Design on a dime

UVU’s costume design has a unique and affordable program. Students do not have to go to expensive design schools to get the initial training in the art of costume design to become successful.

Small design classes offer each individual close mentoring while working on several designs. Carla Summers, a well-liked teacher here on campus, guides her students with teamwork and collaboration on various projects. This semester, the 12 students in her class are assigned a twofold project to reach the ultimate experience of teamwork and clothing design.

Summers chose the musicals Aida and Pippin this year, and each student picks one or the other to direct their specific style of design for the show. Everyone also gets to be the student following through on somebody else’s design ideas for one of the two shows. Students direct and delegate their style of the chosen project to a student on one hand and then with the other hand, they design another student’s project.

Sound complicated? Read it again, the idea is brilliant. It balances the program so that teamwork and directing can be simultaneously experienced and gives the students as much hands-on training as possible. The training consists of drawing all the costumes for each character in the play and presenting it on a storyboard as well as completing a costume on the drawing, cutting and sewing tables.

Along with this classwork, students have senior projects which allow for an opportunity to design and sew costumes with Summers’ guidance for a UVU play. Summers loves to “recreate history,” and the upside of this costume shop concept is that all the theatre students have an opportunity to get hands-on training to sew and learn what it really takes to create a whole show. The Theatre Arts Education major requires certain amount of hours in this collaborative effort, and thankfully, the program is small enough that these students can be accommodated. There is much to say for the right class size in design and education.

For Summers, it may mean some 60 hour work weeks, but she really loves her job. “The purpose of the show is to enhance the character or to help the actor portray the character,” she said. And it is all done in a friendly atmosphere — the costume shop is a hang-out place for students, a home away from home while the sewing machines are buzzing.

Several students have won awards and scholarships through their training here at UVU. The population of international students in the design program is growing. Jen Wai from Hong-kong whose specialty is haute couture has already started her own business.

Wai will also work along with her sister on various film projects in Los Angeles and New York. Her dream is to create costume and style for shows like Cirque du Soleil while other students like Anne-Marie Johnson and Mike James will continue with a Masters program at another university after being awarded scholarship offers for their talent in design.

Leave a Reply