High above campus in the fourth floor of the R building sits the fashion classroom. Lines of sewing machines, ironing boards, and designing tables are everywhere. Mannequins are scattered across the room, some wearing dresses and some sitting bare in a closet in the back. Pieces of fabric are scattered on tables and counters.
Students’ finished projects of purses, sweaters, and other clothes are pinned on the walls or hung up on hangars. Signs are posted on all the walls, doors, cabinets, and machines for anything from students selling their textbooks to rules of the classroom.
Every Friday the historical costume making class of five students is meshed with another fashion class.
Despite having to share their instructor’s time with a much larger class, the students have learned a lot in the six weeks they have completed so far.
“[We learned] how to analyze a script and [how] costume photos fit,” Lauren Ward, historical costume, said. “To figure out what each character wears in what act. Also how to budget a show.”
Catherine Li, fashion design, said that she learned a lot about history and the changes in fashion. “How people wear [clothes] and the fabric [used],” she said. “And now the clothes that we wear.”
Erin Sullivan, historical costume, said that the class has learned how to costume a play but have not started making the costumes yet.
“I learned how to do costume research for any type of show,” she said. “We read a book about costuming, so we learned how to [do] action plans and all the steps one would take to getting a job as a costumer.”
While they may not have started actually making the costumes, they have learned a lot about sewing.
“Basic things. I actually made them hand baste, hand running stitch, hand backstitch, [and] hand over stitch,” instructor Katherine Sterling said. “And we did little swatches that were eight inches long and by the end of each one they were like ‘I love my sewing machine. I love it.’”
Beatriz Rosales, historical reproduction, values the sewing technique lessons. “[I learned] a lot of different…sewing finishing methods by hand which is nothing I had actually done before,” she said. “It’s something different [and] it takes a lot of time to make it all nice and pretty and consistent.”
Leslie Galvan, fashion and historical costume, said the most enjoyable thing about the class is the creative freedom. “It’s the fact that we have the opportunity to be able to expand our minds and get creative for once,” she said. “Because being a fashion major you have to be by the book and what people would wear now. So this class gives you the opportunity…Sky’s the limit.”
An example is the main project Sterling gave her students. “I had them thinking about what era they wanted to costume and I gave them a time frame,” Sterling said. “It had to be [from] 1300 to 1900. And it had to be a person of wealth: upper class merchant, noble, or royal.”
Then the students had to choose the gender, country and era. She had them narrow that down to a 25-year period. “Mainly because you could wear your mother’s dress and it would still be in fashion,” Sterling said. “They made clothes to last a long time.”
The students were split in their decisions. Two students chose the bustle era, also known as the Victorian era. “They will have the skirt, the drape piece, which has all different kind of styles, and the corset,” Sterling said.
Another two students are doing the Regency era. “That’s your Jane Austen look,” Sterling said. “And then I have one student who is doing Queen Elizabeth.”
After six weeks of learning the basics while the other class is sewing and making clothes all around them, they are finally getting the opportunity to start their costumes.
With a smile on her face Sterling said, “We are finally getting to the part which I consider really fun.”