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Kate Ellis, Jeff Lieder, and Bill Black discuss secrets of tailoring at the 2006 Costume Symposium held at the Utah Shake-spearean Festival on the campus of Southern Utah University in Cedar City, Utah.

Photo/Judy Adamson


Symposium Reveals
Tailoring Secrets

Melissa Merz
Head of Design, Texas Tech University

During the Costume Design & Technology Commission's general meetings at the USITT annual Conference & Stage Expo, there is usually a report on the Costume Symposium from that summer. As soon as the topic is announced, members who have attended previous symposiums exchange looks and laughter.

After attending the 2006 symposium, the reason for the reaction became clear. The symposium, "A Master Class in Tailoring Techniques for Men's Wear," was filled with amazing instruction, presented by great hosts, in a beautiful setting, and included wonderful entertainment.

Susan Davis, Laurie Kurutz, and Jeff Lieder (who also led the 2003 Costume Symposium) were on hand to host the event at the Utah Shakespearean Festival on the campus of Southern Utah University in Cedar City, Utah. With 45 people attending two sessions, Ms. Davis and Ms Kurutz certainly had their hands full of anxious listeners. After introductions, the session started with a couple of basic instructions including materials and thread marking. Participants then jumped right in with the breast pocket.

Along with complete written instructions on a welt pocket, Ms. Kurutz and Ms. Davis provided suggestions and hints. Participants appreciated the extra tricks the instructors shared that have worked for them. With all of the preparation done by Mr. Lieder and the crew at the festival, participants were able to choose if they wanted to put the pocket into the coat front, or do a sample first. With this option, anyone who wasn't sure of their skill level could ease into the experience.

As the day went on, there were more "ah-ha" moments involving use of tailor's tape, roll lines, and pad stitching. While the first day was a bit longer than others, no one minded. In fact, most would have gladly stayed longer. Most showed up early the next morning to get a start on the day.

A tour of the various stages and storage started the second day. Ms. Kurutz then continued instruction on saddle back finishing and how to construct the back of the coats. Along with personalized instruction from both Ms. Kurutz and Ms. Davis, the day flew by too quickly. The evenings brought a treat with a selection of shows to choose from.

Day three involved more detailed instruction on sleeves and collars. For all participating, this day brought amazing hints of how to get the fine, professional look everyone desires.

In addition to the creative stitching, participants were treated to the uses of several different suit "guts," or interfacings. While making suit fronts, sleeve headers, etc., participants were also shown how to use pre-made items. This left the participants with choices of what they wanted to practice in the future depending on time allowed. Based on the options, participants could decide whether to complete the coat for a finished garment or use it for classes and instruction.

Participants came from all over the country and represented all aspects of costuming. Ms. Davis, Ms. Kurutz, and Mr. Lieder were kept busy handling all the details and instruction for the participants. Much is owed to Mr. Lieder and his staff at Utah Shakespearean Festival. All had a wonderful time and gained great knowledge about tailoring.

For more photos of the sessions click here.

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