TDPS professor publishes costume design book

This blog post is by Emily Schweich, junior broadcast journalism major.

Helen Huang, Professor of Costume Design in the School of Theatre, Dance, and Performance Studies, has published Elizabethan Costume Design and Construction, a how-to book chronicling the process of designing and constructing Elizabethan costumes.

Huang co-authored the book with adjunct professor Kelsey Hunt (MFA in Costume Design ’14) and Emily Hoem, a former tailor in The Clarice’s costume shop. It follows Huang’s artistic process designing costumes for Milwaukee Repertory Theater’s 2003 production of Mary Stuart.

Huang said that this book is unique because it includes all the steps of the costume design and construction process. “It [shows] the young designer how to pursue a historical play, from research, to doodling, and then finding the character on the page,” Huang said.

While most costume design books detail through the initial steps through the end of the design, Elizabethan Costume Design follows the process to completion through the construction stage, including the fitting process.

Hunt, who aspires to be an educator, said that working with Huang on this book helped her to express the nature of costume design.

“She understood my design philosophy well,” Huang said.

The experience also helped Hunt develop her own design philosophy, she said.

“I learned a lot about how to express my own thoughts and ideas about design and what it is we do,” Hunt said.

Hoem wrote most of the construction chapters that make up the second half of the book. She used some of the costumes from the original performance as a reference to recreate the construction process, which involved draping the silhouettes, drafting the patterns, cutting the fabrics and sewing the costumes. She took hundreds of photos to document this process, many of which are included in the book.

“It should be readable and helpful to the moderately skilled seamstress and can be applied to both the classroom and the costume enthusiast,” Hoem said of the book.

Huang said she hopes the book will be widely used as a teaching tool in the theatre community. Elizabethan Costume Design and Construction is available for Kindle now on Amazon and will be available in print beginning December 4.