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Friday, January 31, 2014


VO's Information Analysis
& Marketing Communications Co-op
The other day, I wandered down to the costume department and found a treasure trove of costumes and accessories and fabrics, all cared for and managed by Parvin Mirhady, VO's Head of Costumes & Costume Consultant.

In the time leading up to the opening of Don Giovanni, it’s an understatement to say our costume department is going to be extremely busy.  

Rented costumes are here, organized and ready for alterations. Fabrics are ready, hats are out, for the most part, basic planning is complete.

A neatly organized costume department


What goes into the process of building a costume? For one, there is a world of difference between costume creation and regular clothing production. Costumes have more layers than regular clothing, a factor that complicates everything from the pattern-making process to the eventual cutting and sewing stages. Costumes must also meet the requirements of fitting the style of production and be easy to alter for future productions.

Parvin discussing design with newbie, Paul
Cutters and sewers need an average of 2-3 years training to begin to master the craft, and often work on a tight deadline to create and alter pieces. Most who work on opera costumes love opera, often turning down movie industry offers to participate in an opera production.

Ideally, costumes for the stage are meant to reflect, not exaggerate. A good costume adds to the overall impact of performances and the set design without distracting audiences.

Sandra Piques Eddy in the 'Carmen' dress,
with Joshua Hopkins in VO's 2012 Barber of Seville
One of the most elaborate costumes created recently is the flamenco dress for The Barber of Seville, built over 2 months with layers upon layers of ruffles entirely composed of small circles pieced together (for texture). Each layer has 50 circles; the entire dress is composed of hundreds and hundreds of circles all carefully stitched together!

For the upcoming production, Parvin is in the process of creating two dresses and a cape for the Donna Anna character. She has already laid out the fabrics and trim needed and has a basic pattern in mind. Estimated time of completion with two people working on one dress is a minimum of two weeks, not including Parvin's design process.

Most completed costumes are stored in the shop, some are rented out to other theatre and opera companies. But no, costumes are never rented out for Halloween costumes (that was my burning question), as they are far too valuable.
Three angles of one Donna Anna costume

Other than that, makeup, hair and other accessories are usually assembled at the end of the costume-creation process. Most of our beautiful hats are made in house, and kept and re-purposed for other productions.

Our costume shop is pretty awesome. Can’t wait to see the works-in-progress onstage!

*The above information is all courtesy of Parvin, who very patiently answered all of my questions and also gave me time take photos. 

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