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Conference & Stage Expo
For the Record
Costume Design & Technology Programming a Big Success

Kristina Tollefson
Vice-Commissioner for Communications
Costume Design & Technology Commission

Thank you to those who presented at and attended the many wonderful workshops in Toronto. For those unable to join us, here are some highlights from this year's USITT Annual Conference & Stage Expo in Toronto.

Two Professional Development Workshops started the week. The first, Constructing the Professional Classical Tutu, was presented by Caroline O'Brien from the National Ballet School in Toronto. She walked participants through the construction of their own classical tutus. Styling and Maintaining Synthetic and Human Hair Wigs was held at the Canadian Opera Company Wig Studio where Sharon Ryman, the company's head of wigs, led participants through styling techniques on human and synthetic hair wigs.

Costume Design with an International Perspective offered costume design and construction techniques using paper. Pirjo Valinen discussed how to laminate paper to fabric, the considerations of cut and fit, and how to dye laminated papers. Linda Sparks presented a detailed session on the Basics of Period Underwear illustrating the differences between several corset and petticoat styles as well as other types of undergarments worn with corsets.

At the Costume Design & Technology Commission meeting, members networked and received updates on the summer symposium, Working and Shopping In New York and all of the other active commission projects. One member called it an important and eye-opening introduction.

The Poster Session gave people an opportunity to interact with 18 presenters each offering a new discovery, product, or technique. Topics ranged from wigs made of fabric, to the variety of uses for a fabric-tagging gun, to eighteenth century shoes made from cowboy boots. Projects for Teaching Costume Design and Technology presented a variety of creative projects under review for the next volume of this USITT publication. The editors are still accepting projects and encourage members to submit teaching ideas through the Costume Design & Technology web site.

Gweneth West, Laura Crow, Marianne Custer, and Susan Tsu discussed design processes in Developing the Costume Idea. The panelists led the group in a discussion of A Midsummer Night's Dream and incorporated a gallery of inspirational images. The session was described as a highlight of a fantastic week. Many participants displayed their quick costume sketches on the Stage Expo floor and received valuable feedback from the panelists.

The fire alarms didn't keep the panelists presenting Training Wardrobe Technicians from discussing the impact a positive attitude or the establishment of a standard basic skills set for entry level costume positions. Participants were introduced to a non-threatening approach for creating a digital portfolio in Online Portfolios: Where do I Start?

Lots of pictures and examples accompanied the presentation Topography of the Body: Fitting Slopers for All Sizes and Body Types. In this session, the audience was introduced to period sloper fitting on contrasting body types and builds. Many took a trip back in time during Costume Design in the 19th Century where they were introduced to the B.J. Simmons Collection in the Harry Ransom Research Center at the University of Texas at Austin. Visual images of costume designs of the past illustrated the presentation.

During An Afternoon with Willa Kim, the audience was enthralled listening to Ms. Kim share stories of her life, her beginnings as an artist, her introduction to costume design, and her work with many well-known people such as Karinska, Julie Andrews, and Bob Fosse. This delightful session was followed by a wonderful reception where members were able to meet Ms. Kim and enjoy an evening of food and networking.

Make-up for Theatre, Film, and Fashion was an amazing demonstration of a variety of techniques by some of Canada's leading professionals and instructors. Ms. Kim returned to join Caroline O'Brien and Richard Schurkamp for Dance Costumes in a High Tech World where the panel discussed the evolution of dance costumes from the 19th century and gave slide show examples of some of their work. Programming wrapped up with Common Language for Designers where a panel of designers from various fields led an open discussion on creating a common language for all areas of design. While no conclusions were drawn, a lively debate gave all involved something to think about.

Programming is already in place for Louisville in 2006 and we are looking forward to Phoenix in 2007. To share an idea for a programming session for Phoenix, contact Joel Ebarb at

Thank you to Donna Conrad, Andrea Gross, Stephanie Shaw, Esther Iverson, Sarah Anderson, Judy Holland, Jane Wilder, Marilyn Skow, Lisa Conley, and everyone who provided feedback during the conference.

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Wigs, and more wigs were part of the special Professional Development Workshop sponsored by the Costume Design & Technology Commission in Toronto this past March. Photo/Casey Kearns