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Working with Hair, a session at the 2010 Annual Conference in Kansas City, Missouri, showed how intricately work can be done.

Photo/R Finkelstein

Variety Marks Costume Sessions

Carey Hanson
With session reports provided by Marilyn Bertch, Stacey Galloway, Doris Nash, Jessica Thonen, and Amanda Profaizer

Kansas City proved to be a charming host city for the 50th anniversary of USITT. Not only was there great food at a great price, but the downtown historic buildings were inspirational for many who teach period styles in the classroom.

To celebrate the 50th year of USITT, the Costume Design & Technology Commission included several special sessions dedicated to outstanding designers and educators. The Legacy project is a new and exciting addition to the Commission chaired by Cynthia Turnball. This project follows the family tree of costume designers and technologists starting with influential educators and the costume designers and technologists they mentored. The first session of the Legacy project paid tribute to some of the first American costume educators: Lucy Barton, Frank Bevan, and Berniece Prisk. The second session of the Legacy project honored the second generation of costume educators: Barbara and Cletus Anderson, Doug Russell, Paul Reinhardt, and Zelma Weisfeld.

Another special session was 50 Years 50 Costume Designers. This session paid tribute to 50 influential costume designers from the last 50 years. Those on the list of honor ranged from Theoni Alrgide, to Susan Hilferty, to Cathy Zuber. The presenters did a wonderful job providing overviews of the careers of all 50 chosen designers in the allotted time. After the presentation, Costume Commission members were able to meet and greet during the annual reception.

Before the conference officially began, several Costume Commission members took advantage of the Professional Development Workshop Tailoring a 1930s Male Suit presented by British tailor Graham Cottenden. To kick off the conference Ricky Greenwell presented a session Working With Hair. Those who attended loved the hands-on opportunity to ventilate and create a moustache. Another favorite session of the Commission is its version of the popular television show What Not To Wear. This session demonstrates appropriate attire for job interviews. The session also covered other "what not to do's" to be successful in the costume industry. Some of these included padding a resume and speaking ill of previous employers. The presenters also advised attendees on making the right first impression by being prompt, professional, and patient at all times.

Thursday was a busy day for the Costume Commission with lots of offerings for all. The day started off with the very popular Costume Poster Session, a juried presentation of posters with a variety of creative solutions to common costuming problems. This year, members saw a wide range of topics from temporary tattoos to Lexan fairy wings. There were 19 presenters from all over the country who shared their experience and knowledge.

After the Poster Session, many members attended the very informative session on mask making presented by D. Tristan Cupp, James J, Glavan, and Elizabeth Propiel. The next session, Message From a Piece of Cloth, was chaired by Alexandra Bonds. The son of a piano teacher, WSD Gold Medal winner Lin Heng-Cheng, explained that his developed ear contributes to his selection of materials as well as his sensitivity to how the color and shape of things create a certain feeling or emotion. Heng-Cheng emphasized that beauty and appropriate design are not always conventionally beautiful, but rather possess a beauty in their appropriateness, that a disorganized and crumbling space can be beautiful because it communicates the appropriate character and emotion.

For those who love the creative design work in Cirque de Soliel, the last session of the day was not a disappointment. In the session Make-up for Cirque de Soleil, those attending were able to glean tricks and techniques.

The last sessions of the conference were presented on Friday and Saturday. The Alterable Elizabethan Peascod Doublet, chaired by Laurie Kurutz, was the first session on Friday followed by The Future of Ballet Costumes chaired by Kristina S. Hanssen. Costume Commission members were educated on the traditional and modern adaptations of romantic and classic tutu construction. Photographs of costumes from the Houston Ballet were shown as examples of where the future of ballet costume is heading.

Another wonderful opportunity for Costume Commission members interested in international costume design and technology came with the International Workshops through OISTAT. Creative design workshops are offered by OISTAT which gives commission members the chance to be inspired by creative costuming from around the world. This year's meeting covered several of the recent OISTAT events including those held in Romania and Korea.

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