June 2012

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June 2012

Costume Design & Technology Commission

Swimsuits, Dentures, Posters – Oh, My!

Esther Van Eek, Linda Pisano, Mary McClung, and MC Friedrich

This year’s conference in Long Beach, California did not disappoint. The California location lent itself to several specialty sessions that are not the usual fare.

The very first Costume Design & Technology Commission session for Annual Conference & Stage Expo was totally fitting to a few days in the California sun. Howard Kurtz and Kathleen Donnelly took members through a tag-team history of swimwear from the Victorian Age to the present making note of significant style, social, and fabrication developments along the way. They showed the development of a costume made specifically for swimming and/or relaxing on the beach.

In the case of the tightly corseted, heavily wool-encased women of the age, Ms. Donnelly proved that not entering the water was the wiser choice. The presenters had a captivating collection of photos and sketches which illustrated their timeline. They moved from male to female, and back to male again, showing how innovations were driven by the changes in men's swimwear. They wrapped up the session sharing photos of themselves modeling fashionable swimwear on the beach. A bonus book giveaway to 30 lucky winners set the tone at Long Beach.
Another costume session on opening day was Digital Printing and Printing for Fabric. This was a thorough overview and included the diverse backgrounds and experience of the presenters who were educators, crafts artisans, textile specialists, and Disney's sublimation specialists. Pros and cons were covered in the areas of aesthetics, flexibility of using custom designs, cost for the designer on a restrictive budget, and potential future uses in theatre and entertainment industries. Software, color correction requirements, dyes for print, and the range of fabric types were also outlined.

The session ended with a fun and exciting surprise from the Disney presenters when they provided custom mugs and Mickey Mouse shaped swatches to participants. Chair of the session was Jan Chambers and presenters included Holly Poe Durbin, Benda Mercure, Naomi Yoshida, and Anne Porterfield.

International Resources and Opportunities Part One and Two were also enjoyed by many Commission members. Part One detailed the career of Desmond Heeley. The presentation, given by the curator of Mr. Heeley’s collection at Notre Dame, covered his work spanning well over 55 years. The session focused on Mr. Heeley’s changing rendering styles, his mentors and collaborators, and the productions for which he designed. Of special interest was the description of how designers work. Part Two covered a virtual interactive exhibit at Prague based loosely on the Insect Play by Karl and Joseph Kapek.

Creating Dentures and Contact Lenses was presented by Todd Debrechini and included two ophthalmologists who discussed the importance of proper fit of contact lenses and the damage if not done correctly. The session covered the range of optional looks when creating dentures and the pros and cons of wearing them, as well as the range of styles of contacts out there and the wonderful effects of changing the eye. An added bonus was information concerning details of the sclera and retinal lenses.

One of the most popular sessions each year is the Costume & Technology Commission Poster Session. This year's session included 23 poster presentations viewed by over 280 conference participants. The 2012 posters ranged from the high tech — "Digital Costume Collection," "Electroluminescent Wire," and "3D Modeling" — to the ancient — "Kathakali Costume" and "Victorian Mourning Jewelry"; from the practical — "Tag Gun Solutions" and "Accessory Storage" — to the fantastic — "A Chorus of Stones" and "Frostbite Gloves This was the first year that all the "handouts" were digital. In fact, all 16 years’ worth of handouts will soon be available online.

USITT members can look forward to a shift in the weather as they head next year to Milwaukee, Wisconsin for the 53rd Annual Conference & Stage Expo.