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March 17, 2011 - Image 12

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The Michigan Daily, 2011-03-17

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2B Thursday, March 17, 2011

Fashion Issue // Thursday March 17, 2011 7B
Laying out clothing on the printed page

Staging fashion with costume design

Two v
"Little W
the Walg
with the
ing profe
gloves, fu
for the fo
ner of the
closet te
ing gold
fine and
full, soph
and swe
wears th
her child
rie, hers:
big 'S w
Music, T
piece of 1
dles. Am
"built" -
from scr

artists who move "I was so disappointed when I
found how quick this scene is, how
hrough time and little stage time the dress is going
to get," he said. "But if the audi-
e using clothing ence doesn't gasp when it comes on,
I won't notice because I'll gasp loud
By ERIKA JOST enough for everyone."
Daily Arts Writer Davis's attachment to his work
is understandable. As the costume
eeks before the opening of designer, his role is to support the
Vomen," the costume shop in story on stage through dress and
reen Drama Center hummed color. Combining considerations of
activity of "stitchers" (sew- period and character, Davis uses
essionals) working on laced fashion to construct a world on stage.
ill skirts and bowed bonnets And, if he is successful, the audience
'ur March sisters. In the cor- can be transported to that world too.
e shop, near the end of a long After determining the "silhou-
eming with 1860s-inspired ette" - the line, size and general
splendor, hung two match- shape of the clothing - that was
dresses - golden fabric is specific to the 1860s, Davis manipu-
detailed, skirts long and lated the fashion to reveal traits of
isticated jacket lined with a the characters. For instance, Amy's
slored ruffle. clothes are pink, "girlier" than her
the youngest of the sisters sisters'. Her dresses are full and
et ingenue in the opera, long, while Jo's one dress is plain and
is dress when she returns to utilitarian, with a smaller silhouette
hood home married to Lau- than Amy's.
ister Jo's first love. "Jo just doesn't care about fash-
dress communicates Amy's ion," Davis said as, like a proud father,
on' to Jo," said School of he absent-mindedly patted Jo's skirt
heatre & Dance senior Corey on the stitcher's mannequin.
Meg, the oldest sister who gets
is the costume designer married early in the opera, is the
ble for every skirt, bow and most matronly. Davis dressed the
ace under the stitchers' nee- character in green, as a reference to
y's gold dress is one Davis motherly fertility. He signified the
that is, designed and made perpetual innocence of Beth, the
atch. frail sister who never matures, with

a shortened skirt more suited to run-
ning and playing outside than attend-
ing the society functions her sisters
grow to enjoy.
"You can tell beautiful, quiet,
detailed stories with that kind of
detail," said Christianne Myers,
assistant professor of theater in
MT&D. "You can make all those real-
ly specific character-driven, circum-
stance-driven choices and apply it to
a period."
Like Davis's gold revelation, Myers
has made her share of gasp-induc-
ing outfits. For a 2001 production of
"Hair" at the Bay Street Theatre in
Sag Harbor, New York, she created
a single red metallic stretch dress
worn by three Supremes-inspired
characters as they sang and danced.
one character wore the center tube
dress, flanked by the others who
each wore one sleeve. The dress got a
round of applause.
"And it should," Myers said. "But
you don't always want the clothes
talking about themselves."
As Myers suggests, not every cos-
tume is meant to be a showstopper.
In period pieces like "Little Women"
and "Hair," the audience cannot help
but notice and admire the costumes.
But for every three-person dress,
there are countless scenes in which
a T-shirt and jeans should say what-
ever a T-shirt and jeans can say, and
then move on.
For this reason, Myers stresses the

importance of costumes that look
authentic and wearable.
"I usually talk about them like
clothes, not costumes," she said.
"Regardless of period, in the world
we're creating, these are the clothes
they would wear. Even though we
never see it, there's a closet some-
where, a theoretical closet that this
was pulled from."
So when we see Amy's gold dress,
we don't just see a beautiful costume.
We see Amy's newfound wealth,
we see what success looks like for a
woman of that time period and we
see young Amy perhaps showing off
a little to her family. With one outfit,
we get an explanation of plot, his-
torical context and the character's
The process of designing "Little
Women" began last summer, when
Davis received and read the script. He
researched fashion from the 1860s,
compiling his findings in a book in
which he also drew his designs. Now,
he keeps the book at hand in the cos-
tume shop while he and his stitchers
fit costumes.
After researching, Davis spent
months gathering material and
accessories from stores in Royal Oak
and Chicago, finding suitable cos-
tumes from rental houses around the
country and organizing the items,
like petticoats and men's hats, that
the school already had in the cos-
tume shop.

"Art is less than half the job,"
Myers said, saying budget issues,
time frame limitations and the chal-
lenge of effective communication are
equally trying concerns.
In one of her first experiences
working with a cast for whom "acting
was their day job," the director cut a
dress she had "built," a first for her.
The production was a re-imagining
of "Oedipus," written and directed by
Dare Clubb, for the Blue Light The-
atre Company in New York.
"I had to leave the theater and
walk around the block," she said.
"The biggest lesson I learned was
that yes, I need to invest, but I have
to be able to let go."
It also helped that Frances McDor-
mand ("Fargo"), one of the actors
who was to wear the dress, liked the
garment so much she took it home.
Whether designing for a modern
show or a period piece like "Little
Women," costume designers use
the same principles to breathe life
into the world in the theater. In the
right hands, we can be as taken away
by a simple dress meant to fade into
the background - like the dress for
"Oedipus" - as by Amy's charmed
When asked what kind of show is
her favorite, Myers responded "the
one I'm working on."
But surely it doesn't hurt when
the audience gasps in awe when your
gold dress waltzes on stage.

