A Visit to Spokane Civic Theater

Yesterday I had the amazing privilege of being able to tour the costume department of the Spokane Civic Theater and meet their lead Costume Designer, Jan Wanless. It was an experience I shall not soon forget.

I sincerely wish that I had thought to record our discussions — as Jan had so many great stories and wonderful costuming tidbits to share. Unfortunately, I seriously doubt I will be able to share nearly enough with you all to do justice to my visit.

I was first shown to the costume construction room, and found it absolutely wonderful and deliciously disorganized in a very organized way. 😀 Meaning of course that the supplies, patterns, etc. were organized into their own sections, but that the room had the disorganized look that comes with busyness and great accomplishments.  Being a costume designer for a theater is no easy piece of cake.

The current production that the folks at the Spokane Civic are working on is ‘The Buddy Holly Story’, and another one in the near future is ‘White Christmas’: scheduled to debut before Thanksgiving.  I really loved one dress in particular, and would love to someday make one with the neckline detail it had.  Though I don’t have a picture of the actual dress to share, I did do an image search and finally found what I was looking for on page 20.

(This illustration really does NOT do the dress justice)

Back to my original subject. 😀

For White Christmas, the costume department has about six weeks to prepare all the costumes — and, if I remember right, the number of costumes runs just over 100 (I could be way off here, as I am going by memory).  So they go into a round of talking with the director, finding out what he wants, consulting the budget and making it work, fittings, design, construction, and all that lovely stuff.

It’s really quite the process, and there’s so much more to think about than whether or not a dress or outfit will just ‘look’ nice.  In theater, you must consider that your audience will be further away, so small details will be lost to them.  Also, one of the many things you must take into consideration is choreography and what the director will want the actor to do.   There are so many things that have to be thought out and planned around. It’s amazing what has to be done.  That is a serious amount of work.

Though I can’t begin to relate everything I learned during my visit to the Spokane Civic Theater . . . I can leave you with one of the most important things:

“It’s a design decision.”

“It’s a design decision.”   Always remember that. Because if someone comments on a hem that’s crooked, or a detail that had good intentions but turned out strange, you can tell them that it was indeed a design decision.  Because, after all, maybe it was!


2 thoughts on “A Visit to Spokane Civic Theater”

  1. Jan is a wonderful woman! I feel privileged to work at Civic and take breaks back in sewing with she and Dee!

    Buddy costumes are ready to roll! White Christmas is on its way.

    Glad you had a good time at Civic and with Jan.


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