The first professional theater company I designed for taught me one of the primary skills that made my career in the world of theatrical wardrobe and costuming the success it has been: Shortcuts. Learning that the outside appearance of a costume is much more important than the inside being steeped in perfection has allowed me to put the effort when building a costume into the actual, measurable effect that it should be for the audience.

polka dot dress | Instant Bollywood

Before my first show, I was overly, and as I would soon learn, unnecessarily concerned about every little thread and seam no matter where it landed on the piece. But I quickly learned that the inside of a costume was nothing to be concerned about. There would be no time to finish each seam, and there would never be enough time to hand stitch every little sequin in place. More to the point, I learned that none of that was expected. Instead I found out that all I had been taught in my college years, like so much of what is taught in the world of academia versus what is true in the real world, was destined to head out the window once I was in the thick of the theater steampunk corset .

My second paying job taught me even more. I was in charge this time. I was shocked to learn that I was not going to be designing costumes from the ground up. This theater company didn’t have the funds for new costumes for each production, so I was instructed to take over fifty costumes, pull them apart, redesign them and tailor them for a whole new set of actors, and then put them back together in a completely new form. I cut, pleated, and altered all different velvets and brocades; moreover, I survived and learned even more techniques that help me to this day.

I worked for a children’s theater as well where I have made more skunks, lions, and flamingos than a zookeeper would care to dream about. Again, the experience increased my knowledge in my chosen profession.

Costuming Tips

The simpler, the better. When you have a simpler line in a gown and then doll it up with embellishments, the costume appears stylish. For example, if you or your little one is going as a princess this Halloween, either sew a simple long gown from whole cloth, or better still, find one at a second hand store like the Salvation Army or Goodwill. Make it any color, but keep even the color simple. Then visit your local discount store and purchase the embellishments that will create the princess look. Here’s where the fun and imagination kicks into gear. You can find yards of beads and baubles for very little in cost, but big in beauty.

Glue Is Your Time Saver

If you are not a natural seamstress, or you just don’t have the time to sew, try the various glues that “stitch” like sewing. They have several in the fabric stores, and your local discount stores. And while they do work just as well as sewing a seam with a machine, consider that they will take 24 hours to dry. The upside is that you can glue a whole costume together without ever having to sew a stitch.