Perceiving "Beauty" as a Costumer
As a woman in the western world, I am constantly bombarded by my culture's views of beauty and how they should be represented.
As a costumer in the western world, I constantly have to explain to actors and actresses their characters are a different kind of unique beauty.
In most mainstream magazines one sees in the check out counter in any store, there is always a headline about "Secrets to Beauty" or "How to Get Beautiful (fill in the blank)". People are constantly told and shown what society thinks is beautiful. Theatre often tells another tale. Many plays demonstrate non mainstream forms of beauty, or what society likes to call inner beauty.
The term inner beauty sometimes gets a bad wrap because many believe it implies the one being spoken of is "ugly". I disagree. There are many people who demonstrate nontraditional forms of beauty including this inner beauty who I would consider beautiful. They may not be a size 2 and have flowing brown locks which some in our society strangely hold as the hallmarks of beauty, but these people are beautiful.
It is always difficult when an actor/actress visits for their first fitting and is confused by what they see. We try to look our best on a daily basis and when what is looking back at you in the mirror is far from what is our best, we become disappointed. I have often been asked by some performers why they have been made so ugly. I have also had to remind some performers that the "glamour makeup and false eyelashes should be kept at home. We're doing Fiddler on the Roof, not Follies." I'm not pleased with them, but I understand they want to look their best on stage, and society deems that specific look will make them their most beautiful.
As a costumer, it falls to us to break the current "beauty culture" and replace it with many different examples. A buffet of beauty if you will. We see society's most recent version of beauty and say "we see your [internet trend here] and raise it a Georgian wig, bustle, pannier, mini skirt, dreadlocks, etc." All these things are beautiful.
Hopefully through our confirmation and explanation of the characters' unique beauty each actor and actress can bring that beauty to life. Clothing and design can look beautiful on their own, but there is no life in them until an actor climbs in and walks around. We do not dictate how the actors portray their characters, but we can help them to face the western ideals of beauty and come through to confidently breathe life into their roles.
Costuming and fashion do tend to run together. Fashion has often been blamed as contributing to our obsession with a specific trend of "beauty". It is no one industry's sole fault, but as customers we need to understand the current trends as well as the historic. We find beauty in a distressed garment, white hair, scarred face, perfectly tailored suit, or simple black pumps.
"Everything has beauty, but not everyone sees it."
Facebook, Twitter, LinkedIn, Instagram, etc. These social media sites are part of our personal lives, but could and should they also be part of our professional ones? As a costumer or theatre professional are there instances in which we can utilize these platforms in our work? Should we?
The latter question is something each person should answer for themselves, the former is a question that I want to help answer. How do we use these sites that we frequent on a personal level to aid in our professional careers?
Find a Job
Networking on such sites as LinkedIn can help create a foundation point. If a professional does not have his or her own website s/he can use LinkedIn's tools to present a professional portfolio to acquaintances and prospective clients. You can use LinkedIn as a supplement to your own site, resume, or portfolio. It also has a great section to endorse people as well as recommend their skill sets.
Asking colleagues and friends about job openings is also easy thanks to Facebook, Twitter, and like platforms. Letting those around you know you are in the prowl for a new job can open up doors that may have otherwise gone unnoticed.
Network With Other Artisans
Using such social media outlets as Twitter, Facebook, and LinkedIn, professionals can connect with others. But, when using these platforms make sure you separate your professional from your personal accounts. Your colleagues do not want to hear about your puppy's new sweater or see photos of your beach day (as fun as it might have been). Keep your professional posts short and informational. Many different social media experts also suggest, depending on the type of media, keeping posts to once a week or once a day. Do not bombard your colleagues with hourly play by plays of your most recent project.
Displaying Your Work
Instagram, Twitter, Facebook and other image sharing sites offer a unique platform to garner followers of your work through photo sharing. These sites should never take the place of a professional portfolio, but they can offer a unique supplement for interested viewers to use.
There are also specific social media platforms for the sharing of art and portfolio pieces. Flickr, Wix, Weebly, etc. are great platforms to create a visual online presence to steer people towards. Most of these sites can be personalized to fit into your personal branding.
My #1 Everyday Costumer Tool
The tool I use to "create everyday" as I mentioned in an earlier article is, a simple fifty cent composition notebook. It is something I can carry with me at all times, so when I am hit with an idea or see something I want to remember, I have something in which to store my thoughts.
My notebook has been with me on most of my meet and greets. It is full of my questions and notes from professionals as well as sketches and doodles. Since I carry my notebook with me at all times I make sure it is a classy black covered book.
It may seem more appropriate to carry around a sketchbook as a costumer, but I am a cashless student and can afford the composition book. I am also a big list maker and many of my sketches in the book are never going to go in my portfolio or be seen by interviewers. This notebook is just for my reference while creating.
A notebook is also an equal opportunity tool. A designer just starting out and the seasoned veteran get the same use out of its pages. Its simplicity is ideal for all on the spectrum of design. What I have found as I speak with professionals both rising and established, is that remembering the simple things in design work wonders. Many people get carried away with the new fad or technology for design and forget about the basics they learned.
A notebook allows the designer to go back to the basics. There is no fancy app or new fangled artist pen to hid behind. A simple piece of paper would work for this as well, but as I said earlier having everything sleekly bound for interviews is helpful. It also helps those of us who tend to misplace small scraps of paper to hold onto our thoughts and doodles longer.
An unassuming composition or spiral notebook is affordable at all stages of the profession, easily transportable, and versatile. It may not be the best tool for a specific costuming project, but it will be the tool you reach for daily to store those little creative moments that flash through your brain. This is why a notebook is my #1 everyday costumer tool.