Read about Costume Designer, Paula Levis creative process as part of the Crazy Times team.
How did you become a costume designer?
I remember being a child, I just loved drawing. I can also remember designing dresses and costumes for my Barbie dolls, so I think it was a part of my life from very early on. When I was older I studied fashion design, but after a while I felt that it wasn’t quite the right fit, so I decided to study Theatre Design at university at the Victorian College of the Arts and I just fell in love with costume design.
How did you approach making the costumes for Crazy Times?
Antony had a really strong idea and wanted something very graphic and bold to make an impact. I think it’s important to note that in this instance, my role as a costume designer was not about imposing my own ideas, but providing support to what the choreographer is trying to do in the best way. Initially, it was important for each dancer to have a different character to allow for the audience to identify with different ideas. As the choreography developed that idea was left behind and we decided to go with a more general aesthetic as we felt it fit the overall ideas behind the work more accurately.
When I start working with an idea usually I will do quite a bit of research and find some images online or in books and also draw sketches based on those images and my own ideas. At that stage it doesn’t involve the choreographer. I’ll come up with about ten pages of ideas and then show them to the choreographer. I find that it’s much easier to do a really good drawing of what I’m thinking – and then go from there.
What tools do you use to design your costumes?
I normally just use paper and pencil to draw what I’m thinking. I then sometimes use software such as Illustrator or Photoshop which allows me to design patterns I can have printed on fabrics when I need to. It’s quite low tech in how I actually design though, I love the freedom of drawing with a pencil and a piece of paper, I find it easier to express my ideas this way.
Do you have any advice for future costume designers?
It’s really important to learn to sew, it is much easier if you can make things yourself for a production, it will also be difficult to communicate with the costume maker if you can’t use sewing terminology. You also need to practice drawing – it has been much easier to show people what my ideas are for a costume through drawing it out, rather than trying to explain it in words. People find it much easier to communicate costumes through images! The last thing is to know that it’s really hard work, it’s very fun but also involves hard work, so you have devote yourself to it.
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