Van Buren to have a kimono. I had assumed she wanted the kimono
during Act Two and Mrs. Van Buren would be wearing the blue-green
twin corset in those scenes. I had pulled a sheer silk rust colored
kimono but in her fitting, the actress said that the kimono was for the
first act when she was wearing the magenta corset. While the kimono
looked nice with the blue-green corset, it clashed horribly with the
magenta one. I checked stock again, but there was nothing that would
work for what we needed. I talked to my assistant and he offered to
build a kimono since he was almost done with his build items. Luckily
we had the left over silk gauze that was purchased for Mrs. Van Buren’s
first combination. We dyed that and a strip of the wedding dress fabric
blue and used it to construct a kimono for Mrs. Van Buren.
Week seven was mostly dedicated to finishing work on the
costumes and the final fittings for Esther and George. These fittings
were later than the others because these two had larger builds. Esther’s
fitting ran longer than scheduled because her character has several
costumes and multiple costumes were worn with different combinations
of under dressing. When I had the actress change into her wedding
corset costume, she mentioned that she did not wear the wedding
petticoat at the end of Act II, scene 1, a scene where she is undressed by
George on their wedding night. I had not planned for her to remove the
wedding petticoat during that scene, because the corset sat on top if the
petticoat. I made a note to talk to the director about how we wanted that
scene to look. The draper for Esther’s wedding dress needed more time
to fit the gown, so we scheduled another fitting with the actress for the
next week focusing only on that garment.
I spoke with the director about the wedding night costumes and
she said she wanted Esther to be in just her combination and wedding
corset for the end of that scene. After discussing the different
alternatives, we decided to cut the wedding petticoat. This would mean
we would need to have a petticoat that snapped into the wedding dress at
intermission in order to maintain the design and fit of the garment. I
would also need to find new shoes for Esther to wear during that scene.
I had intended for Esther to be wearing her black boots to aid with her
being dressed in the following scene. However, now that the petticoat
had been cut and the shoes would be clearly visible, we needed to find a
pair of white shoes that she could wear instead. The new shoes
presented several issues: they needed to be passable as something that
would be worn in 1905; they needed to be similar in heel height to the
black shoes, as the wedding dress was already hemmed and anything too
tall or short would make the dress look odd; and finally we were limited
by the restraints of our remaining budget and time. We did not have
shoes of the appropriate look or color in the actress’s size, so my
assistant and I went to several shoe stores looking for plain white pumps
that fit the necessary criteria. Finally, we found a pair in another nearby
town. They were more modern looking than I wanted, but without the
time or money to order something more appropriate online, the shoes
were our best option.
That week we also had the third fitting for George. The alterations
to his Panama costume and his grey suit had been completed and the
brown suit had now been constructed out of the wool. The suit was still
not fitting correctly. There was an issue with twisting and bagginess in
the crotch of the pants and the jacket looked too short. I knew that the
jacket had been cut to where I had instructed in the last fitting and that I
had made a mistake. Unfortunately, in order for the jacket to be
constructed, the seam allowance had been trimmed and there was not
enough fabric to lengthen the coat. We simply did not have the time,
fabric or patience to make another coat, so we left it as it was and
focused on trying to make the pants fit better. The fitting was frustrating
because no one knew how to fix the problem without starting over. Each
solution to one problem caused something else to fit awkwardly. The
actor was also struggling through the fitting. The fitting room has always
been stuffy and the actor needed to take a break from the fitting twice.
By the end of the fitting we came up with a solution we thought would fix
the problems as best we could and scheduled another fitting for the next
week to check the changes.
By the week before tech, everything was coming together. We had
the final fittings for Esther and George and they were both uneventful.
We were focused on detail work and any last minute things that we
needed. Garments were being finished and it was looking like everything
was going to be finished on time. I met with our dressers before the crew
view and we discussed the requirements of their job. Neither of my
dressers had worked as a dresser before nor had they had the basic
costume stagecraft class, so I had my concerns whether they would know
what to do or become overwhelmed. Many of the costumes were
constructed out of delicate materials that could not be washed so I made
a detailed costume check-in sheet that told them whether an item could
be washed or not. I told them that if they had any doubt, do not wash it.
We also scheduled a quick change rehearsal for the day before first
dress. I wanted to have them work the quick changes with the actress
playing Esther so they would know how those would work prior to having
to worry about their other responsibilities.