Visuals and styling
are key for 'U' fashion
magazine Shei
Daily Arts Writer
Magazines. We find them all around
us, whether in doctors' waiting rooms,
drugstore shelves and bookstores; we
can't help but browse through our favor-
ite semi-glossy pages and feel a tinge of
happiness. Though we may flip through a
magazine and enjoy looking at the photos
adorned with gorgeous models in equally
gorgeous clothing, we can't fully appre-
ciate a publication without an under-
standing of how much work and effort
goes into every detail of every page.
Magazines act as outlets to showcase
specific ideas to niche markets. And
while there are many different kinds of
magazines out there, fashion publica-
tions often seem to be on the forefront of
people's minds. This might be due to their
strong emphasis on visuals, driving and
presenting trends that we see every day
through editorial spreads and storylines.
"We are constantly surrounded by
fashion. We are constantly exposed
to inspiration," said LSA junior Grace
Grande-Cassell, fashion editor of the
University-published fashion magazine
Though some believe fashion is highly
superficial, it's often taken for granted
that it's an art.
"It's actually very cultural," said LSA
sophomore Jess Linton, Shei's assistant
fashion editor.
According to Linton, magazines them-
selves are an accessible and relatable art
form to display and distribute the cre-
ativity of clothing.
"You can just pick one up. You don't
have to go to an art gallery or a showing,"
she said.
Though most of us don't have the avail-
ability to jet-set to major fashion capitals
like New York and Milan, magazines can,
in a way, allow us to sit front row at inter-
national Fashion Weeks alongside the
rich and famous.
What distinguishes fashion magazines
from other publications is their qual-
ity of pictorial content. More than any-
thing, the pictures in a fashion magazine
tell the story. Though written work is an
important component in any magazine,
the images are what make people want
to read it.
"Even if (an) article is really interest-
ing - it may be the best-written article
in the world, but if the graphic qual-
ity doesn't look up to par with that, then
nobody's going to want to read it," said
Architecture senior and Shei design edi-

tor Jackie Kow.
Fashion magazines have the ability to
pull together a number of diverse design-
ers and looks to create a cohesive spread
that can influence what we wear every-
day. As a visual culture, we are natu-
rally attracted to beautiful things, and
magazines, with all their perfectly posed
shots and fantasy settings, become the
aesthetically pleasing entity we strive to
"Unlike photojournalism, you can't
shoot how it is," said Art & Design junior
Mai Truong, design director at Shei.
"With fashion, you create it yourself. It
takes time and effort."
Photography is what drives the fash-
ion business. A person flipping through
the pages of a beautiful magazine spread
who sees a dress, shirt or piece of jew-
elry that he or she likes might be more
inclined to buy that article of clothing, or
something from the same designer.
Fashion photography usually takes
into account two things: background
and design. Shei stages its photo shoots
in an assortment of places, ranging
from a white-walled studio to graffiti-
filled buildings in Detroit. But the most
important part of a fashion photo is
still the designs that it shows. Though
Shei doesn't have a huge fashion closet
available, as some of the major publica-
tions like Vogue and Elle do, it's OK - its
staffers make do with the local designers
and stores, like Bivouac, The Getup and
"We don't do a whole lot of avant-garde
pieces - you know, high-fashion things.
They're sort of more wearable with sort
of a couture flare," Grande-Cassell said.
According to Grande-Cassell, Shei
staff members
even use clothing
from their personal
closets for photo
shoots. This diver-
sifies the magazine
even further.
The literary edi-
tor of Shei, LSA
senior Bridget Bod- CLOSE TO U
nar, describes the NORTH CAD
magazine's look
as "do-it-yourself" AFFORDABLE
and youthful. Ann - ONSHUT'
Arbor has a good BUS ROU
mix of high and
low fashion with
stores like Poshh,
which carries
designer jeans and
dresses, to vintage
and consignment mich stuc
shops like Star Vin-
tage. The magazine housing
takes these two
types of fashion 7 .
and combines them

into a cohesive style that looks like a mil-
lion bucks - this is what we call the art of
fashion and styling.
Grande-Cassell understands that Ann
Arbor is not the conventional center for
fashion, but still feels the University is
worthy of a fashion publication.
"Obviously, we have people from all
over the world, and so they contribute to
a lot of different looks you see on cam-
pus," she said. "I think that Ann Arbor
is more artistically inclined than a lot of
places, so I think people are more accept-
ing as well."
But just a few striking photographs of
interesting looks and styling does not a
magazine make. Magazines need a back-
bone - and that's where layout comes
into play.
Accordingto most of the Sheistaff, the
layout of the magazine is just as impor-
tant as the photos it holds.
"Layout is like putting together a book
and telling a story," Kow said.
Like every shoot they contain, fashion
magazines have many different compo-
nents that have to come together to make
sense. Once all these pieces fit together,
a final product makes its way onto our
Though some people may believe it is
fickle and shallow, the fashion magazine
culture has large effects on our everyday
lives. The publication with pages of pho-
tos of gorgeous models clad in stunning
pieces of clothing is not just a tactile enti-
ty - it is a presentation of a lot of work,
effort and creativity.
Daily Arts Writer Will Defebaugh
is the creative director of Shei, but
did not take part in this story.

Shei fashion show in Russell Bazaar during the Detroit People's Art Festival.



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