At last night's Met Gala, costume and fashion collided for a "purrfect" blend of glamour and spectacle on the star-studded red carpet. Celebrities and industry icons came together for a showcase of extravagant and outlandish outfits. Cat-inspired costumes, worn in tribute to the late designer Karl Lagerfeld and his beloved pet, helped Jared Leto, Lil Nas X, and Doja Cat steal the show.
"My students are now inspired to one day see their work on the world's biggest stages," said Millie Hiibel, a costume designer and theater lecturer who teaches a costume design class for the Department of Visual, Media, and Performing Arts in the Camden College of Arts and Sciences. With their newfound skills and knowledge, they may be just a stitch away.
The drawing-based design class is a comprehensive study of costume design. Hiibel covers the elements and principles of the discipline along with basic figure drawing and watercolor techniques. She also highlights the importance of fabric and texture with a session on textiles.
Students are learning to evoke emotion through fashion. Sometimes a costume can be nuanced, like a black outfit to convey sadness or a red dress to underscore passion. Other times, clothing can create an unforgettable, iconic image, like Dorothy’s blue gingham dress and white blouse, and glittering ruby slippers in “The Wizard of Oz.” Make no mistake, said Hiibel: Classic looks like Dorothy’s are no accident.
Jennifer Calay, a senior theater major with a concentration in performance, said she took the course to rekindle her love of designing clothes from movies and books she enjoyed as a child. She has especially enjoyed piecing together a cohesive garment from historical research, “passing mentions” in a script, and her own creativity. She noted that the course has taught her to analyze every piece of available information to create a costume that reflects appropriate social status and personality.
Hiibel is quick to point out that costumes are not just for catwalks, stages, or the Met Gala steps; they are part of everyday life. She noted, for instance, that certain uniforms or styles of dress subconsciously become popular in certain fields.
“You and I are both wearing a costume right now,” Hiibel said. “Mine is that of a professor who is also a working designer, so my clothing choices are intentionally stylish, yet practical.”
Hiibel's course is perfect for artists, designers, actors, and anyone interested in fashion. She typically gets a mix of theater and arts students in her courses, but occasionally has a student from an unrelated discipline, much like she was herself.
“I am very encouraging, because I was once an English major who wandered into a costume design class,” Hiibel said. “I hope that my students have become more mindful of design, how it affects our conscious and subconscious minds, and how important it is to the stories we tell about ourselves and others."
Creative Design: Beatris Santos