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Rags to Riches: Creation of the Royal Wardrobe

Trinity Rep’s costume shop has been hard at work getting ready for Like Sheep to Water, or Fuente Ovejuna . Marketing intern Kira Alsum sat down with the costume shop’s Meg Donnelly to learn a little bit more about the impressive gown built specifically for Rachael Warren’s Queen Isabella in the upcoming production!

Kira Alsum: What is it like to realize a designer’s vision? What was your process for this particular costume?

Meg Donnelly: I find it fascinating to work with different designers all of the time because they have very different personal aesthetics. Even if the show is period like this one, they still have their own personal vision for what it should look like. So, they’ll draw for me the shape that they want, and for this one we didn’t really have any patterns to draw from, so what I did... We have a dress-form that is Rachael, and I used muslin to drape a pattern on it, which is basically where I lay the fabric out and pin and draw on it. Then I’ll construct from there, make adjustments, take that apart, and reconstruct, until it looks just like the drawing did.

Kira: What was the hardest aspect?

Meg: We like to make everything historically accurate, but Queen Isabella never moved in her dresses. She would sit perfectly still in one spot, and she had like fourteen people dressing her. We have one dresser, and we have about two and a half minutes to get her into it for the show so it has to be quick-rigged.  It’s always hard for me to remember, "okay, she has to move, she has to be able to physically raise her arms over her head if she needs to," which are things that these women would never actually do in these dresses, but our actors have to be able to do.

Kira: What was your favorite part?

Meg: When you work with these kind of beautiful brocade, royal fabrics, they all have this beautiful print to them. Gary [Lennon, the costume designer] did such a phenomenal job picking out these fabrics that I had a lot of fun deciding where the pattern should be on her bodice. It’s tricky because you have to match the patterns when you cut a seam, where do you want it to meet… What I ended up doing was creating this sort of medallion look, like it's a floral pattern, but the way that the center front seam was cut, it sort of looks like this elaborate medallion in the front.

Kira: Is there anything special about this dress that is more than meets the eye?

Meg: People may not realize how much time goes into this, and how expensive all of these clothes actually are because it’s the amount of time we put in working on them - our salaries - them paying us to be here to be doing all of this work. I think that people may not know that we built this specifically for this show. I think a lot of times people are surprised at how much we build. We built a really significant portion of the stuff for this show.

Kira: Is there anything else you would like the audience to know?

Meg: I would like to just say that it is truly like a team sport in the costume shop. Every person in the shop pretty much has a hand in stuff that gets made. So even though I patterned and cut this, Gary thought up this design and bought this beautiful fabric, Amanda [Downing Carney] was there to get me what I needed, I had stichers helping me with the underskirt, and Kathryn [Whitesel] did the cartridge pleating for the overskirt. It really is a big effort to get all of this stuff done.

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