Admittedly, when we first approached O, Earth, I struggled with finding a way to contribute to the creative process without overstepping my boundary as a white-ish, straight-ish woman working on a show that heavily features queer POC. Further, I wanted to try a production role that I had not done before but was afraid to select something I might be bad at. Ultimately, I agreed to try Professor Werther’s suggestion of being the costume designer.
My process began with simply reading the play and developing a general concept. I knew that this show was meant to showcase its diverse cast and creative minds, so if this were a full production, I would have liked to shop or buy materials specifically from stores or companies owned by queer or POC. As a workshop, I wanted the cast to shop from their own closets so as to inject their own personality into their characters. I felt that if I picked pieces that were too obscure or hard to find, I would have not succeeded in my goal. I wanted to ensure, if possible, that no one had to buy any of their costume pieces.
Next, I met with Z to discuss her ideas for each character. She virtually introduced me to the cast by compiling a folder of headshots of each actor alongside their names and roles. I asked Z to give me any specific color palettes she might want for each character alongside their overall “vibe.” She wanted each character’s costume to look as if it derived from the time period during which they lived and encouraged me to include a diverse range of colors. We swapped some ideas and resolved that I would create moodboards with several options of costume pieces for each character that she would relay to the cast.
In creating the moodboards for characters based on real people, I made sure to include a photo of what the actual person looked like. I did not want their costumes to replicate any of the figures’ clothing identically, but rather seem like something else that may have existed in that person’s wardrobe.
For every character, I did a preliminary Google search for pieces representative of the ones Z requested them to have as well as their related accessories and clothing items. I took extra care to make sure that the clothing items were something the actors might feasibly own by picking out more simple, contemporary pieces as well as selecting photos from clothing sites featuring their current selection.
In order to remain flexible, I included a couple of different outfit options for each character that all suggested the same characterization. To keep the actors on track should they want or need to deviate from my suggested items, I included some brief descriptive bullet points. The notes included offered details about color palettes and overall style.
After having the moodboards approved by Z and making adjustments where she felt was necessary, she sent them out to the cast. The cast was supposed to respond if they had any major concerns or questions but otherwise bring any potential pieces to rehearsal.
From rehearsal, Z sent me pictures of the actors in their costumes as they owned. She asked me for feedback if an actor had several different options and overall checked in that each costume fit our shared vision. Roberta filled in the blanks by acquiring and providing any missing pieces or accessories.
Altogether, I feel okay about my part in the production. The cast all looked beautiful and true to my moodboards (ridiculously so), but admittedly I can’t take credit for putting it all together. Z and Roberta had done most of the hands-on work with the costumes and did an absolutely stunning job. A flattering metaphor to describe me might be that I was the “architect” while Z and Roberta were the “carpenters,” but truthfully, they painted the picture and I took the credit.