Below is the Introduction from Costume Design which presents the design ideas covered in the text.



There are no absolutes in costume design, but there is certainly a logical way to approach the work so designers can develop a basic understanding of the field and guidelines that will allow them to grow and expand their capabilities with each project. Talent is important, but in a collaborative art knowing how to get the job done efficiently and Color effectively is a tremendous asset. And a well-balanced combination of talent, know-how, dependability, positive attitude, and skill in communicating is almost unbeatable. This book is designed to help develop this combination of skills.

Good costume designers must know a tremendous amount about a great many subjects including the literature of the performing arts and the physical spaces in which performances take place. They must understand people and be familiar with drawing and painting and the history of art. They must be knowledgeable about social history, be aware of many types of fabrics, and be ready to develop ideas from the sublime to the ridiculous. They must constantly be open to all kinds of stimuli; a designer never knows what information will be valuable when embarking on a new project.

This book presents practical information in the areas mentioned above, some discussed briefly, others explored in depth. It provides a working knowledge of the field, a foundation that can open doors for designers to use as they develop and learn with each new project in a wide variety of fields.

Costume Design gives the designer a basic understanding of what costumes are and what they do, beginning with a brief description of how costumes developed in the past. Since costumes are based on the clothing people wear, designers must think about what is worn, why it is worn, and what others think about it. We believe that the primary function of the costume is to enhance the characterization of a role. "Nobody ever goes away humming the costumes"—nor should they, but well-thought-out costumes can certainly add great zest to a production.

There is more than a little craziness in the clothes of everyday life and costumes in the performing arts, so a well-developed sense of humor will never hurt any designer. Directors have many things to think about, and designers who can keep their wits and wit about them make much better collaborators. Actors are usually quite concerned with their physical appearance in a role, and an open, friendly approach can often soften rough spots. Fellow workers in a costume shop will feel a lot more like working for a designer who is enthusiastic and cheery than for a cloud of doom that descends on the cutting table.

A practical approach to designing can help make creating a costume such as this one for Beulah in Merton of the Movies, a fun and satisfying experience. Design for a 1982 production at Carnegie Mellon University by Cletus Anderson. Pencil sketch.

High fashion is not always sensible, offstage or on. A 1780 "Anglo-American bonnet

Perhaps there is one absolute after all: Costume designers who know how to approach their work and know what they should do to achieve the goals decided on for a production will instill confidence in all those who work with them. The first three chapters of this book present a step-by-step method of approaching the project, defining the objectives, and determining the methods that can best be used to achieve the goals.

The ability to put ideas down almost effortlessly is a basic tool the designer must master. Actually putting pencil to paper to begin drawing the costumes is a step that is sometimes difficult to take. We have provided a guide to the figure and the basic design principles and how they apply to the body and the costume. Designers can get to work when they are confident that they can develop the ideas on paper. They must believe in what they do and not try to hedge their bets. A sketch cannot be presented with the old dodge: 'Well, what I really wanted was….." What is really wanted should be there. It does not have to be a work of art; it should be a clear presentation of what the costume will be, one that can be easily read by the director, actors, and those in the shop who will build it.

A costume sketch may indicate the mood of the play but must clearly show the costume.Jean in John Whiting’s The Devils produced at Carnegie Mellon University in l970. Done in acrylic by Cletus Anderson.

Soldiers in Macbeth wore quilted tunics and gauntlets in costumes designed by Cletus Anderson for the 1980 Pittsburgh Public Theater production. The quilting and helmet-mask added bulk and menace to the figure.

Producing costume sketches and renderings requires an understanding of materials and color theory. Color control is a primary factor in costume design. The designer must know what range of color is available, what effect it may have, and how it reacts to other colors around it.

In today's market the designer may find that much of the work that is available is in film and television. The approach to designing a valid costume is the same for any field, but the way the work is organized does vary, so a short explanation of the differences is included.

An effective costume rendering is indeed a wonderful thing, but it can be a mere academic exercise if the designer doesn't know how to translate it into an actual costume. We explain how to develop a point of view for building the show and how to take the costume plate and accurately interpret the areas to three-dimensional form. We also explore the world of fabric, for it is the backbone of the costume realization. Even while putting down the first quick impression, designers can sense the idea growing as they think of how it will work in a heavy, tweedy wool or a lightly flowing chiffon.

The Purple Panda in MisterRogers' Neighborhood wore this dinosaur suit designed by Barbara Anderson. Photo by Lilo Guest. Courtesy Family Communications, Inc.

Most people who regularly attend some form of performing arts never consider the fact that to build a costume you first have to develop the pattern for it. We explain the basic principles of developing the pattern and include layouts for the basic shapes of the most-used elements with illustrations of what they will look like when assembled. This book gives designers a way to work so they can tackle any problem because they understand what fabric can do and aren't afraid to keep trying different approaches, including both flat patterning and draping, until they achieve the shape they want. Within a space of a few months we designed and built a production of Macbeth for the Pittsburgh Public Theater that included intricate quilting and draping; a dinosaur costume for a man in a purple panda suit for Mister Rogers' Neighborhood; and the costumes for the motion picture Knightriders, which included an entire motorcycle gang doing elaborate stunts clad in medieval armor. This certainly required variation in approach and a willingness to try new things.
The best research material for a designer to use involves primary sources—sources created during the span of the historical period—but it is often difficult to know just what is being presented in these sources. The appendices in this text provide a guide to the history of clothing presenting the basic shapes of each period—a concise starting point for understanding the history of clothes and a period-by-period list of sources for a more in-depth look at any era.

Costume design is a delightful and challenging field. It certainly isn't an area for those of faint heart who yearn for a serene life and 10 hours of sleep a night. Problems run rampant, deadlines are always too near, and just as one need is met another jumps up to take its place. But the rewards can outweigh all these, for it is a field that keeps one involved, communicating, thinking, and growing. And it can be exciting and fun.