When the day of the quick change rehearsal arrived, my assistant
and I set up the quick change areas and got the costumes ready. We met
with the stage manger and the actress, but the dressers were nowhere to
be found. After a few minutes, the stage manager called them and found
out that one was leaving a meeting that had run long and the other had
overslept. Half an hour after their call, they both arrived and we went
through the two changes several times, assigning particular jobs for each
person in the change and ironing out any problems that arose. The
changes themselves went well and the dressers had been attentive and
apologetic after they arrived, but their lateness for their first call did not
alleviate my concerns about their lack of experience.
It was at this time I found out that the actor playing Mr. Marks
would be out of town for most of the dress rehearsals due to a death in
his family. The assistant stage manager would be filling in for his lines,
but I would not be able to see Mr. Marks in costume until final dress.
This would only give us one day to correct any problems and we would
not be able to see those changes until opening. Luckily, Mr. Marks only
had one costume and it was an uncomplicated one. My bigger concern
was with his payots – the side-curl extensions we would be adding to the
side of his hair. Having not yet had a chance to see him wearing them, I
had planned to experiment with the look of the hair pieces over the three
dress rehearsals, but now was limited to one night prior to opening. I
spoke with the lighting designer and we decided to have the assistant
stage manager wear Mr. Marks’ coat for first dress to make sure that the
coat’s color did not shift in the lights as black fabric is prone to do.
The night of first dress, we met with the dressers and helped the
actors get into their costumes. Typically, we do not add hair and
makeup the first night, but because all four women and one of the men
would need to have their hair styled by the dressers, we decided to add
hair for first dress so that we could teach the dressers how we wanted
the hair styled and give them more opportunities to work with the styles
prior to opening. We also talked the dressers through the costume
changes we had not gone over the day before. These changes were not as
fast as Esther’s but the actors would still need their assistance. Once
the dressers were ready, my assistant and I took our places in the house
and watched the show.
There were a few issues with the costume changes. The quick
changes went well, but the dressers had not been prepared for the extra
changes and I had underestimated how much assistance the actor
playing George would need to get into his brown suit. I held the run
momentarily while I made a few adjustments as to how the changes
would be made. After talking it through with the dressers and actor, I
felt confident that the changes during second dress would go more
George’s brown suit had not yet been finished, but it was
completed enough for the run. I had told the director that the suit was
still being worked on, but it would be done for the next rehearsal. The
suit was fitting much better and it looked like the changes that we had
made in the last fitting were going to work. I still was not pleased with
some of the fit decisions I had made, but I thought that the suit looked
good on the actor and, overall, I was happy with how it was looking.
After the first dress, I had some notes, but most of them were
things I knew I wanted to fix going in. I thought it had gone very well
and the notes that we had for the next day would be manageable. My
assistant and I checked in with the dressers to see if they had any
questions. They had started collecting items for the laundry and I
noticed that several items that should not be washed were in the laundry
baskets. I reminded the dressers how important it was to check the
sheets that I had given them to make sure that the items they washed
were washable. The items that I pulled out would have been ruined if
they had gone through the wash and we simply did not have the time,
money or fabric to remake them. The dressers assured me that they
would be more careful, but I was beginning to lose faith in my dressers.
Second dress went smoothly. We were able to fix the changes from
the night before and the suit was finally finished. After the run, I
checked the laundry baskets and the dressers had not put anything in
that should not be washed. I did not have many notes for the next day.
Knowing that the rest of the costumes were close to being finished made
me feel better about final dress. If we could complete the other
costumes, we would only need to worry about any changes to Mr. Marks’
costume after final dress.
The evening of final dress, my assistant and I focused on getting
Mr. Marks’ payots on since it was the first time we had worked with
them. We experimented with a few different lengths and waited to see
what the director thought. That night they were taking the photos of the
show during the run so I knew that if we wanted to change anything on
Mr. Marks we would need to change it at intermission. I also found out
that the photo shoot that had been scheduled for Friday night had been
rescheduled to occur after this final dress. It was stressful knowing that
anything that needed changing, especially with Marks, would not be
corrected before the photos were taken. During the first act, I spoke with
the director and she said that she wanted Mr. Marks’ payots to be
curlier. I sent my assistant to prepare new ones so that we could change
them out at intermission. Luckily, Mr. Marks only had one costume so
we did not have to worry about making changes to several costumes and
any adjustments made at intermission would still be able to be
photographed in the second act.
