The first part of a costume designer’s job at a community theater is always to create the best look for the lowest cost. It is a blessing to work at an organization that is so well established in the community that there is a wealth of raw material. In this particular production, we had several items of “raw material” that fit the lead actress with few modifications.
The donations room had a simple off-white women’s pantsuit, with both the (1980s style) blazer and matching pants fully lined. The jacket had nearly 6 inches extra around the torso for our actress, which gave plenty of room to make design changes. I stared for weeks at the inspiration picture before I had the nerve to actually cut the beautifully made original (even if plain and outdated) blazer. I looked at buttons and black velvet fabric to help see the designer look we needed.
I took one more look at the inspiration picture… and made the first cut into the jacket.
After the cut has been made, I had to step back and inspect the situation. I was able to use the well constructed shoulders and sleeves. A small hem at each wrist would make the finished jacket fit our diminutive diva.
I tried pinning the bottom of the cut off blazer to the top and looked at the inspiration picture and gave it some time. My initial plan had been to move the buttons on the top to create the double breasted fit and gather the old jacket bottom to fit at the waist and flare at the hips like the inspiration picture. It was clear to me that the fabric in the old jacket bottom would simply not be enough. This costume needed to show well from 360 degrees because the actress would be moving and dancing in it. I realized I would need to make a peplum and that I would need to piece together fabric to do that.
In the past I would have made several attempts to draw a pattern and chase the actress during rehearsals to make the test costume fit. With Valentina, I was able to make a pattern for the peplum and adjust it on the screen to make it fit. This was one of my very first real world projects with Valentina and does not show the many capabilities that the program contains. But even the limited portions of Valentina that I used made this costume project a success in the small time I had to work on it.
I cut apart the bottom of the old jacket and cut off the legs of the matching pants. To make this project work, I would need every scrap of fabric. The grain line would be important to making the costume hang well and move with the actress. Attention to detail was important.
After finding all of the pieces of matching fabric I had to work with, it looked like there was enough. Just barely enough. I needed to find a way to piece together an eliptical shape of fabric that had the grain true in the critical places so that the finished garment would hang right. I made a use of Valentina that was probably beyond what the designers had intended. I used it to map my piecing of the fabric. This screenshot shows the final layout I generated.
I used the on screen picture shown to guide me as I planned to piece together the fabric to create the eliptical donut. I created a paper pattern that was the shape of the finished peplum and cut it out of an old sheet and basted it to the jacket top to check fit. Once the concept was proven with the “test peplum”. Then I arranged fabric pieces and cut the paper pattern into segments that matched the available fabric. With some pins to help me keep the grain straight, I was soon able to make pieces with seam allowance and check to see that I had everything ready to sew in place. (I was able to reuse the pieces that had been the lined and faced edges of the original jack to become the left and right edges of the new peplum.) Carefully I made interfacing pieces to match each fabric piece.
After everything was sewn together, I had the actress try it on and I added many velcro fastenings. The velcro makes the on stage change scene a bit more error proof.
The actress wears this well!