Within these pages you will find the best top tips from a cross-section of today’s top costuming experts. Some specialise; some are skilled in many historical periods. Some make whole outfits; some specialise in corsetry or millinery. Some are professional, working on individual bespoke outfits for private customers or on whole theatrical, TV or film productions; some are dedicated, experienced amateurs. Although they all have prior experience of teaching or answering questions from less experienced designers, makers and seamstresses, none can ever remember having been directly asked to cut to the chase.
I know making that leap took forever for me, and it made all the difference when I did.
Kendra Van Cleave
None of them have ever been asked the most probing questions: What is the one thing that sets your work apart from the average costuming effort? What do you wish someone had told you when you were just off the starting blocks, trying to improve, trying to find a way to make professional-quality costumes?
Well, this article dares to ask those most challenging, most basic, most cheeky of questions, knowing that we were all there once, struggling to escape the “home-made” look. Our writer Kendra Van Cleave says it best: “I know making that leap took forever for me, and it made all the difference when I did.”
Now, for the first time you’ll get to pick all of our brains as we get down to the core of the issue, the brass tacks: in a few pages, you will know the most important things that a budding costume designer or seamstress must know in order to make the leap from amateur-quality, home made results to stunning, couture-quality work.
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Congratulations: you are about to take your favourite pastime to a new level!
Costuming is not a precise science. Every expert has her own way of doing things, and you must remember, when reading the following collection of keys to your success, that these are not commandments, handed down from on high for you to ignore at your peril.
These tips are the product of years of experience; they demonstrate not what "must" be done but what works for these costumers every day, and we invite you not only to try them and use them, but to vary and improve upon them.
I have collated the contributions of all the other experts into fourteen overall keys to costuming success, and then added my own comments and interpretations below.
I invite you to read these steps, print them out, try them, use them, work with them, and see what works for you.