The Costumes of Year of the Horse
We had the pleasure of sitting down with Natalie Purschwitz to talk about designing the costumes for Year of the Horse: The Completely Fictional Adventures of Josephine Baker.
We asked Natalie a to explain a few things about the costumes, hoping to give you, our audience, a better taste for what goes into the process of taking one’s idea of a show, ensuring all the technicalities are taken care of, production of each piece, and on-site work. Here’s what we got back from Natalie:
Tell us about designing costumes for Year of the Horse:
I feel like I’ve been in a costume vortex! Haha. When I say costume vortex, I really mean that. Designing and constructing costumes for DJD is a complicated process, as anyone who has seen a DJD show can imagine. They are a very physical company – rolling around on the ground, jumping over mechanical horses, throwing each other through the air, stepping on each other, and of course, sweating profusely.
These things all need to be taken into consideration when designing and making the costume pieces.
What is your thought process? What are you thinking when you go to create such beautiful works?
Some questions that come to mind are:
- Will this piece get caught on anything?
- Do the shoes have the right amount of slip vs grip?
- How can we cover the shoes without affecting the grip factor?
- How will this skirt stay in place but be easily removable and replaceable quickly and in total darkness?
- How will the horns be removed from the headpieces in order to wash the skull-caps every night? (an engineering feat, if I do say so myself!)
- Not to mention fit, wearability, comfort, washability etc…
What about on-site? Tell us how everything comes together.
For those who have already seen the show, you will know that when you see all of the costumes together on the drying rack at the end of the day, there’s not much there!
Anne Nguyen, the Head of Wardrobe for this show, relayed a funny moment to me on the evening of dress rehearsal. She said that Monty Schneider, the Production Manager for the show, came by wardrobe, saw the rack of tiny costumes and asked, “How can you possibly still be sewing?” We both had to laugh – we’d been working 15 hour days all week and eating standing up, not to mention the weeks of 12 hour days leading up to it. It is truly impossible to explain how much work goes into something that looks so insubstantial unless you’ve been there and done it.
Anne, put countless hours into making all of the dancers’ look and feel fantastic in their costumes – making sure the bras fit perfectly with no danger of inadvertent accidents, making sure that each piece fit each dancer exactly in the right way.
Any advice for other costumer designers, then?
It could probably be said that the smaller the costume, the more work that has to go into engineering it!
Overall, how do you feel about the results?
I am so happy with the results, though, and it is so rewarding to see it all come together. I love to design costumes for Kim Cooper and I feel that this is a particularly beautiful show. I feel lucky to have been involved.