For Sam Reckford, costume production is her “all day, every day.” The third-year graduate student is finishing her Masters of Fine Arts in Costume Production, works at PlayMakers Repertory Company alongside her studies.
“Classes are a range of topics in everything related to costume production, which is our specific degree,” Reckford said. “These classes can be on topics like hat making, patterning for men’s wear, tailoring, body padding, fabric manipulation, shoemaking or advanced sewing techniques.”
Reckford said her day is divided between attending classes in the morning and working at PlayMakers in the afternoon. She said the time spent working at PlayMakers counts as a practicum and towards credit hours for students.
“Depending on the show, we all will do different roles,” Reckford said. “For 'Sherwood,' I was the draper for Maid Marian, which means that I created the patterns for her costume and then created the costumes themselves. I got drawings from the costume designer and then it was up to me to actually create the costume.”
She said all of the students working in costume production take turns doing everything, so they get experience taking on all the different roles that make up costume production.
“For the next show, I am going to be a craft artisan, which means I am going to be working on painting and dyeing and making accessories like hats, gloves and shoes,” she said.
Reckford sometimes gets surprising reactions to her role in costume production.
“Sometimes when I talk about my job, people will stop and look at me and say, ‘Wait, you use a sewing machine?’” she said.
Reckford said people often forget they can’t buy these pieces online — they need to be individually created.
“Homemade clothing has not really been a part of our lives in the United States for 120 years now, and I feel like people often forget that theater still uses handmade costumes,” she said.
After finishing her graduate degree, Reckford said she is interested in moving abroad and working in costume production for historical movies and TV series.
“A lot of people go into costume production because they love theater, but I am the opposite," Reckford said. "I have come to theater because I love historical clothing. Theater is the place where I can make historical clothing.”
Reckford said while making costumes is a lot of fun, juggling work and studies is probably the most difficult aspect of her job as a graduate student working for PlayMakers.
“For classwork, we can do our own research and decide what we want to create, whereas PlayMakers hires a designer who we work with to create the costumes they need,” she said. “The most difficult part of the program is trying to figure out how to be devoted to both my job at PlayMakers and my role as a student.”
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