By Ashley Dillard
Hello IU Theatre community! It’s a very busy time over here in the Department of Theatre, Drama and Contemporary Dance. It’s warm and sunny, the birds are chirping and we are halfway through the run of The Drowsy Chaperone. Actors and directors tend to get a lot of attention when it comes to show recognition, but there are so many people behind the scenes who help make our beautiful shows possible. Today I want to introduce you to two people who bring our costumes to life!
Cory John is a third year costume technology graduate student and Christina HadleyDike is a second year costume technology graduate student. Both were cutter/drapers for The Drowsy Chaperone. So what is a cutter/draper? I wasn’t exactly clear either! “A cutter/draper takes a two-dimensional drawing that the costume designer give us and makes it a three-dimensional garment by draping muslin fabric onto a form that is roughly the size of our actor. Then we put it onto paper, cut it out of muslin and do a first fitting (called a mock-up fitting) with the actor to make sure it fits well and has the design lines that the designer is looking for. It’s a practice run before getting into the final fabric,” Christina told me.
It sounds like a lot of work went into building costumes for The Drowsy Chaperone (I mean have you seen them?!), but thankfully there is great sense of teamwork in the costume shop. “Typically a cutter/draper gets a first hand, who is basically their assistant, and then stitchers underneath them as well. In our shop it kind of depends on the work load and who is available. For this show I tag-teamed with Aaron Wardwell (a third year costume design graduate student) to build Caroline Huerta’s (The Drowsy Chaperone herself!) wedding dress. I did the draping and the fitting and then once I cut the design out of fashion fabric, I handed it off to Aaron. He build part of it and I then I came back in attached all of the ruffles on the dress.” Cory said.
Building these costumes was definitely a labor of love for these two. Cory hemmed over 500 feet of fabric and cut out 119 circles of fabric to make up the ruffles on the The Chaperone’s dress. “It was fun and challenging for me. The particular design I was working on, The Chaperone’s wedding dress, was extremely form fitting. When you have something extremely form fitting you want the fabric to be stretchy and the fabric that was chosen was actually wedding satin, which has no stretch. So it was a bit of a challenge to create a dress that would have the look that the designer wanted but also allowed movement. It’s a musical, people have to be able to move! It was a fun, unique challenge,” Cory explained.
Christina was able to show off new tailoring skills with her work. “The first show I did here was Bloody Bloody Andrew Jackson. I had to do a whole bunch of tailoring on that show and I had only ever learned ‘fake tailoring’ up to that point. I had to rely a lot on my first hand, who was actually Cory, to make sure I was putting in the canvases right. This past fall I took a tailoring class where I learned a lot. So with this show, I felt pretty confident just diving in.” Cory agreed, “The knowledge gained over my three years really made a huge difference.”
Despite the long work hours and miles of fabric, both Cory and Christina had a great time building this show. “I enjoyed the experience. I got to build a crinoline dress, which I wanted to put in my portfolio and another very full dress. I had a lot of fun,” said Christina.
Their favorite costume pieces in the show? That was a no-brainer for Christina, “Tottendale’s first dress–the crinoline—for sure!” Cory couldn’t decide, “The Chaperone’s wedding dress and the gangsters. I liked them both!”
Check out Cory and Christina’s handiwork in The Drowsy Chaperone running now until April 22nd at the Ruth N. Hall’s theatre.
Ashley Dillard is a 3rd year MFA actor at Indiana University. She has been seen most recently as Kate in Dancing at Lughnasa at IU, Katherine in Home at the BPP, Marianne in Sense and Sensibility and Hermia in A Midsummer Night’s Dream both for IU Summer Theater. Though she calls beautiful Bloomington home now, she originally hails from Highland, IN.