Wednesday, September 7, 2011

Thrifty Costume Design Part VIII: Budget Wrap Up

Measure for Measure closed on Sunday night and  I've been spending the last few days cleaning up and putting things away. (Hence, there was no Thrift Share Monday post this week.) As a wrap up, I'm going to show you today where we landed with Vanessa's costumes and a breakdown of how much each one cost.

Look 1: Dancer & Juliet's Friend.

For the opening sequence of our production, nearly everyone is onstage performing some sort of  action that establishes the world of  our Vienna. Vanessa performs a dance with another actor to represent the passionate sexual underworld.
Because she is appearing as Mariana later I wigged her for her first two looks to distinguish the different characters. I picked out the wig and Gina, our hair and makeup designer, styled and maintained the wig.

Wig:  $0 from Yale (I maintain the wig stock. I says it's free.)
Blouse: $5 rental from Yale
Vest: $5 rental from Yale
Skirt #1 Plaid: $5 from Goodwill
Skirt #2 Black: (Underneath the plaid for fullness) $5 from Goodwill
Boots: $2 rental from Yale
Labor Hours: 30 minutes of pulling from stock and sizing, 30 minutes of shopping, 20 minutes of fitting the costume. (Gina has volunteered her services for the experience so we won't count the wig styling.)
Total Cost: $22
Total Hours: 1 hour 20 minutes

Look 2: Dominatrix


This is a costume for what is literally a 10 second moment on stage. Vanessa enters, whips someone, and exits. It's all a part of  creating the atmosphere of a world on stage. Sometimes coming up with these ideas is exhausting, but it is effective. Vanessa also wears the shorts under the previous costume so that we aren't giving the audience a different kind of show, if you know what I mean.  Note that these are the same boots but with the thigh highs added they look totally different. Also for a 10 second moment, it's not really worth spending the money on a second pair of shoes. Trust me footwear is what makes or breaks a costume budget.

Wig: $0 from Yale
Bustier: $10 rental from Yale
Booty Shorts: $2 rental from Yale
Thigh Highs: $0 provided by me
Gloves: $2 rental from Yale
Choker: $0 provided by Vanessa
Boots: $0 repeated from previous look
Labor: 30 minutes of pulling from stock and sizing, 30 minutes of washing and brushing the wig, 20 minutes of fitting the costume

Total Cost: $14
Total Hours: 1 hour 20 minutes
Look 3: Mariana

See the previous blog entry for more information about her costume. Note that the only major change we made was to use the blouse from the first costume. The Director felt that this one had more sass and I have to agree. It also makes Vanessa's life easier as that's one less thing to keep track of backstage.

Hair band $2.50 from Claires Acessories (Buy 1 Get 1 50% off sale)
Blouse: $0 repeated from previous look
Corset: $10 rental from Yale
Suspenders: $2 rental from Yale
Skirt#1 Red: $5 rental from Yale
Skirt #2 Tan: $5 rental from Yale
Knee socks: $3 Macy's clearance
Bracelets: $2 rental from Yale
Leather for corset lacing: $5 from Joann Fabrics
Labor: 1 hour of shopping, 40 minutes of pulling and sizing, 20 minutes of fitting the costume.
4 hours of work on the corset, this includes attaching the suspenders, building and adding a placket to the area behind the lacing, making bias and attaching it to the edges of the corset. (Fabric was from the costume shop scrap stash. The price for that is included in my shop rental.)
30 minutes of draping the red skirt on a dress form and tacking the swagging in place, also repairs to some closures.
1 hour to hem the brown skirt and tack the zipper in place.
Total Cost: $34.50
Total Labor:  7 Hours and 30 minutes

Grand Total: $70.50
Total Labor: Approximately 10 hours

The stats above are a pretty fair picture of how my costume budget breaks down and how much time is involved. I had 18 actors in Measure for Measure and with the multiple roles some actors were playing, it worked out to be about 30 different costumes for the entire show. (And this is a small Shakespeare!) My budget for the costumes is $2000.00. This averages out to about $66.00 per costume. So with Vanessa I was pretty much on the money. $4 is not a big amount to go over one's estimate, and it's all about give and take. The actor playing Barnadine had only one costume that cost about $40 total, this easily makes up the $4 and then some. As long as I'm keeping vague track of this in my head I don't go over budget.
The hours however are a different story. 10 hours is a fairly high amount to spent on one person's costumes, that's over an average days worth of labor. I find it incredibly hard to estimate how long something is going to take to build or sew. And it can be such a crapshoot. On one show I may pull 10 pairs of pants that are the perfect color and cut and all fit beautifully. (Measure for Measure) On another show, to get the right cut and fit I may have to take in and hem 10 pairs of pants. (Holiday) You just never know until you start looking for clothes. Then all you can do is roll with it.
I would say I'm really good at being judicious about what I can and can't give up. Fitting notes are always prioritized over design notes. Though oddly it's those little design details that make a director and actors happy. When it gets to the crunch of tech I find myself working from both ends of my priority list to meet the middle. The fitting notes actually make the costumes work, while the design details are the thing that makes it look like you actually did something. And jewelry, everyone really likes it when you give them jewelry.

At the end of the show, I went $5 over the $2000 that was allotted to me. (Though, part of my day Monday was spent in a couple of return lines to make that happen.)  As you have seen from my previous Thrifty Costume Design posts, years of doing this job has helped me hone my thrifty hunting and gathering skills. I am proud to say that I am actually known for staying on budget.

I'll be back to regularly scheduled Vintage Spinster business this week. Thanks for following along and for all of the great feedback!

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