The phantom’s mask from "Phantom of the Opera." Annie’s red dress in "Annie." Elphaba’s green makeup in "Wicked."
Iconic costumes and makeup shape the way audiences remember any production. The process of costume design is challenging but crucial. In the LSU School of Theatre, this process is celebrated and offered through both undergraduate and graduate programs.
The undergraduate theatre program offers many concentrations, including physical theatre, arts administration and design and technology. The graduate theatre program offers specializations such as costume technology and design, acting and properties technology.
For each show that the University performs, hours of planning, ideas and preparation come before each performance. For the costume design department, however, the process begins even before the show is cast.
The process of costume design first starts with an idea. The director meets with the design team and together they determine a vision for the show -- where the show will take place, how it will be told and who the story will be about.
This season, the design team made the decision to put a Louisiana spin on a classic play. The LSU Theatre department is performing Shakespeare’s "A Midsummer’s Night Dream" from April 22 to May 3. Because the designers are setting the production in a Louisiana swamp, the costumes, lighting and set must all match that vision.
Once the vision is determined, the costume design team begins their work. Costume designers express who the character is through what they are wearing and how their hair and makeup are styled. This is first achieved with a rendering, a drawing of how they envision the costume.
When the show goes into production, the show is cast and the actors get measured at the costume shop. The costume shop manager determines the budget for time and labor of the costume, which is built from scratch, bought new or pulled from stock.
Costume Technology and Costume Shop Manager Kyla Kazuschyk said the costume designers and managers play integral parts in the costume creation process.
“The designer and shop manager coordinate to figure out how these costumes are going to come to life,” Kazuschyk said.
After the budget and design are formed, the patterns are developed, which determine what the costumes will be made of. These patterns are used to create mock-ups, or first drafts of the costumes, which are then used for fittings. After adjustments and alterations, the real costumes are created.
Once the process leading up to the show is complete, the costumes are handed to the wardrobe crew and the dressers. The dressers are responsible for making sure that the actors are clothed in the same way each night of the show’s run.
The dressers often stay in the wings or dressing rooms, helping the actors with quick changes between scenes. Dressers are also responsible for laundry and repairs during the shows, making sure that the costumes are ready to go on stage each night.
Costume Technology and Design graduate student Suellen da Costa Coelho praised the entire costume and technology design team for their outstanding work.
“It’s incredible. We have a good team here,” da Costa Coelho said. “Good students, good classmates.”
Costume design and technology take into account both the image and functionality of the costume. Costume designers study characters and decide what clothes each character will wear.
The designers take into account all aspects of the characters' world, what colors they would wear, what time period they live in and how the costumes that the characters wear will appear on stage.
“I think it’s really important when people notice the process," da Costa Coelho said. "I like when people say, ‘Oh, I like the way you thought about this mask, or the color and the stage.' It’s something that I think a lot about, how [the audience] will think about the color and the stage.”
The costume design process at the University is showcased many times a year by the LSU School of Theatre.
Click here for a full list of shows offered this season.