BWW Blog: My Experience Working in a College Costume Shop
My name is Olivia and this is my first article! I'm looking forward to share my experiences here. I am a freshman at Beloit College in Wisconsin and plan on minoring in Theatre Production. I have been doing technical theatre since high school and currently work in my school's costume shop.
When I entered college this past fall, I was excited to continue working behind the scenes in the theatre. In high school, I was a part of wardrobe crew and stage crew for school productions and planned to continue in college. While researching my college last year, I learned that they had an entire shop dedicated to producing costumes for theatre productions. The costume shop has sewing machines, irons, and tons of fabric and supplies. Upstairs, a room is used to storing the college's costume collection, from which pieces are often pulled for shows. I was excited to get involved in the costume shop once I started school.
At an employment fair during the freshman welcome week, I learned that working in the theatre was actually a paying job! Without hesitation, I filled out an application. I have now been an employee in the shop for a semester and a half. My shift is twice a week for several hours in the afternoon.
When working in the costume shop, we are assigned tasks. Newer employees, like me, make alterations and organize the shop. As we gain experience, we can have the opportunity to become a shop supervisor or to design the costumes for a production. Costumes are created for both theatre and dance productions. Sewing costumes for each production usually takes about a month.
Doing technical theatre in college is very different from the way it was at my high school. In high school, we didn't have dedicated spaces to make sets and costumes. We didn't even have sewing machines. Most of our work was done in our classroom, constructing simple furniture and ordering costumes online. The "techies" would be brought in for a few weeks specifically for a certain show. After that show, their work was over.
At my college, there is both a costume shop and a scene shop. Students are employed in each. We work year-round, even if we are between productions. Working in a college theatre has allowed me to develop a more specific skill set then I had in high school. As a costume technician, I have been able to learn professional sewing techniques and have become familiar with tools like sergers that are used in the costume industry. Additionally, the experience has led me to surprise myself by deciding to minor in theatre production.
Working in my college's costume shop is definitely a "dream job" in terms of campus employment and a great learning experience.