During the past few days, I had been fighting off an illness and on
the Friday after the show opened, I stayed home because I did not feel
well. That afternoon, I received a phone call from my assistant. He told
me that the dressers had washed Mayme’s combination and that the
decorative smocking had partially come out. He told me that it was being
repaired and that it would be ready for the show that night. That
evening, I went into the shop to speak with the dressers. Again, I
stressed the importance of checking the sheets that I had made for them
outlining which garments could be washed and which ones could not. It
was frustrating that the dressers seemed indifferent to their
responsibilities. I told the dressers that if there was another laundry
problem, I would have to find replacements for them; I could not risk
having a garment ruined. They seemed to take the threat of failing their
practicum credit seriously and there were no other problems during the
run of the show.
The remainder of the show’s run was uneventful. We had to do a
few minor repairs to some of the costumes; however, there were no major
fixes or changes after the combination was repaired. The show closed
the Sunday after opening and following that performance, the show was
struck. Our final step was to evaluate our process and discuss what
changes could be made for future productions.
While the design process had many challenges, it also provided me
the opportunity to grow as an artist and technician. In this chapter, I
will evaluate the areas in which I both succeeded and fell short, and how
these experiences will help me grow as an artist in my future endeavors.
I will do this by exploring both others’ criticism of the final production, as
well as my own evaluation regarding my personal goals.
Following the production, there were two meetings in which the
play was evaluated. The first, occurring on the Tuesday following the
show’s closing, was the production department’s post-mortem – a talk
back session in which the other graduate students shared their views on
the design and execution of the show. The second, occurring a week
later, was a meeting with my committee, consisting of my faculty advisor,
Wendi Zea; the director of the show, Susan Patrick Benson; and Dr.
Anne Fletcher.
In the post-mortem, the group agreed overall that the show was
executed successfully and that each designer had achieved the look and
feel of the show that had been presented at the initial design
presentations. The costumes were found to have been successful. One
of the criticisms of the costumes was the scale of the detail work. Much
of the detail was either small and delicate, such as the ribbon flowers on
the wedding corset, or was large and flashy, such as the beading on the
other corsets, and it was suggested a greater variety in the size of the
details would have made the design more interesting visually. Another
comment was in reference to how well the wedding dress worked. It was
discussed that the dress was very “Esther”, in the way it balanced the
traditional, lacy wedding dresses of the period with Esther’s own
personal style, by focusing on simple details and craftsmanship.
However, as expected, they found the wedding shoes to be too modern
looking and a distraction once the wedding dress was removed.
In both the post-mortem and my committee meeting, the issue of
aging the actress who played Mrs. Dickson was addressed. The director
and I decided to age the actress through her physical portrayal of the role
and the cut and style of her clothing, as opposed to using makeup to age
her. In both meetings, the success of this decision was indicated by
people asking if we had used aging makeup to create the effect. It was
agreed that this technique was the strongest option because age makeup
can often over age an actress or look fake when not applied skillfully.
During my meeting with my committee, the success of the opening
scene was discussed. The costume choices made with Esther and Mrs.
Dickson in this opening scene helped to instantly convey the time period
the play was in and explored the differences between the characters,
helping in even this early scene to clearly set Esther apart. The use of
wigs was also discussed. In early stages of the design meetings, the
director had stated that she was hesitant to use wigs, feeling that they
often gave the impression that the actors were wearing “hair hats”.
However, the look that both she and I wanted to achieve required the use
of wigs. During this meeting, the director commented that she found the
wigs to work very well and look natural, and, in fact, was unable to tell
which actresses were wearing full wigs and which were wearing partial
hair pieces.
One of my committee members shared a comment that she had
heard from a Jewish student stating that she felt Mr. Marks did look as
she had expected a Hasidic Jew to look. While I had taken the
audience's expectations into consideration, I wanted to avoid
stereotypical looks, and instead rely on what the research dictated.
While this balance was a tricky one, I feel that it suited the play better to
be more subtle, rather than risk creating a caricature.
In the play not only is the look of the fabric important, but also the
way the characters relate to the fabric. In the meeting, my committee
noticed that this was taken into account in creating my costumes. The
director stated the actor playing George had felt awkward in the brown
suit. The wool was stiff, hot and more formal than he was accustomed to
wearing. Part of my goal in selecting the heavier wool was not to annoy
the actor, but to explore the character’s discomfort in wearing the suit
his wife has made him. In contrast, the smoking jacket has a physical
pull on four of the six characters in the play. When selecting the fabric
for that jacket, I sought a material the actors would want to touch.
