Every designer knows that a fitting can set the tone for an upcoming project. The Costume Designer is like an ambassador. We are the first members to really interact with the actors besides the director. It is in the fitting that we mold the character and present it to the performer who will breath life into it. Preparing for a fitting could take weeks or just a few days, but the process and tools are always the same.
Design. Visual images are always helpful to communicate ideas. I like to have sketches, collages, and research present during fittings. This will help you keep focus on the clothing story. For my recent project Bad Boys Crazy Girls, I displayed boards with inspirational images of the character's growth from the beginning of the script to the character's resolve looks. This became a starting point of discussion between the actors and myself and set-up a formula for where the fitting would go.
Clothing. Of course you can not have a fitting with out clothing. Shopping, renting, pulling should have all happened before a fitting. The clothing should not be over crowded on a rack for ease of hanging and finding items. Remember that presentation makes a difference, for example, clothing should be hung on matching hangers and items should be steamed.
Tools. Well I've already mentioned that you will need racks, hangers, and a steamer. Also, to properly fit and prepare for alterations, a designer and their assistant should have safety pins (I prefer #3 sized silver pins), a tape measure, a ruler, note pad, pencil, hang tags, a camera, full length mirror, and possibly some lighting equipment.
Space. It is important to have the proper space. There needs to be privacy for the actor to change and enough space to step back and get a full length photo. Proper lighting is key to taking photos to look back at the work you did during the fitting and to see the items and colors you've brought to the fitting. Poor photos shown to a director could lead to a lot of unnecessary reshopping. It helps to make an actor comfortable with bottled water along with fruit or a snack to keep up the energy. Fittings can be along process and refueling and sugar help to keep an actor standing.
Finally, a good assistant can keep a fitting moving by passing safety pins, writing up shopping, pulling, and alteration notes, rehanging items. The designers job is to keep the actor engaged but the assistants job is to quietly record information and organize. All of these categories listed above will help a designer focus a fitting on character and story. Happy Fitting!!!
Get READY....well we have all gotten that call for a job that's tommorow leaving you just a few hours of Pre-pro and that over whelming panic headache. But the best way to approach that is with a systematic attack! Have a list of questions mentally ready before you even get that phone call.
1. Schedule and how many days of work (most longer film shoots won't provide you with an outright schedule but get what you can and atleast what the first few days of shooting will require)
4. Labour (do u have help? and what other department positions are there)
5. Job description (always clarify this! I've been asked to do wardrobe when there has been a designer or when there hasn't and then the design falls on me. Also, this job could require pre-pro or just be an on-set job. Many producers on indie films that hire you do not know how the costume department breaksdown.)
6. Get a script!!!!
Get SET! After this first round of questions you can choose to take a job or turn it down. Yes, sometimes it's worth it to turn the job down. Now that you have a script, do your first read for pleasure to absorb the themes and style of the writing. Right down a list of questions for your director as well as for your production designer & make-up artist. Theseare the people you are going to want to get in touch with first. Therefore your next round of questions should read:
1. Contact information, director, production design, props, make-up & hair, and ACTORS!
2. Actor sizes
3. Locations (where, logistics...are there changing areas for both men and women? Can you leave things like garment racks and steamers at the location? Will it be lock-up & who has the key? Is there electricity and running water near by? These questions may seem silly but trust me they are not a given. Better safe than sorry)
4. Budget....not just what is it but how do you get it. In a short pre-pro you will need that money right away. This may mean cash! I much prefer the method of prepaid check card therefore I will give the production company a heads up before meeting with them so that they have the time to get one together. Be respectful but never shy when it comes to money. Do not plan on spending your own and getting reimbursed. This is not a good habit to start or to encourage a production company to count on. Even the most reputable places sometimes don't pay-up or pay-up in a timely fashion when you have bills waiting at home. Be SMART! This is a business.
Ok, now that you have all these logistics worked out you can talk to your director about character, theme, etc. and work out any costume tricks or blood formulas with props. A successful production is only as good as the collabortion of it's crew! NOW GO!
Fan Film Days
So a new friend messaged me today to talk costumes and show photos of stuff she has worked on and modeled for. Arose was the topic of a Harley Quinn costume, the DC Comic character in the Gotham Universe. I flashed back to 2005 when I costumed a fan film called "Catwoman: Nine Lives". In less than a month and while working two other jobs I had the task of building a Catwoman, Harley Quinn, Joker, and Batman costume (luckily the cowl & belt we purchased). Director Anthony Fletcher was drawn to Darwyn Cooke's version of Catwoman but allowed me my own creativity and design. For the life of me I can not remember what type of fabric I used for the suit (even aftering many e-mails of film fans inquiring about the material)...but I do remember that it was a matte finish textured vinyl with a stretch backing. Also added were rubber like inserts on the "ribs" of the costume with stitched pin tucks to mimic the rib shape, something I found very sexy about the feline physique. Funny story about this costume is that days into shooting while our actress Meredith Riley Stewart was doing a stunt the crotch seam busted open. Meredith is an amazing professional dancer who can easily lift her leg right up over her head and the costume needed to accomadate her. Once this seam was comprimised it would be very difficult to stitch back up as the needle holes would begin to act as a preforated line. Therefore, I choose to krazy glue the seam shut. Professional vinyl stitchers do you use glues often to create seams but I only had access to krazy glue. Well, it did the job and held for the rest of the shoot.
Read an interview with Director Anthony Fletcher @:
Harley Quinn Costume
Actress: Tara Flynn. Costume is made of lycra and is skin tight. We choose to not put Harley in white face which sparked a lot of discussion after the film was released.
Rita Squitiere, Designer/Stylist.