Costume Design Challenge
THEME - Sustainability
All elements were to be made from recycled materials.
Designers were tasked with drawing and building a costume. Build requirements were either the full costume for 24” doll (or approx. in size) or a section of the design such as a shirt or the detailed sections of the design in real life proportions.
Karlee Sara Rabby
When I started to plan out this project, I thought of the process first. What did I need? What didn’t I need? What did I need or want to learn? I thought of the fabric, where do you get recycled fabric, buttons, thread? Is that something someone sells? I didn’t have a sewing machine and I’d never done something like this before. I had only ever designed with a very specific brief in mind and this was not that. Can I get this done in time, stress? That’s where my brain went originally.
Karlee Sara Rabby is an artist, Twitch streamer, and disability advocate. She graduated from the University of Regina’s theatre program in 2019 with a degree that focused on stage management and design. Rabby has worked on seven university productions, including Spring’s Awakening (2016) and Bone Cage (2018). She has also previously worked with Listen to Dis’ Community Arts Organization as a stage manager. One day she hopes to make the world a little bit brighter through her work.
Then I spoke with my grandmother (Linda), my mother-in-law (Ann) and a mentor at the University of Regina named Cathy Mearns. My grandmother gifted me a sewing machine that was hers, a sewing box full of anything anyone would need to sew along with some beading that was my great grandmother Olive’s, and a handmade curling patch that, sadly, didn’t make it into the final design. My mother-in-law went searching in a Salvation Army, I’ve largely been staying home due to COVID, she found me old green sheets and a doll to design with. We laughingly called her Sally 2.0 after Ann’s childhood doll. Cathy offered me her knowledge, she also gifted one single button that you will see on the skirt of my design. This piece is a mixture of several generations of family and a teacher that allowed me to take some of her knowledge in order to be able to pass it along. That’s what this piece is, it’s what happens when people give, offer and allow for a younger generation. It’s knowledge transfer through collective learning. It’s re-contextualizing creative relationships through the lens of design.
I started with my iPad and Apple pencil, I took a picture of the doll and started sketching. Whenever I’m working on a project, I try to root it in a character, even if I’m imagining details that aren’t given. I wanted to contrast the relative weakness of the fabric with the strength of my imagined character. I wanted to subvert the expectations of the fabric and the beading. I wanted a queen-like character that walks about without shoes on, like the world is hers and hers alone. She’s not evil, just protective of what she has because there was a time when she wasn’t so fortunate. She protects her wealth, but it may come off as her being greedy. Inside this character is just scared of losing all she has gained. In short, she doesn’t want to be seen to care.
Laura Crossman (she/her) is a Saskatoon-based artist working primarily in theatre and film. Laura co-designed and built puppets for Ppl r Ppl’s productions of Little Shop of Horrors and Avenue Q. Laura also designed costumes for The Rocky Horror Show and for other local theatre companies such as the Saskatoon Opera (Die Fledermaus) and Saskatoon Summer Players (Annie, Grease & You’re a Good Man, Charlie Brown). Laura also works in the areas of wardrobe and set decorating for short films, music videos and commercial projects.
This piece was inspired by the mad tea party in Alice in Wonderland. If I were to build the entire outfit, the silhouette of the skirt would be the shape of a teacup. I would also design the pattern on the skirt to be a traditional floral teacup pattern.
The bodice is made of chicken wire and broken glass, mainly teacups and saucers. A friend had boxes of broken glass available for an art project so I jumped at the chance to use the remnants for a project with the theme of sustainability.
This piece is an abstract version of a costume for theatre. It is not actually wearable due to the weight and materials used. I would love to build a similar looking bodice for a costume that could actually be worn in a stage production. This could be possible by hand painting the look of broken glass on a fabric sourced second hand.
My piece is based on Mrs Lovett from Sweeney Todd. With a focus on sustainability, versatility can play a valuable role as well. The piece is made of 3 separates. The circle skirt dress as the base, the tire stomach corset and the bustle that is detachable from the tire corset. This way the pieces are able to be reused for different characters or theatrical pieces.
