The Life of a Costume

Costumes from "A School for Lies"
September’s University Gallery exhibit, “The Life of a Costume: From Page to Stage,” provides a glimpse into the process behind developing costumes for theatrical productions. Pictured here are costumes from UA’s 2013 production of “The School for Lies.”

From the September 2015 Desktop News | Research, sketches, mock-ups, photographs and actual costumes curated by The University of Alabama’s Donna Meester will be displayed Sept. 4-25 at UA’s Gallery in the Dinah Washington Cultural Arts Center in downtown Tuscaloosa.

The exhibit, “The Life of a Costume: From Page to Stage,” provides a glimpse into the process and work behind developing costumes for theatrical productions.

A reception will be held at the gallery Friday, Sept. 4 from 5:30 to 7:30 p.m. Both the exhibit and reception are free and open to the public.

The exhibit features 15 costumes along with various accessories, including chainmail and armor that were built in The University of Alabama costume shop.

Meester, associate professor and director of costume design in UA’s Department of Theatre and Dance, designed the majority of the costumes featured, though they were built primarily by students. The exhibit also includes work by students working with Meester.

Part of the exhibit is dedicated to telling the story of how costumes are built and created. Along with large “story boards,” viewers can follow the life of one particular costume, from the first mock-up to the final costume as it was seen on stage.

Various design concepts are featured including costumes from a show set in the mid-19th century (“An Italian Straw Hat”), a traditional Shakespeare play (“All’s Well that Ends Well”), a 20th-century show (“The Wild Party”) as well as a show that combines periods (“The School for Lies”).

There is also a recreation of the dress that Bette Davis wore as Regina in the movie, “The Little Foxes.” Meester was commissioned to make the dress as a supplement for the Smithsonian’s traveling exhibit “The Way We Worked.”

Meester received a Bachelor of Science in apparel technology from Purdue University and a Master of Fine Arts in stage design from Southern Methodist University.

She has designed for a number of theatres in Louisiana, Arkansas, Oklahoma, Iowa, Washington D.C., Alabama and elsewhere.

She is active in numerous theatre and costume organizations. She also received a Golden Medallion from the Kennedy Center for her service to the Kennedy Center American College Theatre Festival, the highest award given to educators from the organization.

The University of Alabama Gallery offers a year-round schedule of exhibitions of artistic works, artifacts, textiles, and more from permanent collections held by UA, as well as works by faculty, students, and guest artists and designers.

The UA Gallery is located at 620 Greensboro Ave. in downtown Tuscaloosa. It is open Monday through Friday from 9 a.m. to 5 p.m. and the first Fridays of the month until 8 p.m. For more information, phone the gallery at 205/345-3038 or phone 205/342-2060.