Student Blog: 45 Hours in Costume Shop

This semester, I’ve been tasked with organizing stock for Theatrical Production. Working towards my 45 hours in the shop I've grown to learn a lot more about the costumes

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Student Blog: 45 Hours in Costume Shop

Thirty-four, thirty-two, thirty-two, twenty-eight, fifty-No. That can't possibly be right. I run the numbers in my head, pulling the garment from the rack to resize later.

"I'm almost done with the pants!" I call to my supervisor.


At least ten pairs of pants fall off of the side, spilling in a pool of tweed and cotton fabrics. The pants lose their respective hangers, tags falling from their sides. The tags I was tasked with organizing. Dust blows up into my face.

"Just kidding."

My first day in the Costume Shop was a frustrating one. A required course for all Theatre Arts minors, Theatrical Production is a class in which students are tasked with working in a specific division of the Mainstage production process behind the scenes. These divisions include Costume Shop, Prop Shop, Run Crew, Scenic Design, and more. Each student is required to work 45 hours throughout the semester in addition to ushering two Mainstage productions.

As an avid fashion lover, I requested to work in the Costume Shop. With no experience in sewing, but a strong background in sketching, I was intrigued to start in the shop. My first day, I was tasked with finding garments for specific actors in the garment room. When I was greeted with a huge room full of various garments made of a variety of fabrics and materials, I was overwhelmed.

Our costume shop is located in the basement of the landmark building The Cathedral of Learning. The Cathedral is a maze of classrooms and odd secret passages, the costume shop included. When I entered the costume shop I was greeted with a room for designing and brainstorming, a washing room, and a large storage area for theatrical performances. Dressing rooms are additionally attached to the wide space if you choose the right door.

This semester, I've been tasked with organizing stock. Brightly colored clothes hang from floor to ceiling in various materials. Tweed, satin, cotton, lace, anything you could ever imagine. Clear bins labeled with accessories, hats, and undergarments line the walls. The room is musty and dank. It's a bit dark and there are slim rows to walk through creating a literal forest of fabrics.

Prior to this course, I've never been able to sew. I've always had an interest in costume design, but never learned how to piece together garments. So far I've learned how to use a sewing machine, how to measure, how to create a whip stitch, and the complex process of bringing your ideas to life. I've also had the privilege to meet design students who work throughout the year to create gowns and elaborate designs for student performers.

As a performer, you often neglect the hard work that goes into costuming. There are literal hours spent over the tiniest of details, and they make the largest difference. The creative space itself is a wonder, housing a history of shows in each individual garment. Walking around the space I recognized a piece I wore for a show my freshmen year, giving me a vague sense of deja vu. Every piece has been used to tell a story at some point or another.

The hours I've spent in the shop have been frustrating, but enlightening. My supervisors have given me nothing but patience when I prick myself learning a new stitch and clear answers when I ask them a billion questions regarding the puzzle that is organizing stock.

I'm grateful for the opportunity to learn about this aspect of theater that is often overlooked. I think theatrical production should be required for everyone who is interested in the arts, performers especially.

Costume shop has allowed me to develop incredibly useful skills and has increased my appreciation for student designers whose work is often underrecognized. I've never known more patient and kind individuals. Through navigating stock, bleeding from tricking myself, and almost breaking a sewing machine, they've been there for me with a patient hand and much needed guidance.

Student designers and costume faculty who work hours on end to create the intricate pieces worn on stage are truly humble creators who give artistry to the theatrical world.