Sunday, June 22, 2014

What's In My Apron

To those who are unfamiliar with the world of costuming, I would like to shed some light on what I do exactly. My job requires that I stay 'on my toes', even if that means, 'hurrying up and waiting'. I work directly with the costumes and with the performers. I assist in helping the talent put the costumes on & take them off. Some of the costumes can be very intricate & require an extra hand. This is to protect the integrity of the garment and in some cases get the performer on stage as quickly as possible.

Today, I want to share with you the tools of my trade. It's very important to come prepared to work. Each day can be different in the set of tasks that's performed. However, the job is always to make sure the costume & the performer looks good.

What's in my apron....

My apron, at the moment, has the bare necessities. These are the items I use on a regular basis. If I don't have these items readily available, it could mean making a performer late for their queue.

Be prepared for anything to happen. When you're not prepared, then the worst could happen. Your next project / job could reflect how well you're prepared in the job you're currently performing. Having an apron is essential. I'm constantly stuffing things in my pockets. I only have two hands. Having an apron allows me to carry bits and pieces on top of hauling an arm full of garments. 

These are just a few items I use on a daily basis. 
  • Small notepad and pen (pencil can be great because you don't run the risk of accidentally marking a garment) Having a sharpie & highlighter on hand is essential. 
  • Safety Pins. I keep them pinned at the bottom of my apron for quick access. Nothing is more aggravating than digging in my pockets for a pin.
  •  Multi-tool.  Pliers & small knife can be useful for stubborn zippers and faulty hardware.
  • Small extra sharp scissors. I have an extra sharp point on my scissors. It's served me well in last minute situations where I need to make a small snip on a costume that a performer is wearing. It's very important to develop safe habits. When you're not using the scissors, even for a second, always put the safety cap back on. No one likes blood, especially on the costumes. It's also good to have clear communication with the performer you're dressing. They may not be aware that you have a sharp object pointing at them. 
  • Seamstress tape and measuring tape. That may seem redundant, but I assure you, having both is helpful. I like having both options because measuring tape is stiff, where as seamstress tape is flimsy. It's important to NOT roll or fold seamstress tape because it'll curl & crease easily. Take care of your seamstress tape and it'll be easier to work with. It's not a cliche' to have your seamstress tape hang from your neck like an open scarf. In fact, it serves two purposes being there. It's easy access and protects the tape. Always remember safety. Depending on the task, having something dangling from your neck can be dangerous. 
  • Seam Ripper. This may seem redundant to the small sharp scissors. There's been plenty of times where I've found myself using my small scissors instead of a seam ripper. However. a seam ripper is still a tiny blade. There will be times where a seam ripper is needed because the scissors are too big.
  • Pin Cushion / Pins / Needles: I love using a curved needle on everything. It's my personal preference because I'm able to work faster with one, especially on buttons. Be mindful of how much is in your pin cushion & how you're sticking them in. Again, safety first. Also, it's good practice to not have a lot of needles with thread still attached stuffed in the cushion. That's a good way of making a tangled mess. You'll spend more time fumbling with a nest of pins & thread than performing the needed task. 
  • Flash Light: I have two lights. I carry a head light. You can find these in sporting good section. I also use a small hand held flash light. Having good lighting can speed up the process of a task. Even if I'm in a well lit room, sometimes a flash light is used if I can't see down into a garment, especially if I'm having to look for something that is tiny or hard to reach. 

Of Course, there are more supplies needed for the job. A lot of the stuff I use is supplied by the show. It's good form to always be prepared, even if you suspect that everything will be provided. It'll show your level of professionalism in demonstrating good habits. Good habits can mean better opportunities. 

Wednesday, October 23, 2013

The Psycho Seamstress

Meet Gina Van Epps, AKA: Psycho Seamstress. Armed with a wicked sense of style and the skills to go with it, this New Yorker has created quite the name for herself. I got the privilege of sitting down with the A-list designer at her studio in Orlando to discuss her work. 

"As a professional "A List" wardrobe seamstress, I am grateful to say, I am living my dream! It sounds like a glamorous job, I get paid to play in the touring closets of some of the top names in music. Realistically, my job includes everything from doing laundry, steaming, ironing, picking lint, cleaning and polishing shoes, repairing and altering costumes, taping boobs and butts to prevent wardrobe malfunctions, helping sweaty people peel out of soaked costumes and cram them into the next one, in fire drill fashion and spraying worn garments with vodka while resisting the urge to add orange juice and drink the leftovers. I can't lie, it's a blast!"

Q: When did you get your start as a professional seamstress? 

A: My little Italian Grandmother started teaching me how to knit, sew and crochet about the age of 8. 
The ONLY official sewing class I've ever taken was in High School Home Economics class.
Everything after that was self taught and learning by watching and working with others, 
doing research on techniques and reading books. After High School I started making my own clothes,
when other people asked where I got my outfit, when I told them I made it, they wanted me to make something
for them. Then, it was by word of mouth. In about 2009 I started using the name Psycho Seamstress and started
a MySpace and later a Facebook page. I also started advertising on Craig's List, which remains a steady source
of work. My first A List wardrobe gig was when AEG needed a seamstress for a week of rehersals when
"So You Think You Can Dance" was launching their tour from Orlando. After that I began picking up all of the 
A List Artists that came through the Amway Arena and then also started working at other major concert venues on request. 