While, in theory, the actors could have pretended to want to touch any
quality of fabric, I felt this would help make a stronger connection
between the actors and the fabric, especially in the final scene between
Esther and Mr. Marks.
I set before starting this process several personal goals: to explore
new ideas and different approaches; to balance the historical period piece
with the director’s vision; to improve my renderings; to continue building
my skill as a collaborator; to stay within my budget; and to meet all
deadlines and help keep the shop running smoothly during the process.
One of the areas I have struggled with is being open to new ideas
and different approaches. While, at first I was resistant to the alternative
designs for Intimate Apparel it helped me to define why I had made the
choices that I had and helped me to place those choices in the emotional
context of the play outside of my historical research. I also did not want
to show the designs to the other designers, but, looking back, I think
that it was really beneficial to all of us to address the play at an
emotional and psychological level. With a play that is so grounded in
history, it is difficult to step back and look at the emotional meat of the
play. I wish that the other designers and I had worked on some kind of
alternative design earlier in the process before trying to tackle the final
designs for the play. This may have made our design process longer and,
ultimately, we may have had the same designs that we ended up with,
but I think that it would have helped us to approach the play differently.
In the future, I will try to resist my urge to go straight to the historical
photographs before exploring my emotional reaction to the play first.
The other designers and I worked well together. In fact, the scenic
designer and I discussed the play long before the production process
started. When we all came to the table, we all did so at the same place
intellectually and emotionally, and because of this, we assumed we were
at the same place artistically. We came to the first design meeting with
similar research and images; however, we did not draw similar
inspiration from the images. As a result of working well together, we
neglected to realize that we were not always successfully collaborating,
particularly when it came to color. Our enthusiasm for the show
eclipsed our objective assessment of where the design was going as a
whole. I learned there is a difference between working together and
collaborating and that I need to assess my design, as well as the other
designs, objectively during the entire production process.
I believe that during the build process, I could have been more
direct and stronger in my choices. I have less experience than some
other members of the shop and sometimes I felt that I second guessed
my choices and deferred to their judgments as opposed to standing up
for what I wanted.
Another issue that was mentioned in both the
committee meeting and post-mortem was the brown suit, and the
unfortunate problems surrounding its construction. When the brown
suit became an issue, I was unsure of exactly what to do. I was the
designer, but the cutter/draper was also the costume shop manager and
I was also a graduate student working under the shop manager. This
layered hierarchy, while often not a problem, can create awkward
situations with regard to authority and job assignments. I was not sure
when to assert myself and when to let the cutter/draper, who is more
experienced than I, take charge of the fitting. It also did not help that,
even if I had asserted myself more, I did not know how to solve the
problem. I think that I should have had us go back to the drawing board
on the pattern after the first fitting and reworked the issues there. I
failed to truly understand the complications involved in building the suit,
having myself become too caught up in the idea that we had to build
every item that Esther buys fabric for in the play. Caught up in the
sexiness of seeing the theatrical magic of the fabric transforming into the
garments Esther creates, I neglected to understand that we lacked the
experience necessary to build a quality suit. In retrospect, I realize that
theatre allows us to “fake” a few things beyond the audiences’ knowledge,
and I feel that I could have purchased an appropriate suit and found
matching fabric for Esther to buy. However, that being said, I did receive
direct comments from audience members who were excited by seeing the
actual fabric become the garments, so this attention to detail did not go
unnoticed. Had I considered it earlier, the usage of the other fabrics
would have in fact covered up the one time we bought an item.
Another goal for this production was to balance the play’s need for
historical accuracy with the vision of the director and my own design
aspect. During my qualifier meeting for the play Picasso at the Lapine
Agile, it was brought to my attention there were a number of historically
inaccurate choices. While most of these were conscious decisions based
on limited budget, time and the playful requirements of the script itself, a
number were from my own lack of knowledge of the historical period.
Going into Intimate Apparel, I wanted to ensure that all changes to
historical accuracy were conscious decisions based on the needs of the
play. This was especially important to Intimate Apparel, a play in which
the time period and location are essential not only to the plot, but the
attitudes and situations of the characters. I made it a point to
understand not only what the costumes would look like, but also what
they would mean to the characters in this time. The detail of research
into the play was both beneficial and at times potentially hindering.
