The Last Time I Talk About Costumes, Honest!

Tuesday, May 20, 2014

The first year that we had a school play at Flint we thought that we had the costumes all lined up to borrow. A week before the play we found out that we did not, and that was when I was put in charge of costumes. I made a few frantic runs to some thrift stores for things that had Princess Bride potential, then stayed up a few nights figuring out how to make them look right. I think my big creative accomplishment there was a pair of custom gloves for the six-fingered man, but no one went onstage in a basketball jersey and I discovered that weirdly, I really enjoyed making the costumes.

Since then I have learned how to do fancy things like use a sewing machine. I know. Such technical mastery. I actually have no idea what I'm doing, but there is something so satisfying about figuring it out. Being a tiny little school and all, we don't have a big budget for our grand productions, so I've mostly stuck with my thrift store up-cycling strategies. Really, if you hit the sales right, it's a lot cheaper than buying fabric, and there's something very satisfying about that, too. Thirty dollars at the five-dollar bag sale just turned into costumes for two-thirds of the cast. BAM! It's like a magic trick. I love it.

(According to my husband, you can't tell that I love doing the costumes because I complain about it so much. From my perspective, I've just been talking about what I'm doing. I know we're all shocked that the literature teacher is excessively verbal. For the record: I love making the costumes. Which is not to say that seventy-six costumes in less than two months was not a challenge and did not stress me out. But I loved it. Sorry if I sounded whiny.)

My two favorite skills that I acquired this time around are using the hemstitch function on the (amazing! wonderful! shiny!) sewing machine that our PTF donated, and delegation. I think I'm better at the hemstitch than I am at delegation, but I'm slowly getting to a place where if someone comes into the art room and asks what they can do to help, I can actually give them a task. One of my co-workers cut all the fabric squares for the female ensemble dresses, and another hemmed a bunch of them for me and knitted about a million belts. AND I had a student helper two days a week who was just about the most helpful creature in the entire universe and I am keeping her forever and ever. Someone who can function in the den of chaos that is the art room halfway through play prep and understands my half-finished sentences and made-up words when I'm in the middle of maybe ruining something important? Priceless, I tell you.

A lot of the costumes this year were pretty simple Biblical-looking, throw it on and add a headscarf type affairs. There were just a lot of those. The big projects were the coat of many colors and the female ensemble's Egyptian dresses.

The coat started out as a humble robe, a curtain, and a pile of old prom/bridesmaid dresses in ocher and peach and mauve and crimson and violet and...
Oh, and a kinder-gym parachute.

The parachute was detachable, just for the finale scene, and we never got a chance to rehearse with it, so Aaron couldn't understand why I was in such a panic of suspense during the last song, or why I found it necessary to fist pump and quietly sob when it unfurled correctly.

That coat gave me fits, I won't lie. Much more fun to make was the torn and bloody "coat" that the brothers present to Jacob after they sell Joseph. I sewed a bunch of coat scraps together all willy-nilly, and then attacked the whole mess with a seam ripper and some red paint.

The girls had to have Biblical-looking costumes for the first part of the play, but once it shifted over to Egypt they needed to change, so I ended up making twelve of these dresses, based on the concept of a dress that has been hanging on the costume rack for several years. I was terrified that I would spend a ton of time on these and they would turn out weird, but I was actually really happy with the end result.

And then there was the Pharoah costume, which was a basic Elvis costume from Party City that was 2XL and had to be completely cut down and re-sewn, and then covered with about five million gemstones and an ankh. And the Potifar's Wife costume, which was a gorgeous old beaded thrift store dress that needed virtually no alteration to be perfect. And the rainbow-striped denim pants that I bought to threaten the students with (don't annoy me, guys, or you'll be wearing THESE PANTS onstage because I have that kind of power, bwahahaha, etc.) but were a completely useless threat because the basketball players all fought over who GOT to wear them...
And on and on and on.

Bottom line: it was fun. I loved it. I was exhausted and stressed out, but it was nothing that some complaining and seam-ripping couldn't fix. That, and some occasional foolishness with the costumes.

What? I dare anyone to be trapped in a room full of costumes for that long and resist taking a bearded selfie. You can't. It's impossible.

1 comment:

  1. I feel like you can talk about costumes all you want after that craziness! I'm glad you had fun in the midst of the stress, though.


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