Sorry I’ve been so quiet. This year has been quite a doozy! After the craziness of my life last year – the shit hitting the fan kind of crazy – somehow life got back on track for me. I can’t say I did it alone, though. I had the help of some wonderful and empathetic friends. First, I was introduced to the world of film and TV production as a costume PA for an independent movie called Priceless (check out the trailer here). Now, I may have only worked as a PA (production assistant), but because the costume department consisted of just three people (including myself) there were things that needed doing that required a seamstress. Most times, PAs start out green, not knowing anything about clothes or costumes. In fact, I’ve even come across a lot of costumers for film that don’t sew a stitch. So I brought a lot of experience to the table. They had me sewing alterations on a couple things, sewing police patches onto sleeves, and even helping to pick out some outfits for some characters.
The costume designer was kind enough to bring me along her shopping trips to show me the ropes. I got the CliffsNotes on all the costume stuff I didn’t know, like how to label the changes, how to read the call sheets, how to set the line, the numbers corresponding to the characters and their changes corresponding to their scenes, continuity photos. I even learned some things about how and why to dress characters in certain ways, what colors to use and how they might work or not work for that particular character, or what’s going on in the scene. Even without building the costumes themselves and just shopping for outfits, there’s a lot of thought that goes into everything that character will be wearing. Knowing this now, I pay much closer attention to just about everything I watch.
So even though I was a PA for that production, I was given the chance to do a lot of stuff PAs aren’t even allowed to do (sewing, for instance). Usually this rule only applies to a show that is unionized, and this requires certain positions to be union members. Costume PAs aren’t union sanctioned positions. Set PAs and Office PAs are (strangely). My hope is to eventually become a full union member, which would give me better pay and benefits, and more opportunities to work. This show DID garner me the two required letters of recommendation, however, that start the process of entering the union by way of taking two classes (set readiness, and safety) and putting me on what’s called “Overflow”. The overflow list is for job blasts from the union that advertise openings in certain positions. It is first sent out to all union members, and in case those positions are not filled first by a union person, it then gets sent out secondary to the overflow members list.
Costumes is a very small niche, and I’ve been on the overflow list since April now and I never see an overflow job blast for that department. I think – maybe – once I saw a posting for stitchers wanted (which is as rare as a unicorn and right up my alley) . . . but, I was then deeply immersed in the world of opera!
Santa Fe Community College
… is the only college, that I know of, that offers any kind of degree or certificate in fashion design. I’m constantly asked which I would rather do, fashion design or costumes, and deciding between the two is like trying to decide between two favorite cereals! Both, I say! I want both! And frankly, the many fashion designers I have spoken to over the years have dabbled also in costume design and/or construction. On the technical side of things, the two are practically the same. It is only divided by the venue in which the garments are shown. And that one is marketed to a wide, modern audience, and the other is meant to convey a feeling of a character’s personality and time period.
But I want that degree. I know I don’t need it at this point. Fashion design and costumes are two fields where acquired knowledge and skills are good enough to get you the job. But while I was at the opera, so many of my apprentice peers were in the middle of their schooling, some of them graduate students even. All of them early to mid twenty-somethings. The first hands on many of the teams were then my age. Trying to tell myself that I didn’t need the degree wasn’t working. And I really did want to brush up on the technical side of things. Sure, I can make patterns and drape garments. But I want to do it well. And I wanted to practice my illustration and rendering again, and going to a class for that is a good motivator for me.
I’m four weeks into school now, though, and I already wish I could just work faster and get it all out of the way. At this point, flat patterning and textiles study is very remedial. Production Sewing 101 is for absolute beginners, and so I’ve been taken on as an assistant teacher for the first half. Even my Japanese class is rudimentary, because they only had “Intro” and then the second level class 112 – I fall somewhere in between 111 and 112, so just to fill time, I enrolled in the introductory class.
At least now I understand better why I end up sluffing class so much . . . I get bored. Somehow I’ll make it through these classes, though, because now that I’m an adult, I’m not afraid to come up to the teacher to ask to be challenged. The sooner I can get all this out of the way, the sooner I get that degree.
In the meantime, I reopened my Etsy store and I’m available again for commissions. I just turned off vacation mode, and now all of my listings have expired. I’ll put a few of those back up, however. And if you have any inquiries about potential projects, I’d be happy to discuss them with you.