When dealing with the lengths of the combinations, I was able to have a
detailed conversation with the director, as we debated the historical
research versus what modern audiences would find sexy. Initially, I was
hesitant to change to length of the combination, because I was afraid
that the shorter hem would no longer look historically relevant. I was
able to push that aside at least until we saw the combination on the
actress, by which time I had reconciled my absolute need for historical
accuracy with the needs of this production of the play. I felt the
production successfully balanced the historical aspects and both the
director’s and my own vision.
Transferring from a scenic design to costume design emphasis in
my second year caused me to feel behind in some areas of costume
design. In particular, I felt inexperienced in rendering costumes because
it was not a skill I had had much opportunity to explore prior to that
second year of graduate school. In approaching the renderings for
Intimate Apparel, my goal was to create renderings that both furthered
my artistic exploration of the design and also serviced the play as tools
for demonstrating my concepts to the director and design team, and also
to my shop crew in such a manner that would lead to the design’s
realization. I succeeded in creating full-colored renderings that were able
to communicate my design completely and effectively to both the
production team and the shop crew in a timely manner that kept the
build on track. However, my goal to further my own artistic exploration
with the renderings caused the completion of my final renderings to be
delayed. This resulted in having to deal with two sets of renderings, a
working set and a final set, a situation that while not ideal, did not end
up hindering the production process. In the end, the final renderings
succeeded in capturing the mood and look that I wanted. In the past, I
have compromised my final design visuals either because of time
restraints or a lack of understanding the media in which I am working.
This set of renderings was the first time I felt I completely controlled the
media and created renderings in the way I envisioned them. In the
future, I plan to use this knowledge to increase my speed in working on
my renderings, so I will not need to utilize two sets of drawings.
Financially, my goal with the show was to remain within budget,
while maximizing the money I had to achieve the look I wanted. Careful
preparation and planning allowed me to delineate my funds in such a
way that I was able to choose where I made my compromises, rather
than being forced to have a look I did not want because of poor planning.
My detailed planning worked in my favor when I was asked by the
department to reduce my budget. Volunteering $1,000.00 of my
$3,000.00 budget caused me to make more compromises than initially
intended, especially toward the end when shipping cost versus shipping
time limited me to what I could obtain locally for last minute changes. In
the end, I was a little less than $100 over the new budget. As I had
already spent over half my final budget by the time the decision to cut
was made, I feel I could have created the same design with the same
material under budget had I known going into the process that my
budget was only $2,000.00.
In conclusion, I feel the production was an overall success. The
costumes succeeded in exploring the director’s vision and worked well
with all the other design aspects to create a specific and beautiful world
for the play to inhabit. There are areas I could have improved, but I also
feel that my stumbling in those areas has allowed me to grow and learn
more, not only about the profession but also myself as an artist. In
addition, my successes also provided unique learning opportunities, as
many arose from new problem solving and troubleshooting situations
that will prove invaluable in the future.
Works Cited
“2009 Winners and Finalists.” The Pulitzer Prizes, n.d. Web.
3 November 2009.
“Are Women Persons?” The Next Center Stage’s Education
Department, 2003. Web. 2 November 2009.
Bragg, Jamie and Jess Jung. “Jacob Lawrence.” Intimate Apparel Study
Guide. Actors Theatre of Louisville, Winter 2005. Web. 2
November 2009.
---. “New York Evolution.” Intimate Apparel Study Guide. Actors Theatre
of Louisville, Winter 2005. Web. 2 November 2009.
Gener, Randy. "Conjurer of Worlds." American Theatre
Communications Group. Oct. 2005. Web. 18 November 2009.
“Immigrants, Inventors, and Engineers.” The Next Center
Stage’s Education Department, 2003. Web. 2 November 2009.
Jones, Kenneth. “Lynn Nottage's Fabulation Gets World Premiere at
Playwrights Horizons, Opening June 13.”, 13 June
2004. Web. 2 November 2009.
Licktieg, Steve. "Intimate Conversation." The Next Center
Stage’s Education Department, 2003. Web. 2 November 2009.
“Lynn Nottage Biography.” The History
Web. 2 November 2009.
5 December 2005.
“The New Colossus.” The Next
Center Stage’s Education
Department, 2003. Web. 2 November 2009.
Nottage, Lynn. Intimate Apparel. New York: Dramatists Play Service,
Inc., 2005. Print.
“OBIE 2005 Award Winners.” Village Voice, LLC.
2009. Web. 2 November 2009.
Praetorius, Dean and Lauren Cox. “In Pain? Skinny Jeans Can Do
Nerve Damage.” Good Morning America. ABC News. 29 May 2009.
