The small door next to the entrance of the stage in the Theater and Dance Studios may seem nondescript, but behind it lies the costume shop, filled with brightly colored cloth, mannequins, and sewing machines.
The workshop, run by costume shop manager Christian Milik, provides costumes for all theater productions run by the University.
“We either make original costumes with the guidance of our supervisors or we alter costumes that we already have in the shop,” said Indee Mitchell ’10, who works at the costume shop. “We own tons and tons of costumes ranging from period wear to fantasy costumes to puppets and masks.”
Costume designer for the dance department Leslie Weinberg, who instructs the workers on what the costumes should look like, explained the typical uses for the shop.
“We lend out costumes to any University sponsored educational event, for all of the ’92 Theater performances, all the Second Stage performances, all the dance concerts, [and other events],” Weinberg said. “For instance, the French department sometimes puts on a foreign language play; the fashion show, all the film students use our costumes.”
Sometimes, however, the costume shop receives requests that are more out of the ordinary.
“Some professor showed up yesterday, I think he was a guest appearing in some mathematics class and he wanted to appear as a historical mathematician and wanted a period costume so we put something together for him,” said Weinberg. “We do a lot of different things for the University.”
The costume rental is free to any performance group or individual student. The only cost is cleaning, which is usually paid for by the organization supporting the production.
“Everything that goes out needs to be cleaned before it comes back so that the next person who takes it out is not dealing with any unfortunate smells and stains,” said Weinberg.
Working at the costume shop has been a positive experience for Weinberg.
“It's an incredibly creative atmosphere,” she said. “It's very exciting to be able to take an idea and give it physical manifestation, to take an idea and turn it into a physical piece of clothing. I hope the students who work down here learn a lot. It can sometimes be very stressful, and there is a lot of pressure to get things out for deadlines, but the trade off is [that] it's a very creative and exciting place to be. The joy of making something and seeing it on stage and seeing the audience enjoy it can be very fulfilling.”
Weinberg also enjoys sharing a space with student workers.
“The students are fabulous,” she said. “Wesleyan students are the best.”
Approximately 15 students work in the shop.
“It's really fun,” Mitchell said. “We usually work to good music or Harry Potter on tape. It's just a bunch of girls and Christian sewing it up!”
For students who love to sew, working in the costume shop is a great on-campus job opportunity.
“It's a great job,” said Lizzie Collector ’09, who also works in the shop. “Christian Milik is an awesome boss. We listen to music and talk and sew. It's a unique job for sure, but I enjoy it.”
Any student who is involved in a school production can rent out costumes from 4 to 6 p.m. Monday through Friday, except Wednesdays, when the hours are 11 a.m. to 1 p.m.