Wednesday 5 March 2014

Books, books, books!

It is a universally acknowledged truth that the internet is a grand and glorious place.  But it can be very overwhelming when you go looking for advice on sewing and costuming, with so many blogs and sites with varying opinions and levels of expertise.  Sometimes, old school is the best way to go, and the library is a fantastic source for costume books.  I have never been without a library card.  I love the library.  I currently owe them about $35 because I love their books TOO much...but that's another story.

The Ottawa Public Library has lots of excellent books about costumes, so I thought this evening I would kick back with a glass of wine and share one of my favourite sources with you.

1) "Elegantly Frugal Costumes:  The Poor Man's Do-It-Yourself Costume Maker's Guide" by Shirley Dearing

Long title, but a very short and readable book.  The layout is excellent - the first chapter, "where do I start?" talks about all the places like thrift shops where you can get the basics for costuming, as well as effective ways to research historical costumes.  From there, it goes through the eras and nationalities that are most commonly seen on stage (basically, the info the reader is most likely to be looking for).  Along with notes on how the clothing was worn and sketches of each piece they talk about (including hats, shoes, and underwear!), they have tips on how to take modern-day clothing and transform it into a fairly accurate costume.  The last section of the book has tips on sewing, aging costumes, and how to be a designer for theatre, walking you through how the process works, from first meetings with the director and cast to the costume parade and dress rehearsal.  There's even a section on how to handle doing the cast makeup if that's expected of you, and how to dress a chorus if you're doing a musical.

Rating:  4/5 stars.  Explicitly for those who are just starting out designing for community theatre or school plays.  The author draws heavily on her personal experience on stage as well as behind the scenes, which is always good to read - her tips and tricks may or may not help the reader out greatly, depending on their experience level.  Also - the glossary at the back (from "cowl" to "windsor tie"!) is very good!

There will be more of these book reviews over the next little while, so if this one doesn't seem quite your tankard of grog, check back soon - you might find the next one more helpful!

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