Archive for the 'Costume' Category

The Costumes of Macbeth

Monday, October 17th, 2016

So much work goes into putting on any production.  I was only involved in Macbeth for the past few weeks and it took over my life.  For the production team who have been involved since the inception of this project I imagine it’s taken up a huge part of this year.

The show was visually beautiful with a stark, clean aesthetic. I worked with a team of sewers, lead by costume designer Sara Ben-Abdallah, and made some of the garments she created.

Macduff vs Macbeth

Fight scene between Macduff and Macbeth – image by John Matthews

The pleats, that I spent quite a bit of time stressing over, looked great in the final pieces.

Making Pleats

Tuesday, October 11th, 2016

I was recently asked to make pleats for a costume.  I had no clue how to do this so I tried watching instructional videos on youtube.  Eventually I could make pleat-like things but not something good enough for the costume.   Marty has never used a sewing machine before and never made pleats.  He watched one video on youtube and from that he was able to sew pleats.  He’s amazing!

Pleats and Pleater

Pleats and Pleater

He didn’t use a fork, like they did in the video.  Instead he made himself a plastic pleater using a badge from a linux conference.

Once he made the pleats, I attempted to iron them.  The material was more than 1 metre long and they were really hard to iron, but in the end I got the panels I need to insert into my costumes.

Ironed Pleats

Ironed Pleats


Something Wicked This Way Comes

Saturday, October 1st, 2016

Marty is going to be on stage for the first time in years.  He has a small part in Tokyo International Players production of Macbeth, which opens on October 13th.  I will be helping out with costumes and wardrobe, so hopefully I’ll still get a chance to watch the play.

I did see a scene, between Lady Macbeth and Macbeth, acted out last night at the Improvazilla Mainstage Show and it was excellent.

Marty, about to fight with a big stick.

Marty, at rehearsal, about to fight with a big stick.

More Costume Work

Friday, September 23rd, 2016

The Dresser opened last night at Black Stripe Theater. The play, by Ronald Harwood, tells the story of an aging actor’s personal assistant, who is struggling to keep the actor’s life together.  I have been responsible for costumes and wardrobe, which does mean I get to be the dresser at The Dresser.

It’s been a lot of work for everyone involved, but worth it, given how well the show went last night.  It’s the first time I’ve been a lead costumer and I was concerned about my fairly basic sewing skills.  I still get scared every time I have to cut fabric, sewing can mostly be undone, but cutting is permanent.  I was also surprised that I got nervous before the show.  I know that always happens when I have to perform, but it never occurred to me that being responsible for how actors looked would also feel like a type of performance.  Thankfully they all looked good and the costume changes happened as expected.

I enjoyed making the hats and head dresses.  My favourite is the wild flower crown, which looks surprisingly good for something made from materials bought from my local 100 円 ($1) store.

Fantastically Dressed In Wild Flowers

Fantastically Dressed In Wild Flowers

Tea Dyeing

Saturday, August 20th, 2016

Underwear, when new, can be a bright glaring white.  I’m working on a costume that requires the underwear to look old and worn, and it was suggested that I dye it with tea.  This is not something I have done before so I bought a test garment, in the same fabric, and tried aging it yesterday afternoon.

I have read many online articles about this process and a chapter on dyeing materials in a text book.  All they really told me is that you use tea and water.  There is no way to know what colour the end product will look like, which is not good when you only have one costume and you can’t get another one if you mess up.  Everyone uses different tea, different amounts of tea, they are vague about the amount of water they use, or how long it will take.  Do you use salt in the water?  Does the garment need rinsed or washed first?  Do you add vinegar at the end?

I bought a black lipton tea and put four teabags and 3 litres of hot water in a large basin.  I added a teaspoon of salt.  I removed the tea bags after five minutes and then added the garment, which I had rinsed in warm water.  I let it steep in the solution for one hour and then removed it and rinsed it in warm water.  The garment certainly dyed but I didn’t like how it looked.  It’s much browner than I wanted and I think that the brown almost has a pinkish tinge to it.  The colour is also patchy, which makes me think that I will need to stir it during the dyeing process to try to get a more even colour.  Or I need a bigger container to dye it in, but I don’t think I have one.

Before and After Colours

Before and After Colours

Today I’m going to test strips of white cotton with a different tea solutions to see if I can get close to the colour I want.   I completely understand now why people use bottled dyes that mimic this process as at least then you will have clear instructions on how to use the product and a much clearer idea of the expected outcome.  I realise that my garment is not the same as a strip of cotton, but it’s the best I can do.