I took apart a couple old costumes, an old crinoline, tractor tire tube for the stomach corset, the plaid is 3rd hand vintage fabric that was cut out to be a blanket, an old t shirt I tea dyed for the piece, a old skirt, some scrap fabric for trim, an old pillow case and an old curtain.
Melissa Squire is a self taught fashion designer whose socially conscious attitude, eco friendly initiatives and community oriented business practices are infectious. She has presented on sustainable practices in both fashion and events. Her designs have been showcased on runways locally and internationally. They feature unique pieces from rockabilly dresses and baby clothes to steampunk vests adorned with recycled tire and studs. She also does couture and custom work, including unique wedding attire. Founder of Alchemy Collective, established in 2010, Melissa built a movement for community, eco friendly initiatives, a push for local support, an incubator for the arts, a demand for change in a society that needs it, an evolution of the mind, body and soul. www.melissasquire.com
Celeste Pinder (she/her) is a Ryerson University alumna who has been designing and sewing garments for over 30 years. Her love of illustrations, textiles and decoration started with drawings of her mother in princess dresses and her design philosophies (and construction skills) have evolved over the years.
Celeste has been working as a Wardrobe Technician and Designer for both stage and film, and notably as a stagehand over the past 15+ years. She has spent 14 seasons lavishing in period costuming in the wardrobe department at Regina's Globe Theatre as a Stitcher, Head Cutter and the last 5 years as the Head of Wardrobe. Costume design credits include All I Want for Christmas is You (Sask Express); The Rez Sisters, ThunderStick and Root, Hog or Die! (Globe Theatre SandBox Series) as well as Film/TV credits DonkeyHead (Assistant Costume Designer), Stakelander (Cutter/Seamstress) and Another WolfCop (Cutter/SFX crew).
Celeste has been an elected Executive Board Member of IATSE Local 295 for 10 years and is currently serving in her second term as President. She has also recently joined the board for the CITT Prairie Section. Celeste prefers the magic that takes place behind the scenes and her passion is training up future sewists of all ages and honing the skills to work in the entertainment industries.
Healer - Witch
Sustainability. This one word can mean a variety of things in terms of the eco-conscious. In terms of designing a costume, I chose the rather simple philosophy of repurposing. When I think back to some of my favourite costumes over the years, they were constructed out of upholstery fabrics. I do love home décor aesthetics.
I set out on the hunt for sad items that were cast aside. A gorgeous tapestry that was completely sun-bleached on one half, and the fringe was starting to yellow and discolour unevenly. There was a beautiful linen table-runner with perfect embroidery, yet it had what appeared to be rust stains. And the vintage fitted sheets with small holes and expired elastic. These items were working together so well as textiles, and it was easy to draw inspiration from them. The costume came to life by draping these fabrics and cutting around their so-called imperfections. Playing with those imperfections. Dying the fringe for a more even look with tea, saffron and turmeric. Layering the embroidery. This added interest to the design details.
But who might this character be, who wears such a costume? My instinct was to go backwards in history, and head to the Regency Era. A period full of lightweight natural fibres, distinct shapes and much embellishment. I really loved the thought of the blanket fringe adorning the hem of a sweet little Spencer coat and the embroidery details being the focal point that shaped the front neckline, as well as the back hem. The coat pieces were flat lined from a curtain that had to be unpicked in order to have just enough yardage. Yes, this sweet romantic character is embellished, yet not as opulent as everyone else of the time and therefore I decided she would be a Healer, mindful of nature and its properties, also known as a Witch.
I envisioned the undergarments such as the Regency stay to be made from sturdy pillow ticking, the bones made of zip ties covered in duct tape. The floral pattern on the empire dress would have painted seeds beaded in the centres. The reticule would serve as our Healer’s pouch full of herbs and foraged items. For an element of whimsy, the reticule would be covered in paillettes; however these large sequins would be made from laminated over-exposed photographs in order to give the warm golden tones.
There are many ways to take everyday objects and turn them into something new. When I thought further about what sustainability means in terms of theatrical costuming, it also must include how long the garments or costume items will last for. Will they be on stage for one day, or can they survive an 8-week run? Can it be laundered or cleaned without the use of harsh chemicals? These are the questions we must start asking ourselves in the design process and not just once we are already in production.