Guest Post: Designing I Have Lived a Thousand Years

Gabriella Rose Lamboy is Stretch Dance Co.’s costume  designer.  Gabriella talks about the challenges she faced designing I Have Lived a Thousand Years that was both realistic and accommodating to the  demanding choreography for the dancers.  

Stretch - Costumes
Though the costumes look uniform, each has its own details depending on the dancer

I wanted to be historically accurate when designing the women’s prisoner uniforms, but I also needed to accommodate the dancers.  The actual uniforms were made with a very stiff, scratchy cotton fabric – which is not ideal to dance in.

I spent a day in the LA Fashion District on a hunt for the right charcoal grey fabric. The hard part was finding a fabric that was stretchy, but would still appear thick onstage. After a full day’s search, I finally found the perfect fabric in the last store I went to! The rest of my shopping list was easy: notions, buttons and paint.

I started by using a regular men’s polo shirt as a pattern. I cut it into sections and made the pieces longer to create more of a dress-like shape. I then sewed all the pieces together, added buttons, and hemmed the dresses. But was I finished?

Not quite.

After creating eight perfect uniforms it was time to grunge down. I used a seam ripper to distress the uniforms, adding frayed edges and ripping holes. Some uniforms got a bit extra treatment because they needed to look more worn for the women who had been imprisoned longer.

Stretch - Makeup
Gabriella’s costumes meshed perfectly with Brittany Vardakas’ makeup.

As a finishing touch, I watered down acrylic paint and used a sponge to add dirt and sweat stains, focusing on the areas that would get the grossest: the bottom hem and underarms.

But that wasn’t quite enough.  To complete the look, I spattered various yellows and browns to give the look of mud and other unmentionable stains. Lyndell wanted the dancers to feel disgusted putting the costumes on, and I think I was able to achieve that. (Laura’s note: object achieved!)

The most rewarding part of this experience was getting to see my costumes transform into the people from the memoir under the stage lights. It was emotional–and a little bit sickening–how real the grotesque makeup and costumes seemed.

This is a very powerful show and I am excited to see how it transforms to better educate future generations.

–Gabriella Rose Lamboy

Gabriella
Gabriella looking fierce!
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