Friday, January 26, 2018

Thesis_ BTS_The Creative Costume Design Process

Photo: Jess Benjamin        Actor: Annalise Cain
When boiled down to the basics, the process of costume design is much like any other design processes:
  • Have a concept/purpose
  • Research concepts and brainstorm
  • Sketch ideas and refine ones that work
  • Finalize ideas
  • Execute ideas
Of course, there are sub-bullets within these detailing logistics, timeline, budgeting, etc.  What makes costume design different from any other design process is of course the details and the medium.  There are probably quite a few posts I can write about the psychology of clothing and identity and what it says about society etc. etc. but for the purpose of this post, just consider how much you can perceive about a person simply by what they wear and how they wear it. Below lists my own theoretical creative process in costuming. As with many other processes, steps sometimes blur into one another or switch order. Sometimes (when time and budget is low) some of these steps are either done on the fly or even disappear altogether, but generally they are as follows.
  1. Read the play. Or in more general terms, know the story. 
    1. Get an impression of the characters in their world and how they interact with one another
  2. Research background of the play, playwright, and current events when it was written.
    1.  In essence, why was this play written and what were the influences? 
  3. Analyze the play with research lens
    1. Now with your research under your belt, what does all this inform you about the story and the characters? 
  4. Develop character plot and basic character ideas
    1. This includes how many changes a character has, how often they are on stage, what happens to their costume throughout the story-blood? dirt? tear?do they take something off? 
  5. Choose overall "look" of the play
    1. Time period, how historically accurate should this be? How will this restrict/inform character movement?
  6. Research preliminary mood board
    1. The research for conceptual imagery. This creates an essence of the world and gives an idea of how you are approaching the story-whether its a darker and more sinister production or maybe a lighthearted or satire. 
  7. Create world
    1. Here I like to use something I learned in 7th grade world history-an acronym called PERSIA (Politics, Economy, Religion, Society, Intellect, Aesthetic) Consider all six to create your world and environment 
  8. In depth analysis on characters and what they would wear
    1. Who in this story prefers certain colors? Austere dress? Who is least put together? Who is always put together? Any rebels? Any flamboyant goofballs? What uniforms need to be covered and how important is accurate representation? For example, military officers are tricky if you're basing it off real world uniforms and don't know the subtleties of badges, ribbons, pins, hats, colors, etc.  Much accurate research should be done here.
  9. Collage character breakdown and preliminary "ideal" casting
    1. Collage or thumbnails would work here. 
    2. "Ideal" casting of actors or models will help inform characters based simply on how they look. (The risk of superficial type casting is noted)
    3. Consider race, age, disability, gender, sexuality, etc etc. 
  10. Sketch preliminary roughs and think about color palette  
    1. When thinking about color palette, consider who is on stage with whom, lighting, set color and design, as well as story. (Color psychology is real)
  11. Analyze sketches for full scope and look of the show
    1. Look at all the designs that have been sketched, do all these designs represent and fit the characters as they should? What is missing? What should be added or changed in order to complete the look of the entire ensemble?
  12. Refine sketches to streamline full composition
  13. Mix color palette, color, and swatch
    1. If water coloring/painting, it's a good idea to mix your palette first so you won't have to re-mix part way through and risk the miscommunication of a discordant color palette. 
    2. If coloring with markers or digitally, track color numbers and hexidecimal codes 
    3. Procuring swatches usually happens during preliminary sketching so the fabric can inform the design.
  14. Label and sign (Own that design!)

Personally, steps 5-10 are the most difficult.  9 and 10 especially, as mentioned in my previous post.  My favorite steps are  2, 3, 6, and 10.  I LOVE literary analysis and conceptual research where everything is possible and ideas both genius and absolutely terrible are considered.  It's a time to really let your imagination play with this story and see where it can go.

The process after this, if looking at the entire costume production timeline is deciding what pieces to purchase, rent, or produce. 

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