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Tales of a Trainee - Charlotte Campbell's Blog

Charlotte Campbell is Scottish Opera’s first ever Leverhulme Trust Costume Trainee.

 

In her blog – Tales of a Trainee - she tells us about life in the Wardrobe Department, and the projects and productions she's working on.

 

Charlotte recently graduated from Wimbledon College of Art with a degree in Costume Interpretation.

 

November & December 2013

 

I was chucked straight into sewing on my first day and, although I wasn’t prepared for it, it was a really great way to begin. I had managed to go through school and university without using an industrial sewing machine. So my first task was getting used to that! They are much faster than domestic machines so I took it for a test spin. I started off making stock pieces as Don Giovanni was on tour at the time.

I began by making shirts and chemises for stock, each one varying slightly in decoration so performers will never look like weird clones on stage.

 

I also got my first taste of organising stock costumes. Each has to be stored according to historical era and size. I found this very satisfying, looking at huge long rails of costumes all neatly line up in order.

 

Also in my first week I went through to Edinburgh to dress the last five shows of Don Giovanni. I was really excited about this because I had never dressed a show before. On my first three shows I dressed the men’s chorus, which included two quick changes. It made me pretty nervous having to do quick changes, but we had 7 minutes to do them in so it was a good way to be eased into the process. I was equally busy - although with no quick changes - and a bit more confident moving over to the women’s chorus. I have much more experience with women's wear so I felt like I was winging it less. The atmosphere in the dressing room was great and I was involved in every aspect of the process. These pieces involve a kind of layering up starting with a chemise, a bum roll, a petticoat, a top skirt and a bodice and corset combined (something I didn’t realize they did, and was really interesting to learn!) And each piece fastens at the back. It was excellent seeing these pieces in a functional setting as wearable costumes.

 

Charlotte worked on the recent production of Don

Giovanni

 

Back at base in Glasgow, there were a few hard days graft getting all the costumes cleaned and prepped for travel as the production will next been seen in Boston. I was never sure what working in wardrobe entailed, I’m glad I now know, and boy is it tiring!

For the upcoming production of Don Pasquale I have been assembling a toile dress and petticoat for the understudy for the role of Norina. It was really great to be working with pattern pieces cut by a professional cutter, everything fit together beautifully. I was also given the opportunity to pass pins and take notes for alterations in the initial fittings stage. This was great opportunity to look into how professional fittings are run.

 

Recently I’ve also been working on some Victorian undergarments; a bustle and a corset. I was really pleased to get the opportunity to make this silhouette because I think it’s such a lovely period. It’s also technically really great to know! I want to be able to make as many undergarments as possible, the silhouette of a costume places it in its era, it is incredibly important, so I want to get as much experience with making them as possible! I’ve been asking questions until everyone’s ears are bleeding to make sure I pick up every tip possible along the way.