In 2008, after I finished on the production of Madame Butterfly for Oz Opera I stayed on to do Opera Australia’s Aida. The brief was to produce patterns and sample costumes for each design needed for the male chorus which would then be partially made and beaded in an Indian workshop.
Fortunately for me the designer, Roger Kirk understood the challenge the all cutters had. He designed simple shapes for the outsourced costumes and together we came up with a shape that gave us maximum variability for multi-sizing and still maintained an overall uniform appearance.
I managed to divide the cast into size groups and developed a pattern to fit each member within the size range. I had a range of sizes from dancers, to actors, to large opera singers. On top of this was the height variations and this was “interesting” to say the least.
I made small, medium, large and x-large and produce clear samples for the Indian sewing house to follow.
There were a few different styles for the different characters but they all either black or white and were beaded or decorated with large flat sequins. Preparing a pattern for another company, especially an overseas one, requires a lot of extra work. When giving the pattern over to another house things have to be 100% fool proof as well. I find it more stressful this way as I double and triple check so that anyone can understand, I have no idea about how the houses like to receive their patterns and apart from adding seam allowances.
Once they were made up to the construction stage that we determined, without hems finished, and a few other bits, we then fitted them in Perth and returned to Sydney to finish them off.
The designs consisted of an A-line skirt with a sun-ray pleated insert and an adjustable buttonhole elastic waistband and variations of pieces over that. Some had sunray pleated skirts that fanned from their right to the floor on the left, some had sunray pleated shoulder drapes and all had jeweled collars and wrist or arm bands. There were also belts with tabs down the front or pleated drapes and chest bibs that were also heavily sequined.
The leopards were fun to do, they were some hideous soft toy blanket things that the buyer found and we ripped the heads off. Then I had to make the pattern for the body so that it looked realistic enough and still had the correct drape according to what Roger wanted. Then the fake fur was bagged out with leather and we made individual claws and softly padded the feet. The art department worked their magic and blended the head into the body to achieve what you see.