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Costume Renovation Article for Productions Magazine (back to school issue) 2014

Posted by Deborah Nelson on Tue, Aug 05, 2014 @ 00:08 AM

Eden Prarie Swim Costumes designed by Satin StitchesLet’s face it…show choir costumes, like all custom created, or even ‘off the rack’ costumes can be very expensive. Every year, your group fund-raises to foot the bill to put fabulous costumes on your show choir girls and boys. You want your singer/dancers to shine, and nothing but the best will do!

And, every year, you come up with a new themed performance set, requiring new costumes to fit your theme, right? An option should be to pull old costumes out of your closet and see if you can re-imagine or renovate. Do this by changing the actual costume, or by adding accessories or additional pieces to it.

How do you renovate your past costumes to solve your current costume design requirements? At Satin Stitches, we have been tasked to do this, and have had several successful renovations. We have transformed Esther Williams-style, 1940’s swim costumes into costumes that evoked a Bollywood theme. I have photos to illustrate the before and after.

How did we do it?  We removed the bottom half of the costume (it was attached with one seam). Then we added a pair of long pants instead of the shorts, and we added a skirt. We also added silver paillettes (also referred to as ‘spangles’) as a trim for the faux bra-top. The basic leotard/top half of the costume remained as the original. The cost to refurbish this group costume was less than half of what the cost would have been to make a costume ‘from scratch’. Another group costume had a policeman theme, with appliques suitable for a police uniform. We then removed those appliques and added vertical sequin stripes to give the illusion of a referee uniform.

Transforming costumes to something new and updated is most cost effective if new features are ADDED rather than removed, as ripping generally takes longer to do, than sewing, unless parts of the original costume can be cut off, rather than correctly, surgically removed.

Other ways to renovate your old costumes, is to add trim. Maybe you have a set of dresses that are pretty plain looking. The least expensive trim would be sequined by-the-yard trim. It looks great on stage, from performance distance. Otherwise we love to add rhinestones! Rhinestones can be added to most fabrics and in most areas of the costume. They involve hand placing and hand gluing, and generally take lots of time. Perhaps this is something that your parents could volunteer for. If not, Satin Stitches would be happy to do any rhinestoning or sequinning project that you may have.

Eden Prarie Swim Costumes 2 designed by Satin StitchesIf you would like expert information on how to rhinestone, read my Rhinestoning 101 blog (link to it?) where I give all types of information to help you make the best choices for picking the type and color of rhinestones and how to determine how many stones are needed, per garment.

Maybe your old costumes just need a little pop of color and refreshing. Well, consider adding a peplum skirt to your dresses – in a matching or coordinating fabric. And maybe you have a ballad dress or another old costume that could come back to life by adding a ‘tear away’ skirt? Brainstorm your ideas and talk with someone with sewing experience to see if your ideas are feasible.

Perhaps your old costumes need some minor or even major repairs. Can your booster organization handle the task? You can save lots of money by doing it yourself. But if you can’t, then call in the professionals. Mending costumes is always well worth the cost, rather than letting them go unused. At Satin Stitches, we get a feeling of satisfaction in refurbishing costumes to their former glory. We hate the idea of any costume relegated to the land fill. In this throw-away world, you should, too! All it takes is a little creative, ‘out of the box’ thinking to turn your old, un-used costumes into something fresh and exciting for your group. 

Always proceed with caution. At Satin Stitches, when we are ‘transforming’ a costume, we always just do one, and then see how it worked. You should do this, as well. Then if it doesn’t work out, you have one bad costume, not an entire group. The most difficult part of transforming, in my opinion is actually coming up with a creative idea for the reimagining. Then it’s just a matter of ‘making it happen’!

©Deborah J. Nelson/ Head Designer and President of Satin Stitches Ltd.

Tags: Costume Design Tips, Costume Budgeting Tips

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