Q: How long did it take for you to become established?

A: I really began making a name for myself in late 2011 on the A List circuit, by 2013 I was getting enough work
to quit my day job. In June, I found studio space near downtown Orlando and opened the only Fashion Design House in 
Orlando, to my knowledge. By October I became booked thru January and had enough work to fund a partner full time. 

Q: How would you describe yourself as a designer?

A: I am not so much a "sit around and doodle stuff, then make it" type of Designer. My entire career thus far has
been about taking the concepts of my clients and working with them to create the design they have in their mind. 
Everything I do is custom and made to order. I don't really aspire to have factories making 1,000's of my designs, 
I would rather have 1,000 people wearing the one thing I made special for them. 

Q: How many hours is a 'typical' work day for you?

A: On an average day, I try to be up and dressed and in my studio by noon and I will often work until about 2 in the morning. When there is a time crunch, deadline or concert tour, I my average work day is about 16 hours.

Q: What are your responsibilities on any given day? 

A: On a daily basis I meet and talk with clients, designers & seamstresses, work on design concepts and measure people I am making garments for. I spend time figuring out the engineering on how certain projects will need to be constructed, which sometimes requires some trial and error. I am frequently shopping for fabric and notions. I also do a lot of research and update my social media late into the night, For example, right now it's 1:20 am. The late hours of the night are really a very creative and productive time for me. During the day I get a lot of phone calls and interruptions that don't happen as often at night except from my other night owl friends!

Q: Other than sewing, what are some important skills to have when doing this line of work?

A: For me, it has been fortunate that I have spent a great deal of time in Sales and Marketing which has allowed me to become shameless at promoting myself. My background in Management of everything from projects to personnel helps me choose the right clients, coworkers and keep projects on timeline and budget. I have also done accounting, managed contracts and worked a lot in customer service, retail fashion, visual merchandising and I am also an artist, so I do paint a lot in my fashion. My 27 year background in the music business has also come into play. I have been able to combined many of the things I love to do in serving my clients.

Q: Your job requires you to work with all types of people, including celebrities. What sort of problems do you face & how do you handle them?

A: I would have to say that the biggest thing to remember when working with celebrities is that contrary to popular belief, I can't just stroll up to them and ask for a photo, autograph, tickets to their show or other perk. In fact, I would likely get fired on the spot. A lot of things happen backstage that expose you to their personal life, their friends, their family and so on. You've been allowed to get close to someone who thousands of fans would pay big money to experience. You've got to respect that celebrities confidence in you. In doing that you can earn a reputation as being trustworthy, once that has been established in conjunction with a being able to provide onsite services, then you've got yourself a career. 

Q: What advice would you give to someone who is interested in pursing a career in wardrobe, but doesn't know where to begin? 

A: I would say learn some basic sewing skills and then get in contact with your local school, college or theater program. You may need to start out as a volunteer, but get all the experience you can. Once you have accomplished that start using social media to highlight your work. Here is an article on my blog about how to promote your self and your work for FREE!

Q: What is something you would share about your job that most people wouldn't know about?

A: I would have to say that living their dreams is not something many people are willing to choose for themselves. I got to a point in my life, when I realized how easy it was for me to make money for other people. How easy it was for me to believe in their company, their skills, their products and sell to their customers. I had people telling me how talented I was, I saw people making money doing what I wanted to do and realized there was room in there for me. Taking a leap of faith, quitting my day job and investing in my own hopes and dreams was the best decision I have ever made in my life. Finally I am doing something on purpose with intent and not just letting life happen to me. 2013 has been an amazing year for me. I am surrounded by people who are talented, creative and inspired by my vision. I wake up every morning excited about my day and I look forward to being in an environment that brings art, music, dance, performance, acting, props, set design and entertainment to a higher level. I like being a part of that. It is artistic expression and fulfilling to help someone else bring their vision from concept to creation. 

If you would like to know more information about Psycho Seamstress, you can follow her on Facebook @ PsychoSeamstress

Friday, May 24, 2013

Universal Entertainment's Annual Golden Woody Awards 2013 Gown Ideas

This is an exclusive award ceremony that commemorates those in entertainment at Universal Orlando. This will be my first time attending & it means a great deal to me. This year's theme is Film Noir. I drew fashion inspiration from my favorite actress, Kate Winslet. I've pretty much decided on the dress, but I thought it would be fun to tantalize you with options. Feel free to leave a comment if there is a particular dress you like/don't like.
2013 Universal Studio's Woody Awards

A Year in the Life: Backstage to Onstage

Are you curious to know what it's like behind the scenes at Universal Entertainment? Now you can see this rare opportunity at the Orange County Regional Historical Center in Orlando. The exhibit walks you through the various stages of show production, from concept to production. You'll get to see up close design sketches, face molds, costumes & more. The exhibit changes with the season, detailing the current event taking place at Universal Orlando.

Saturday, May 4, 2013

Katy Perry's Peppermint Dress

Recreated Katy Perry's Peppermint dress from her California Dreams World Tour.

FX artist, Skeet Karsgaard making the candy pieces for the costume

If you are interested in making this dress as well,. you can check out my progress photos, click on the link below