By Dana Budzaj
On stage, an actor’s costume is as vital to the storytelling as the scenery and script. The color schemes and fabrics have the ability to communicate the personality and depth of the character to the audience long before a single word is spoken.
In an eclectic assortment of costumes that have graced the stages of UM is featured in “Fashion, Fabrics and Design” on exhibit through Nov. 30 in the gallery at the Duderstadt Center.
“We have many extraordinary pieces in our costume stock and in our vintage collection which is tucked away in acid–free boxes in storage,” said Jessica Hahn, UM’s costume designer and associate professor of theatre and drama, School of Music, Theatre & Dance. “This exhibit allows our students the opportunity to view pieces from these collections and serves as a necessary learning tool to their studies of fabric and costume design.”
Curated by Hahn with the assistance of Jamie Colburn, an UROP student in the College of Literature, Science, and the Arts, the exhibit includes more than 15 textiles pulled from the UM Historic Costume Collection, costume stock and Hahn’s personal collection. Costume renderings, design research and vintage fashion advertisements will accompany the designs.
Selected costumes to be displayed are from numerous UM performances, including: “Sherlock Holmes,” “You Never Can Tell,” “Daughter of the Regiment,” “Anything Goes,” “Pride and Prejudice,” and others. All of the UM costumes are Hahn’s original designs made by the University Productions Costume Shop in the SMT&D.
Although pieces within the entire historic collection date back to the 1820’s, the oldest in this display is a delicate, white pin-tucked and lace dress from 1900. Other favorites included in the exhibit are: a bold blue and yellow-green villainess dress adorned with a mask and wig from “Sherlock Holmes,” and an 1830’s ball gown designed for the late Shirley Verrett for “Daughter of the Regiment.”
“Fashion and costumes are often inspired by fabric. While the type of fabric used in designs changes over the years, fashion repeats itself, and it’s important to bring attention to the stored collection for this very reason,” added Hahn. “Through the exhibit, students can view the evolution of dress and costume design and also analyze the technique behind designs of the past.”
Hahn began her career with U-M in the fall of 1994 and has designed costumes for more than 30 shows. She is the recipient of three of Chicago’s prestigious Joseph Jefferson Awards and a Charles MacArthur Award for her costume designs. Her designs have been included in regional, national and international theatrical exhibitions.
Dana Budzaj is an arts writer for Montage.