My focus on costume design began during my sophomore year at Bridgewater State University. It all started with volunteering to work on a show during a time when I needed a creative outlet. I was taught how to manipulate thermoplastics to create masks for the production, Conference of the Birds. My work on that show paved the way for even more creativity and learning. Although I was not a theatre major at the time, I began taking courses related to costume and makeup design with the hopes that I would have the opportunity to work on another production. It wasn’t long before I added Theatre Arts as my second major and was fully immersed in the theatre world. I applied for the costume designer position as part of the Student Repertory Theatre at BSU, and designed my first show, The Swan. My work was nominated by the Kennedy Center American College Theatre Festival (KCACTF), which meant I would be presenting my work to other students, professors, and professionals from around the region. Later that year, my mask work on Conference of the Birds led to presenting at the United States Institute for Theatre Technology (USITT) as part of the Costume Commission, in Fort Lauderdale. As part of this national conference, I was able to participate in workshops and learn from some of the best in the industry. When I returned to BSU following the conference, I found myself wanting to dive deeper into costume design and learn how to build costumes. In the summer of 2018, I applied for, and was awarded an Adrian Tinsley Program Grant to conduct undergraduate research. My project, “A Study in Late Victorian Women’s Garment Construction for the Stage”, involved both textual and visual historical research, learning how to draft patterns for my designs, and constructing an 1890’s Victorian walking dress with all the appropriate undergarments for that time period. The summer of my ATP was a turning point in my undergraduate career as I felt I had gained the knowledge and skills to continue to move forward and even apply for jobs outside of Bridgewater. That same summer I worked as the assistant costume designer on Leftovers at Company One Theatre in Boston. I went on to design my second show at BSU, Hand to God, and was again nominated by KCACTF for my design work. Earlier in the year, my faculty mentor and I applied to co-present on successful mentoring strategies for creative undergraduate research projects at USITT for the Education Commission and were accepted to share our work in Louisville, KY in 2019. While attending the conference, I applied for, and was offered a job as a stitcher at Barrington Stage Company, in Pittsfield, MA. Not only is Barrington Stage a well-known and highly recognized regional theatre, this job gave me the opportunity to apply what I had been learning through my coursework and ATP, to a professional setting. Due to the fast-paced environment of a summer theatre season, I learned an incredible number of skills in a very short amount of time and was able to work with multiple Broadway designers and actors. Upon returning to BSU in the fall, I was offered my first professional costume design job at Company One Theatre in Boston, for Wolf Play by Hansol Jung. My work on this production is a true testament to the knowledge I have gained during my years at BSU. I began attending design and production meetings in October of 2019, where I shared my sketches and ideas for each character. In order to create designs for a production, a scene-by-scene breakdown is done in the form of a costume plot. This allows a designer to design costumes for each scene and figure out quick changes, as those impact design heavily. In January, I began shopping and had fittings with each of the actors, as well as a puppet which I also needed to costume. The show opened in Boston on February 1st, and received many positive reviews. My designs were positively received as well, “Karly Foster, a comparatively fresh face in Boston, picks up on the strictly delineated space in her costumes through enviable color blocking- it never becomes high fashion, but I was certainly taking notes of what new pairings I may have in my closet for this spring” (Child). As soon as Wolf Play opened in Boston, I began working on designs for my final show at BSU, MilkMilkLemonade. This show involved designing multiple costumes, with two that needed to be built in the costume shop; which meant figuring out the construction details prior to presenting my designs to the shop manager. My work on this show was again recognized by KCACTF and I received my third design nomination. Over the past four years, I have also had the pleasure of working on productions at Speakeasy Stage Company, Merrimack Reparatory Theatre, and Commonwealth Shakespeare Company through costume-related crafts and stitching. Each off-campus opportunity, combined with course work, ATP, and faculty mentoring has given me the tools I need to excel as a costume designer in the theatre community. Each project I have completed has built upon the previous one and my skillset has drastically improved. My design portfolio and website is the culminating representation of the work I have done over the past four years, with emphasis on Wolf Play as part of my thesis. It demonstrates my ability to tell a story through design, communicate ideas professionally and effectively, and produce a final product that works cohesively with other design elements.
Ms. Miranda Giurleo, Thesis Advisor
Dr. Heidi Bean, Committee Member
Mr. Emmett Buhmann, Committee Member
Copyright and Permissions
Original document was submitted as an Honors Program requirement. Copyright is held by the author.
Foster, Karly. (2020). Costume Design Portfolio: A Journey Through Undergraduate to Professional Design. In BSU Honors Program Theses and Projects. Item 327. Available at: https://vc.bridgew.edu/honors_proj/327
Copyright © 2020 Karly Foster