21M.732 | Fall 2008 | Undergraduate

Beginning Costume Design and Construction


This page contains details about the various activities students complete in and out of class. Examples of student work for some activities can be found on the Image Galleries page.


Intro: who are you and who am I?

What is a costume? Why a costume designer?

Lecture: Reading the Play


Lecture: Psychology of Clothes

Discuss On the Harm of Tobacco lists


Discuss Little Red Riding Hood versions and the idea of concept


Lecture: Script and Character Analysis; Research; Styles of Costumes

Discuss On the Harm of Tobacco renderings


Lecture: Translating Emotion to Visual

Visual conversation exercise

Line/Emotion exercise

Translating emotion to visual

Cards are layed out that feature photos of different colors and textures. Students choose an emotion from a list and them assemble a group of cards of their choice to represent that emotion. We then try and determine which emotions are represented. Each student talks aboout why they made their choices and hears feedback from the group.

The use of cards in this exercise is adapted from Tiala, Crystal. “Teaching Visual Communication: Using Image Cards as a Teaching Tool.” Theatre Design & Technology 39 (Winter 2003): 10-16.


Look at research for On the Harm of Tobacco

Lecture: Elements of Design


Rendering exercises

Drawing lab


Students spend a session practicing contour drawing, still lifes from a distance, 2 second impression sketches, and drawing fabric draping and pleats.


Discuss line gowns

Watch excerpts of Hamlet by Zeffirelli and discuss idea of concept

Line gowns

Students share their renderings of dresses designed with a dominant vertical, horizontal and diagonal line. We discuss what effect each creates. (Images: Student A, Student B)


Discuss food assignment with preso

Begin drafting unit: bodice and hip block

Food assignment

Ads for Vytorin, an anti-cholesterol drug, feature photos of food and people with matching appearances. See examples: one, two, three, four. Students were asked to bring in a photo of a food that they find attractive. They then render a character using the same principles of design observed in the food picture. (Images)


Discuss Hamlet collages

Continue drafting

Begin cutting and sewing muslins


Discuss food assignment

Finish and fit muslins

12 Thrift store transformation workshop

Thrift store transformation

Teams of students pick an image of a period costume, and emulate it using thrift store purchases. Transformation of materials is encouraged.


Pattern manipulation and drafting

Discuss Stupid Kids

Introduce sloper manipulation project


Lecture: stylization and abstraction

Wedding project

Wedding project

Students are assigned a persona, such as Victorian schoolmistress, punk, WASP, etc., and create a wedding dress out of newspaper in a single class session. (Images)


Color workshop

Talk about garbage project

Color workshop

Student spend a session experimenting with mixing colors, first with paint, then with fabrics.


Look at Stupid Kids sketches

Begin sloper manipulation project

Sloper manipulation

Students learn to manipulate the basic sloper that they have drafted to create a number of different styles.


Look at group dynamics

Discuss final project

Continue sloper manipulation project

Group dynamics

Given a handout portraying four young women, design outfits for each that suggest a group identity but are not identical. Please see Fig. 1.39 in Costume Design.


Look at Stupid Kids renderings

Sloper project


Look at Kiosk Man sketches

Discuss dynamics of play and characters in Lion in Winter


Open shop: garbage project brainstorming

Sloper project

Lion in Winter questions


Texture exercise

Pinstripe Olympics

Texture exercise

From a box of black and white fabrics, students chose fabric swatches based on a list of character traits. They are then told the identity of the character and discuss how/why their choices work.

Pinstripe Olympics

Students are assigned a caricature persona such as used car salesman, rock star, lawyer, etc. and pull a costume from stock for that character; each costume must include a pinstriped suit.


Look at Lion in Winter preliminary sketches

Papers returned

Open shop


Present garbage project

Look at finals so far if needed

Open shop

Garbage project

Students construct an article of clothing (vest, skirt, hat, etc.) out of found materials, such as soda can tabs, plastic bags, wire, etc.

24 Final project preso, Lion In Winter Students present fully rendered and swatched designs for all costumes in The Lion in Winter. Included in the project is a paper describing their concept, how they did research and how they went about expressing their ideas visually. (Images: Student A, Student B)

Course Info

As Taught In
Fall 2008
Learning Resource Types
Image Gallery
Projects with Examples
Design Assignments
Written Assignments