CapU costuming students read a different kind of bible

How it’s made

Greta Kooy, Campus Life Editor

Nestled in the Bosa Centre are the unsung and industrious students and instructors behind the Costuming for Stage and Screen Diploma program. “It started off between the IATSE, the film and theatre union, who worked with the instructors who created [the program] as a training ground for film and theatre work,” said Charlotte Burke, one of four instructors involved in the program.

Students’ detailed costume work is displayed around campus, most notably outside of the BlueShore Theatre. Examples of their sophisticated costuming can also be found in other areas of the city, such as Vancouver’s YVR airport. The two-year diploma originally began as a certificate program and is still in development to this day.

Burke teaches courses such as Costume History, Wardrobe Management and Cutting & Construction, which she calls “the real nuts and bolts of making costumes.” Burke teaches in the theatre portion of the program, while a colleague, Karen Matthews, guides students through the film costuming section.

The intricate costumes seen around campus and the city, as well as in various productions, are done by students under the mentorship of the instructors. “It’s all about getting those costumes from the designer sketches into the theatre, on the actors and then through the course of the show. It’s all the practical stuff that goes on behind the scenes,” Burke said. Space within the Costuming for Stage and Screen Diploma program is limited, with only 20 first-year students and 15 second-year students being accepted.

“We have a limit, just simply because it’s so hands-on experiential,” said Burke. “We’ve created, as close as we can, a professional environment so that when they go out into the work force it’s recognizable.”

Students applying for the program must come prepared for an interview with a portfolio in hand, but as Burke noted, students with all kinds of skill levels have been accepted. “We do an interview and a portfolio for acceptance, which usually involves just demonstration of some sewing skills. We’ve had students come into the program who don’t know how to sew, we have students who come into the program who’ve been in fashion colleges and already have quite a high level of skills. And then everything in between,” she said.

This program isn’t for the weak, however. It’s very intensive with a heavy course load. “There’s no fooling around here,” laughed Burke.

Students within the program have a lot of responsibilities. Collaborating with the theatre department, CapU’s costuming students outfit two shows each year. Senior students are given the task of cutting patterns and building costumes, with first year students working as construction teams and running crew back stage.

“[Students] are given designs. Either it’s a faculty designer or it is an outside professional who comes in and does all the professional design work, and then a series of sketches are provided to the students to work from,” said Burke. Costuming students work off of what is referred to as “The Bible”, a large book containing all costume design elements for a production.

“We use the terms ‘construction’ and ‘building’ when we talk about making costumes,” said Burke. “We very seldom use the term ‘sewing’, because they have to be made to put up with a lot of abuse on the stage and we make them so that they last decades and decades.” No costume is ever forgotten, and they’re typically stocked and reused from play to play when they can be.

For students working on costume for film, things are a bit different. Second-year students work as designers on the films produced by MOPA students and go through a professional working experience. There, they work with the film creators and directors to determine the wants and needs in terms of costuming.

“The second-years are responsible for designing the shows and then the first-year students are crew, so they work as ‘truck costumers’, which is similar to a Head of Wardrobe in theatre,” said Burke. “That term comes basically from the fact that they’re usually on a truck. The set costumer is the one that’s on set with all the actors.”

The experienced gained through CapU’s Costuming for Stage and Screen Diploma program is certainly a unique one, and many grads have gone on to enjoy many successes. “Our grads have done very, very well,” said Burke. “We’ve had grads that have earned Leo awards, which are BC Film awards for costume.”

CapU students studying outside of the Bosa Centre probably aren’t aware that the costuming program does offer courses they can take, such as Wardrobe Management and History of Costume. Also available at times is Textile Arts for Costumers where students learn, among other things, to properly dye fabrics – a must for all the DIY fanatics out there.

“We do sort of feel like we’re in a bubble up here, and we’re trying to get people to come up to see us,” said Burke. A better time than any is fast approaching with the Apr. 27-28 showcase, which features the incredible work from graduating students of the program. “It’s like a large portfolio show,” said Burke. “It’s a fantastic thing to see.”

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