Click or tap to enlarge
Student work takes center stage
Fashion students design, sew costumes
A transformation took place in Jennifer Molloy’s classroom at North Salem Middle/High School. One minute freshman Sophie DiBart was an ordinary student, the next she was the The Executioner, or the Ace of Hearts. The transformation was made possible through the hard work of students in Carmen Galiano’s fashion design and merchandising classes at the Center for Career Services.
The students spent several weeks measuring, cutting and sewing, many learning new skills on the spot, after being asked to create costumes for the North Salem High School Drama Department production of “Alice in Wonderland.”
On Nov. 28, Ms. Galiano’s classroom was a rush of last-minute adjustments as the costumes consisting of flowers, playing cards and a large blue caterpillar, were prepared for delivery. One student carefully hung their work on a clothes rack while another took on hand sewing a piece that needed some last-minute reinforcement.
The costumes were then loaded on a bus and Ms. Galiano and students Adrianna Weekes and Lukas Roth made the trek to North Salem.
“We’ve never done costumes before,” Ms. Galiano said, adding that her students have used already made items to dress mannequins for events such as Halloween, but this was their first foray into custom costume design.
“At this time of year that was a new skill for them, garment construction, which comes after we do drawing,” Ms. Galiano said. “That is the hardest part. To commit to doing costumes at this time of year is insane, but I am up for a challenge.”
The challenge came in the form of students typically learning one skill and building off of that as they learn more skills. Creating the costumes had them jumping ahead and learning new skills faster.
“These particular types of costumes have multiple levels. I had students with no experience working with a pattern, playing around with scale and portion. There was a lot of learning that went on,” Ms. Galiano said.
The flower costumes consisted of creating large, petalled headpieces, a skirt to look like flower petals, and hand gluing faux leaves, one at a time, to a leather string.
The cards were simpler. Students measured felt, cut out the designs that they hand sewed onto the cards and attaching belts.
In addition, students worked on creating a straight skirt that was one piece of the caterpillar costume. The second piece was a long life-size “tail” that was quilted. Both pieces had hand-sewn patches of gold sequins attached.
Ms. Galiano said several costumes for other characters in the show were purchased, however, the cards, caterpillar and flowers were not available and had to be custom made.
Ms. Molloy reached out to her and when they agreed to work together, the director sent over photos from Pinterest with ideas.
“The nice thing was, between the two classes, everyone did their fair share,” Ms. Galiano said of her students. “It really was like a group exercise.”
Her morning Fashion and Retail class would work on the costumes, and her afternoon Fashion Design and Merchandising class would pick up where the earlier class left off.
“We broke it up into who knew how to do what,” Ms. Galiano said.
“I really enjoyed making the flowers,” Adrianna Weekes, a senior at Woodlands High School, said. “The process of making it was all new for me.”
Adrianna is taking fashion merchandising classes at Career Services.
“Fashion has always been an interest of mine,” she said.
Adrianna was responsible for carefully carrying the caterpillar costume into the high school, while her classmate, Lukas, handled the card costumes.
“I want to give you a hug,” Ms. Molloy announced to Ms. Galiano as soon as she walked into the director’s classroom, which on this day was serving as a dressing room.
The two women had never met in person before.
“These are amazing,” one cast member said on seeing the work the Career Services students had done.
The fashion students soon were busy helping to prepare the cast for a dress rehearsal that would take place that afternoon.
Lukas, Adrianna and Ms. Galiano began by cutting off any lose threads they found and giving each piece a once-over with a lint brush.
The cast members, several attired in body suits, patiently waited as the fashion students and their teacher completed helping them into their costumes.
The cards were easy as the actors wore a black body suit and the card costume simply slipped over the actor’s head and tied on the sides to keep it in place.
The caterpillar, wearing a blue body suit, did not have too much trouble either. She could step into the skirt and adjust the waist so it fit properly. She did need some help with her tail, which was fitted with a piece that came around the neck and held it in place.
The flowers were a bit more complicated.
Before the actors donned their green body suits, Adrianna, Lukas and Ms. Galiano used a safety pin on the inside of the legs and arms to attach the leaves. Once the actors put the body suits on, the three carefully wrapped the leaves around the actor’s arms and legs, tying the string the leaves were attached to at the wrist and ankle to secure them.
The pièce de résistance was the headdresses the flowers wear. Each consisted of a headband which had individual petals attached to it. The petals were reinforced with stiff paper so they kept their upright position and did not flop over. An elastic strap, covered in satin, was also attached and fit behind the actor’s head for extra support. A chin strap finished the piece, which also helped to keep the entire thing in place. Ms. Galiano said the design was inspired by the enormous headpieces dancers wear in Las Vegas shows.
The flowers also wore skirts students had made which looked like flower petals and fitted around the waist.
“Anya!” exclaimed several castmates with joy when senior Anya Nordone, who plays a tiger lily in the show, was fitted in her bright orange headdress.
“Oh my gosh, that is the headdress?” asked Sophie DiBart, a freshman, when she saw the large red rose-petal structure that was to be placed on her head. Sophie also plays a card in the show, which by comparison, is a much simpler and lighter costume.
“You guys did a really good job,” commented Career Services bus driver, Reggie Clayton, who watched the proceedings.
Ms. Molloy repeatedly commented on how great she thought the costumes were as well.
She opted to reach out to BOCES students and ask them for assistance. Students from Southern Westchester BOCES Center for Career Services worked on costumes while students in cosmetology classes from Putnam Northern Westchester BOCES did the actors’ makeup.
“I just thought it makes sense. It’s giving student’s real-world experience. Why not pull in some students who are college or career bound,” Ms. Molloy explained. “It’s utilizing what we have as educators, an intelligence relationship.”
Ms. Molloy was appreciative of Ms. Galiano’s patience as the two texted and emailed back and forth throughout the process.
“I had a vision,” Ms. Molloy said. “She’s adding to the aesthetics I was looking for.”
Once the actors were fitted, Adrianna collected the materials that had been brought along, such as scissors, pins and even a hot glue gun for any “just in case” scenarios. She admired the work she and her classmates had done.
“They look so nice. They really do,” she said.
“At first I was a little nervous,” Adrianna said about easing into costume design. “But I’ve gotten more confident. I’m excited. Everything turned out great.”
Lukas said he enjoyed the project and thought it turned out well too.
“Whew, I was sweating it,” Ms. Galiano admitted.
Working long distance, she was not able to take measurements of those she was fitting and was concerned the costumes would not fit. It turns out the worrying was for nothing as all of the costumes fit.
Before returning to BOCES, the group got a sneak peek in the auditorium to see the whimsical mirage that was the set. The caterpillar, in her custom-made getup perched jauntily on her mushroom.