Wednesday, April 17, 2013

Working with wardrobe (or costuming as a job). I got a taste and it was fun!

I had a very interesting week. 

My friend, Jose, called me up and I ended up going on a job with him. He is a professional stylist/wardrober. He was styling for a music video and it was all very short notice, so the models/actors didn't bring enough looks. I raided my closet and headed over. 

I ended up working with him for two days, not only supplying clothes, but helping style the actors and musicians and work with the wardrobe (aka costuming!). It was a blast. A lot of waiting around and picking lint and threads off of people, but definitely a blast.  

The best was being able to get creative with the clothes and making them work for the characters. The look of the video was, "electro rock... post apocalyptic black futuristic... leather pants, jacket, rocker heels, anything with spikes," (not my words, by the way). Lots of layers, lots of metal and leather, lots of edgy. We filmed in dusty, dirty alleys and tunnels and a condemned warehouse. Way different than what I usually do with costumes. 

Filming down a dusty alley...
On a windy day. Messy!

The most fun part was taking a new leather jacket, well fake leather, and distressing it to make it look less, well, new (and fake). When I was at the V&A for their last costume exhibit, I read about how the costume designer distressed and destroyed Indiana Jones' famous leather jacket for the movie. Made it look like he'd worn it a million times. I think they even ran over it.

Distressing a jacket. Took the "new" right out of it!

I didn't go that far, but I did get down and dirty with it out in the parking lot. I stomped on it and rubbed the edges along the asphalt. It worked like dirty sandpaper. Perfect! I paid close attention to wear spots, like the elbows and wrists and pockets. The pictures here were midway through the process. Unfortunately I didn't get a good one when it was done (or before I started). I was busy :(

By the time the actor put it on, the jacket looked night and day from where we started. The distressing took away the shiny fake look. This made me think, how excellent a little wear on the hem etc might make a historical costume look. Perhaps just that much better, or more authentic. 

I always find, after a wear or two, a little dust on the skirt and wrinkles make my costumes feel a little more real. That being said, you don't want to go crazy with any artificial distressing. What I've seen on extant garments is a lot of patching and piecing (signs of wear and alterations) and maybe a little roughness or a few thread bare spots on the hem. Nothing crazy, since things like hem facing and hem braid were used to protect against such wear. Maybe the best option, for the historical side, is to just wear your costumes and see how they naturally age...


  1. Sure looks like you had fun! As for distressing historical clothing I've heard living historians suggest all sorts of things but one of the best suggestions I've heard is to wear your kit when gardening and doing other grubby work around the house and yard. That way it will get dirt/wear where it would naturally get it quite fast and then you can see where to spead it up if you want to distress and age it further.

    1. Good idea! Haha I'd love to see the looks on my neighbor's face :)