Cosplay has moved the world's understanding of what goes into the artistry of costume design to the forefront over the past few years. For costume designers, it is not enough to sew well or imagine how things will go together. The essence of costume design combines fabrication of interesting props and wearable art, makeup design, and then actual garment design and creation. Great costume designers can fabricate intricate designs of superheroes, aliens, and robots while also being able to build the delicate embellishment of a platter tutu.
As a child ballerina, there are many young ladies that aspire to wear the elegant tutu as a right of passage. Historically in traditional ballet training schools, the length of your tutu determined the level of expertise in ballet. Romantic tutus trail between your knee and your ankle. Pancake tutus are shorter, but rest on the dancers uppers thigh. The platter tutu barely touches the ballerinas legs so the audience can see every movement and muscle tone. This is optimum for the most advanced dancer, and at Encore, has become a right of passage for the most advanced costume designer.
Costume design for dancers (and circus performers) is a very specialized field. The designers need to make the costume beautiful for stage while also taking into consideration the durability and wearability of the costume. Dancers move. Directors have specific ideas on what the overall feel of the scene needs to portray. It is the task of the Costume Designer to build the overall aesthetic while keeping in mind the choreography and movement that will need to happen in the costume. The costume designer needs to build the elegance of a ballet dancer to make sure that no "wardrobe malfunctions" happen onstage.
Pictured here is one of the very first tutus ever designed and created for Encore High School. This was the costume for the Sugar Plum Fairy and was designed by Costume Designer, Mariah Woods. This tutu started a legacy.
Construction of dance costumes and more specifically ballet costumes is very specific and complicated. Corsets require panels to be the same size and fitting costumes like the ones shown here are specific. The corset needs to move with the dancer and needs to fit well. When a corset does not fit well, the movement of the dancer can make the front the back and the back the front. If the closures on the corset are not strong, the corset can undo itself and rest on the platter tutu making for an awkward situation for the dancer. Then, costume designers also have to take into account the dreaded "quick change."
Costume Designers are problem solvers. Getting to experience a custom designed garment from the initial interview with the director to the sketch parade, Designers are an integral part to the success of a dance production. From the sketch parade, Designers then need to find the correct materials for the project. How do you affix the embellishments so they don't fall off? How will you clean the costume when it smells from the sweat of the dancer? How does the headpiece stay on? Where do you hide the mic pack? If the performer has a 45 second quick change, how do they lace up that corset?
Costume Designers get to play with crystals, sequins, and other sparkly things. They build the costume that was once only a dream while making sure that the appropriate amount of flash keeps the audience engaged. Without Costume Designers, the performers are naked and the story cannot be told. So, how many crystals are too many crystals on a platter tutu anyway?
At Encore, Costume Designers have the ability to learn how to fabricate and build a variety of costumes. Designers enrolled in the program work on productions throughout the year and get to witness their creations onstage. They create for dramas, tours, ballets, and circuses. By the time Designers graduate, they have the ability to create an impressive portfolio with the platter tutu being historically one of the Designers favorite costumes to create. Encore's costume department is one of the most advanced high school programs in the State. A lot of Designers have graduated Encore and moved on to college, design schools, and some have been able to gain employment with entertainment leaders like Disney. This costume family (under the direction of Costume Guru Mrs. Sandi Del Sole) is one of a kind. Getting to build costumes for such a wide variety of productions helps to make costume designers well rounded and marketable for careers after high school. But seriously, how many crystals are too many crystals for a platter tutu?
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Petey the Pirate is the author of this blog for Encore High School. Encore High School is a free public performing arts regional high school in Southern California grades 7 - 12. Encore's Costume Design program is currently taking applications for the fall 2020. www.encorehighschool.com. Where arts and academics grow together. WASC Accredtied. Copyright 2020.