Oregon Shakespeare Festival Costumers don't Play Around

Spoiler alert - Book 3 in the Mata Morrow mystery series primarily takes place in Portland and in the Southern Oregon town of Ashland, home to the long-running Oregon Shakespeare Festival. When I contacted the folks at OSF to see if I might be able to get some face-time with someone in the costume shop (you see where this is going, right? Mata --> clothing design --> costume pros = giddy researcher), I was bowled over by the generosity of the team. Before I knew it, I was furiously scribbling notes over lunch at Standing Stone Brewery with Nancy, Alison and Betsy, three OSF Costume staffers well-versed in clothing creation from concept to final curtain. I had constructed my initial line of inquiry to ensure I understood (so to accurately portray) how our heroine and her book group, might find themselves enmeshed in a mystery that involves this particular aspect of the Festival. 

Couture methods are de rigger in the costume shop, dress forms are customized for each piece.

I've excerpted a bit of the Q&A that transpired prior to our interview in the piece below. Happily, Nancy, Alison and Betsy are all die-hard mystery fans, so their fact-filled answers to my prosaic questions were peppered with ways in which characters might meet his or her painful demise at the end of this or that sewing implement, might secret themselves in a large cupboard or small hidey-hole in the event of a chase scene. They were unable to help me come up with a motive for murder, but that's just as well, because then the surprise would be out!

Oregon Shakespeare Festival Elizabethan Theater seen from backstage

Oregon Shakespeare Festival Elizabethan Theater seen from backstage

A behind-the-scenes look at the various makers and artisans in Costume and Props made abundantly clear that this team is made up if the finest craftspeople, most accomplished in skills that only the very few now possess. Milliners and dyers, pattern makers and fabric specialists all work seamlessly (yes, I said that) to balance a gargantuan set of competing time demands in order to ensure that OSF's ambitious schedule is kept, the actors well-outfitted and the audience properly enrapt by all. If anyone supposes the costumes are created using Simplicity patterns and a bit of nip and tuck, this one answer should soon erase that notion.

Q: What are the steps in costume creation…from concept to sketch to draft to finished garment? How does this timeline mesh with that of the production?
A: All of our costume designers are brought in- contracted show by show to design for us. The selection of the designers is made over a year in advance of the show coming into the shop. Designers are selected by the artistic department- Artistic director and directors. We do not have resident costume designers. Designers will meet with their design team long before we meet with them- 6-9 months before the shop gets involved. The design team includes all of the designers- costume, lighting, scenery, music and the director. The designer has due dates to submit costume roughs to our costume department director- discussion happens about the number of costumes, what can be pulled from stock, what can be built, the complexity of the built items and so on. The designer then goes back and finalizes the sketches. The designer puts the show into the shop one to three months before fittings start. Putting the show into the shop consists of meeting with the show team and discussing every sketch in detail. Discussions include fullness of skirts, undergarments, fabrics, seam lines and placement, materials and so much more. There are separate meetings with the designer and assistant with the cutter/drapers, the crafts team, the dyer/painters and the wig team. Putting the show into the shop usually takes three-five days depending on the size of the show. Again, Alison can give you more specifics on this. A month to two weeks later the designer comes back into town for the first fittings. These usually are scheduled over one to two weeks. Fittings can take up to two hours and there are often five people in addition to the actor involved with the fitting. We have second fittings a couple of weeks after the first fittings where we finalize the fit of the costume in real fabric with real wigs and facial hair and real crafts pieces. On large shows it is possible to have three fitting sessions. After that, the designer is back in Ashland for the week of tech/dresses, costume dress rehearsals and preview performances. Designers are in and out of town for months. Designers do all of the sketching, research and fabric selection for the costumes. Costumes are built based on their sketches and research.
Simply amazing, yes? 

Simply amazing, yes? 

Let me hear it - Last Saturday Survey

Have feelings about your clothing's construction? Take the survey now.

Give us your Words!

Give us your Words!

Questions can be seen below, but you'll need to click the link for us to get your input.

How important is it to you that your clothing is constructed in the USA? *

  •  1 - Very Important
  •  2 - Somewhat important
  •  3 - A consideration before fabric content
  •  4 - A consideration after fabric content
  •  5 - A consideration before price
  •  6 - A consideration after price
  •  5 - Of very little consequence
  •  Other: 

How important is it to you that the fabric used in your clothing is produced in the USA? *

  •  1 - Very important
  •  2 - Somewhat important
  •  3 - A consideration before those of domestic construction
  •  4 - A consideration after those of domestic construction
  •  5 - A consideration after that of price
  •  6 - A consideration after that of price
  •  7 - Of little consequence.
  •  Other: 

How important are trends to you in your clothing purchases? *

  •  1 - Very important. I want my look to reflect styles of the current season.
  •  2 - Somewhat important. I want my look to be on trend within the most recent year.
  •  3 - A consideration only after it passes the "It's my style" test
  •  4 - A consideration only after it passes the "It's a classic" test
  •  5 - Very rarely or Never a consideration
  •  Other: 

As always, thanks for your time and thoughts. 

Love, Lula

Lula Flann Last Saturday Survey

    Let me Hear it @ Last Saturday Survey

    Thanks for taking part in this fashion fact-finding survey series. Buckle Down's heroine, Mata Morrow, designs a specific and sensational line of travel wear. Travel wear that will get you on the road with flare and without stress. All input is considered and appreciated.

    1. What is the one article of clothing in your closet you currently most value?

    2. Describe a most-fondly recalled spring/summer garment from your past.

    - When did you own it? 
    - What was the garment?
    - What was the fabric?
    - How did it make you feel?
    - Any additional information you'd like to share

    3. What is the one ensemble you wish you had, but don't.

    4. Where do you usually buy your clothing (top 3... list brands, brick & mortars or online venues)

    5. What qualities make for a positive shopping experience. 

    Each survey submitted gives you an opportunity to receive a downloadable copy of Buckled Down on your e-reader of choice. Email your responses to info@lulaflann.com

    As always, thanks for your time and thoughts.

    Love,

    Lula

    Lula Flann - Last Saturday Survey

    Highsmith - Criminally good

    Expectations are running high here with the November 20 release of Carol. We expect to see drop-dead period clothing and crackling chemistry between Cate Blanchett and Rooney Mara, but the sharp end of our interest lies in the resurgence of notice in author Patricia Highsmith. 

    The Bechdel clip offers a fine peer review of PH's strength in psychological detailing. I've added "The Blunderer," as well as the recent "The Talented Miss Highsmith" to my MUST READ shelf. 

    Do you have a personal favorite character from these uneasy tales?

    In the Weeds Wednesday

    My queendom for reasonable runway spectacles. Not the Warby Parker kind, either. With Fashion Week and new collections almost upon us, I'm on the lookout for eye-catching togs that don't make me wince at the thought of walking down the street in a garb that looks to be made of candy wrappers and dental floss. That's no way to strut your stuff.

    Here in Portland just last month we were treated to the Alley 33 fashion event, lauded for the display of locally-designed duds that can be purchased on premises. Lula was out of town at the Coast that weekend, but she read the articles and saw the photographic evidence. She is now following all the afore-mentioned designing women in the social sphere. Guilty pleasure (like museum-going and listening to endless and useless, "I like this but I didn't like that" interior snark) makes we want to ask: Of the garments modeled that day, what would YOU wear? And where would you wear it? 

    I loved a number of the nighties, and that Moonchilde red and black number. But - did I mention? I was in Manzanita, able to ponder from afar the mystery of women and what we wear.