Behind the curtain: theater costume


A variety of costumes have been used at Northwest. Seen here are Renaissance dresses, fur coats, and military uniforms.

Emma Welsh, staff writer

Through all the impressive singing and acting during a theater performance, it’s easy to overlook the smaller details. Like how one actor’s tail swishes as if it were real, not just costume. Another has an inhuman, pointed nose, but you can’t tell where the real one stops and the makeup begins. When watching a performance, it’s easy to forget that you share classes with some of the characters on stage.

Theater costume and makeup is not an easy task. Students are trusted to design their characters, and they often have to spend time after school working to perfect them.

The first part of the long and complicated process is finding materials. Theatre teacher Abby Turner said most costumes come from storage or thrift stores.

“When we did Cases of Mistaken Identity, I found hats everywhere,” Turner said. “I actually knew which stores to hit up…If I see something, I remember the store that had it.” But they don’t always purchase costumes. The birds from last year’s Seussical had their tails constructed with wooden looms and individual pieces of tulle.

“I didn’t want to use feather boas,” Turner said. “I didn’t want them stringing down. I wanted them to kind of poof up, but I wanted that to move.”

While costumes are being worked on months beforehand, makeup usually isn’t done until much closer to performance date. Most students bring their own makeup and do it themselves, but Seussical was a different story.

“I had to work on the Who’s noses first, because they had to practice,” junior Emma Fagerberg said. Fagerberg, who has an interest in makeup, assisted the actors’ last year with their outlandish facial features.

“You never stay on one person,” Fagerberg said. “I moved from person to person, doing eyebrows and noses…I also had to set everyone’s makeup.”

Even through all the hard work, some students still struggle with their costumes on stage. Senior Miranda Hatch, who played Mayzie, the extravagant bird in Seussical, recounts the difficulty of playing such a character.

“Every time I sat down, I had to avoid sitting on the tail,” Hatch said. “It would just fall off.”

But after all is said and done, the students are proud to show their work to the audience.

“I think it’s really rewarding,” Turner said. “You work hard, and you’re so zoned in and focused on one item, and then you get to see how it becomes part of the picture…I think there’s something special about seeing your product up in front on an audience.”