Brown Threads: Costume Design at Brown Theatre

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Interested in the latest trends on the Brown college campus? Curious as to how one keeps their outfits on fleek up in the temperamental Providence weather? Don’t understand fashion at all and want a place to start? Welcome to Brown Threads – the only place to get the inside scoop on fashion at Brown! My name is Abby Espiritu, and I’m here to help you learn all about all looking chic and fabulous on campus.

Though I consider myself a self-proclaimed fashionista and style expert, my true passion lies not in the fashion industry, but in the theatre! Since coming to Brown, I’ve immersed myself within the large performing arts community, specifically in acting in plays and musicals, and becoming a part of student theatre production boards on campus. However, one caveat that makes Brown theatre so unique is the versatility that many student theatre-makers possess. Many students involved in Brown theatre take on more than just one role, integrating themselves in positions both onstage and offstage. For example, though my main passion is performing, I have recently gotten involved in something I’ve always wanted to try out: costume designing.

Given my background and interest in fashion and theatre, costume designing seemed like the perfect fit. After assistant costume designing two productions earlier this year – Tallgrass Gothic produced by Production Workshop (PW) this March and King Lear produced by Shakespeare on the Green this April – I’m finally fully costume designing a show on my own: Black Comedy produced by PW to be performed in May.

For most shows, costume designers have five specific tasks: 1) Familiarize themselves with the play/musical/piece of performance that they’re designing for and create a costume vision for it; 2) Gather measurements of the cast and performers either by popping into a rehearsal or meeting the actors on their own time; 3) Find costumes for the performers; 4) Have costume fittings with all the actors to see where the trouble areas are and fix any problems; and 5) Get costume approval from the director.

Regarding task number three, costume designers can go about this through two different ways. Firstly, and most popularly, they can gain access to the huge department costume shop, located in the basement of Stuart Theatre (one of the theatres owned by the Brown University Theatre Department).

Secondly, if they’re unable to find anything matching their vision in the costume shop, a costume designer can use part of the show’s budget (as long as its approved by the show’s production manager) to buy costumes or material to make costumes. For anyone who’s interested in becoming more adept at costume construction, the Theatre and Performance Studies (TAPS) department holds a class every fall semester called “Introduction to Costume Construction.” The class is taught by the head of the theatre’s costume department Ron Cesario, who’s not only an incredibly kind individual but also extremely talented at costume design. This fall, it’ll be taught once a week every Wednesday from 3-6:50pm.

However, plenty of the “go-to costume designers” involved in Brown student theatre aren’t adept seamstresses, or have ever worked a sewing machine in their life! (*points at myself*) Whether you just want to dress people up in pretty costumes, or practice your skills for your future stint on Project Runway, costume designing a show with Brown theatre is a great way to hone your creativity and take your interest in fashion to the next level.

Not sure what clothes pack for your next visit up to Providence? Interested in a particular style trend? Just love fashion and Brown University and want to chat? Feel free to email me at abigail_espiritu@brown.edu with any of your questions and concerns. Hope to see you all at Brown very soon!

 

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