Web. 29 June 2010.
Steele, Valerie. The Corset: A Cultural History. New Haven: Yale
University Press, 2001. Print.
Alternative Designs for Intimate Apparel
Figure 1: Alternative Design for Esther
Figure 2: Alternative Design for Mrs. Dickson
Figure 3: Alternative Design for George
Figure 4: Alternative Design for Mrs. Van Buren
Figure 5: Alternative Design for Mr. Marks
Fgure 6: Alternative Design for Mayme
Table 1: Costume Plot Act 1
Table 2: Costume Plot Act 2
Table 3: Budget
Table 4: Check-in Sheet 1
Table 5: Check-in Sheet 2
Table 6: Check-in Sheet 3
Working Roughs
Figure 7: Working Rough for Esther in Walking Suit
Figure 8: Working Rough of Esther in Wedding Dress
Figure 9: Working Rough of Esther in Wedding Corset
Figure 10: Working Rough of Esther in Seduction Corset
Figure 11: Working Rough of Mrs. Dickson
Figure 12: Working Rough of George in Panama Costume
Figure 13: Working Rough of George in Gray Suit
Figure 14: Working Rough of George in Underwear
Figure 15: Working Rough of George in Brown Suit
Figure 16: Working Rough of Mrs. Van Buren in Twin Corset
Figure 17: Working Rough of Mrs. Van Buren in Magenta Corset
Figure 18: Working Rough of Mr. Marks in Black Suit
Figure 19: Working Rough of Mr. Marks in Smoking Jacket
Figure 20: Working Rough of Mayme in Twin Corset
Final Renderings
Figure 21: Rendering of Esther in Walking Suit
Figure 22: Rendering of Esther in Wedding Dress
Figure 23: Rendering of Esther in Wedding Corset
Figure 24: Rendering of Esther in Seduction Corset
Figure 25: Rendering of Mrs. Dickson
Figure 26: Rendering of George in Panama Costume
Figure 27: Rendering of George in Gray Suit
Figure 28: Rendering of George in Underwear
Figure 29: Rendering of George in Brown Suit
Figure 30: Rendering of Mrs. Van Buren in Twin Corset
Figure 31: Rendering of Mrs. Van Buren in Magenta Corset
Figure 32: Rendering of Mr. Marks in Black Suit
Figure 33: Rendering of Mr. Marks in Smoking Jacket
Figure 34: Rendering of Mayme in Twin Corset
Esther’s seduction
corset and combination
Esther’s Wedding Dress
Esther’s Wedding Corset
George’s Brown Suit
Mrs. Dickson’s Skirt
Figure 35: Swatches 1
Mrs. Van Buren’s
Magenta Corset and
Smoking Jacket
Mrs. Van Buren’s Twin
Corset and Combination
Mayme’s Twin Corset
and Combination
Figure 36: Swatches 2
Figure 37: “Don’t tell me you’ve been in here all evening?”
Figure 38: “I’ve given him no children.”
Figure 39: “I stood thigh deep in crimson blossoms…”
Figure 40: “You’ll make something exquisite.”
Figure 41: “If feels like Fifth Avenue, does.”
Figure 42: “We all bleed, Esther.”
Figure 43: “Like this?”
Figure 44: “Why gamble it all away on a common laborer?”
Figure 45: “May it be your first gift.”
Figure 46: “Unidentified Negro Couple ca. 1905.”
Figure 47: “I wanted you to know that about me.”
Figure 48: “What is he like?”
Figure 49: “You see how soft it is.”
Figure 50: “Coward!”
Figure 51: “You wanna see what my songbird give me?”
Figure 52: “You can open your eyes.”
Figure 53: “Because, he belong to me as well.”
Figure 54: “May I?”
Figure 55: “Have you rented this room?”
Figure 56: “Unidentified Negro Seamstress. Ca. 1905.”
Figure 57: Production Photo Permission Letter
Graduate School
Southern Illinois University
Elizabeth N. Clark
Date of Birth: December 23, 1982
1813 W. Freeman St., Carbondale, Illinois 62901
Centre College
Bachelor of Arts, Dramatic Arts, May 2005
Special Honors and Awards:
Eelin Stewart-Harrison Award for Excellence in Costume Design 2010
Excellence in Production Award, Centre College – 2005
Thesis Title:
Laced In: The Costume Design for Intimate Apparel
Major Professor: Wendi Zea
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