For my Capstone project, my class was assigned to write an essay on answering your main inquiry question. My main my inquiry question is “What are the steps for designing a costume for a Broadway show?” I am proud of how my essay has turned out.
Here is my essay:
Have you have ever been to a Broadway Show and wondered how the costumes are designed? My main inquiry question is, “What are the steps in designing costumes for Broadway Shows?” You are probably thinking there are no steps, you just sketch it out on a piece paper, but there are actually multiple steps to designing costumes. Those steps include research, talking to staff, the sketch, consulting the sketch, the sample costume, the final sketch, fittings, moving costumes to the theater, tech rehearsal and the show.
You might be wondering how do costume designers choose what the costume looks like? They research. Some examples of ways costume designers research include finding things for inspiration or looking at paintings and photos from the period that the show takes place in. The designer will go into broad research about each character to try to establish their personalities through their costume. The costume designer will have a color and fabric sense of each costume. They let the fabrics lead them into what they want the costumes to become. When doing a Broadway Show, Costume Designers always read the script first to get a sense of the show and to get a sense if there will be a need to do quick costume changes and more.
Talking to the Staff
The costume designer will then talk to the director of the show in terms of themes for the show and what message they want the audience to get from the show. The costume designer might also talk to the choreographer to talk about if any of the actors will be doing flips or jumps or if there will need to be any specific dance shoes and more. The costume designer consults with these people so they can create a costume that relates to the time period of the show and to make the costumes comfortable for the actors.
The Sketch and Consulting the Sketch
Once the costume designer has found enough research that is needed, they start with a quick rough sketch. Sometimes costume designers do the sketch on their computer. After the sketch is done the costume designer will find a time to consult the sketches with the director. They talk about how the costume could be better, if there needs to be any changes, and if the costume needs to be more related to the time period. If there are no changes needed, the costume designer will make a more detailed sketch. They will develop the sketch by color, shape and how the costume designer envisions it. The costume designer will usually have a big book called “The Bible.” It is called “The Bible” because they put all of the information of each costume in the book. They usually have 15 – 20 of these books per show. Some things they put inside “The Bible” include the fabrics they use for each costume, buttons (if they use them), a picture of the person wearing the costume, the size and more. After the sketch and information about each costume is done, they will develop the sketch into the costume.
The Sample Costume
When the sketch is done the costume designer will meet with the person creating the costume. They will talk about how they will be made, the fabrics that will be used, and whether there are any special considerations. For example if there is a really big skirt, they will talk about what will be used underneath, if it is a rigid shape, are they dancing in it, do they have to be moving in it and more. Afterwards, the person making the costume will make a sample costume out of cheap fabric, which is called muslin.
Each actor has two to three fittings. Every actor gets their own time to come to the show’s costume office.
In the first fitting, the actor tries the cheap fabric version of the costume on so as not to waste the expensive fabric. Sometimes the costume might be re-sketched because there are too many changes that need to be fixed, but if there are no changes needed then they start making the actual costume.
In the second fitting, each actor will try on the actual costume. Sometimes the costume designer will have to restitch the costume because it doesn’t fully fit.
In the third fitting the costume designer will mostly focus on the shoes and accessories. Some accessories include necklaces, earrings, bracelets, hair pieces and more.
The Final Sketch
The final sketch is the sketch that the costume designer and director have decided to create. The final colored sketch shows what the designer wants the character to look like and is usually colored with watercolors or acrylic paints. Once the director has approved each final sketch, the costumes get made!
Moving the Costumes to the Theatre
After the costumes get made they get moved to the theatre. They get moved to a big room where all the costumes are kept or they get moved to the actors dressing room because they have a quick change. When the costumes are moved to the theatre the design process is done.
Tech Rehearsal and The Show
A couple weeks before the show there is a rehearsal called tech. Tech rehearsal is where all the actors are wearing their costumes and the costume staff get to see how it works on stage. Sometimes the costume staff will discover that the lights are really bright in the scene and the colors of the costumes need to be toned down a little. Then they will repaint them or dye the costumes. After the costumes get fixed, they test them out one more time and from there comes the show.
In conclusion, designing costumes for a Broadway Show is a long process. I think the process of designing costumes for Broadway Shows is very complicated and frustrating, but it is also very rewarding and creative. As David Kaley, the costume designer of Frozen told me during our interview, “Having a creative eye is the most important thing you need in order to be a costume designer.” After researching this topic, I definitely agree.