The Costume Design Process
Study of Humanity – Clothing/Garment Design –Anticipated Audience Reactions
“Inspiration can be anything and it can find you or you can find it.” Joanna Johnston (Nadoolman Landis 2012 p.80)
All my work is based on the anticipation of the audiences’ possible reactions toward the impression or the illusion I create with clothing, patterns, colors, and material choices
I make for the characters. The whole artistic piece that is created is kind of like a really complex dialogue between the creators of the work and the audiences. For me, creating an impression or an illusion (or believability) for a character is a process that cannot
be fully explained in words. Some choices I make are conscious like the openness
of a neckline or a pattern of a dress. But many choices, and especially the overall combination composed of many individual choices, is led by emotional and bodily reactions to a play with possibilities, a sense of what might work. In this process I tap into my deep and strong reactions that balance my artistic choices with a systematic study of the culture, context, and the politics at play.
”Dress is a basic fact of social life and this, according to anthropologists, is true of all known human cultures: all people ’dress’ the body in some way, be it through clothing, tattooing, cosmetics or other forms of body painting...In almost all social situations we are required to appear dressed, although what constitutes ’dress’ varies from culture to culture and also within a culture, since what is considered appropriate dress will depend on the situation or occasion...Bodies which do not conform, bodies which flout the conventions of their culture and go without the appropriate clothes are subversive of the most basic social codes and risk exclusion, scorn, or ridicule.” (Entwistle 2000 p.6-7)
For me, the holistic process of costume and garment design, the creative and interactive process, is a vital way to understand the world and humanity. I perceive this process as an intellectual, embodied, passionate, and inherently challenging endeavor from which meaningful (and potentially alternative) insights into the diverse human experiences and conditions are gained. Through the process of inventing and communicating through whole characters or individual characteristics an invigorating opportunity arises to create impressions that are not solely tied into one time or place but fictional combinations. The creation of a fictional character, which might at its best become very ‘real’ and thus be felt by audiences, offers an illusion of a unified character. Essentially, all the characters I construct through the choices I make as a designer offer competing, even conflicting viewpoints combined of cultures and persons from any possible time and place.
One of the luxuries afforded to those of my trade is the freedom to identify and deeply reflect about and relate to anyone from the entire breadth of human history. In this creative process we as costume designers are entitled to share our visions, whisper our
(and others’) secrets, as well as weave something of ourselves and others into the fabric of humanity. By embracing the essence of the individual characters and by crafting
the details as to best project and support the major themes of the work, an intimate connection is formed for the character constructed that links this character to the ones before and after.
While my work changes at each assignment, so does my sense of self (as an individual and a professional) and my understanding of people and humanity. In the most privileged sense, my work affords me constant opportunity to study myself and those around me, which brings upon growth. Every new job brings change and along with this new opportunities to explore the spectrum of human character, which jointly develops my mind, my sense of body, and the understanding of my spirit (life philosophy).
In designing costumes there are ideally infinite possibilities for expression and ample options for how to communicate with the audiences. The greatest pleasure I gain from my work is to see the characters come to life, to watch them begin to breathe and occupy space in the places created by other professionals involved in the productions, as well as in the minds of the audience members.
Audiences are really not just audiences in a sense of passive observers of the final product. Rather, I and all the other creative crew members interact with the anticipated audiences intimately throughout the design/creative process. Although these interactions are first solely based on anticipation and expectations or based on the work done before, this emphasis on the potential interactions with the audiences who will later come to interact with the piece is a very real and lively relationship throughout the process.
To sum up my views of the costume design process I hope to emphasize how essential the interconnectivity of people, processes, and various aspects of life are for my work: how my working processes are guided by my commitment and passion to study the enormous capacity of people to love and to live deeply felt lives. My desire to share this fascination is a powerful source of inspiration in my costume designing. I continue to find myself in awe at the diversity and capabilities of the human form and body in providing canvases for expressions of felt experiences.