Chanhassen Dinner Theatres’ Costume Designer Rich Hamson details the lifespan of a costume, from sketch to stage.
What do aerospace engineering, neurosurgery and costume design have in common? A complex language of terms that would leave most of us in the dark. Extending an expert hand, designer Rich Hamson beckons us to step inside the world of Chanhassen Dinner Theatre’s costume magic and explains how he landed in a business grounded in creativity, ingenuity and whimsy.
Theatrical Costume Shop Terminology 101 with Rich Hamson
- Draper/Cutter: A draper/cutter develops the pattern for each individual actor from the costume sketch provided by the designer.
- First Hand: The first hand will take the pattern from the draper and cut it into fabric.
- Stitcher: The stitcher will take the fabric pieces from the first hand and construct the costume.
- Muslin: Muslin is an inexpensive cotton fabric that designers use to “sketch” the costumes, allowing them to make changes before the real fabric is cut.
- Wigmaster: The wigmaster designs and constructs the wig for each actor in the show, and he/she is also responsible for maintaining the wigs in mint condition.
- Costume Designer: The costume designer works closely with the director to develop the clothing looks that suit the play and the director’s vision for the production. The designer researches the time period and sketches different looks that bring to life the era and the creative direction of the show.
- Craftsperson: The craftsperson is responsible for the painting and distressing of costumes, along with hats, shoes and specialty outfits.
- Dresser: A dresser works backstage with the actors to facilitate changes and deal with costume emergencies.
Q. How did you first get into costume design?
A. I always say I got into this business by accident. I was in a show and had such a strong sense of what I felt my “traveling troupe of players” should look like and approached the designer with my ideas. She agreed to let me go ahead and facilitate my ideas. After people saw that production, I just kept getting asked to do more shows and eventually stopped acting.
Q. What is your favorite part of the costume design process?
A. My favorite part of the process is the final finishing, getting those last layers on to give it the dimension that I want.
Q. What are the most common misconceptions you have found that people have about costume design?
A. The most common misconception is that because anyone can sew, anyone can do costumes. There are such specific and demanding skills that differ even from fashion design.
Q. Outside of designing at CDT, where else might people have seen your designs?A. People may have seen my work at the Guthrie, Children’s Theatre, the Minnesota Opera, Park Square, Theatre Latté Da, Illusion Theatre and many more.
Q. Are there any shows that stretched you creatively that you are particularly proud of?
A. The show which I felt really stretched my imagination was Jesus Christ Superstar here [at Chanhassen Dinner Theatres]. It was like designing a fashion line of post apocalyptic clothing. I also did a production of Man Of La Mancha at Theatre Latté Da, which combined contemporary clothing, ethnic Latino clothing and masks. It was very challenging to make them all work together.
Q. Anything else you’d like folks to know about costume design?
A. Designing costumes is not for wimps. It is intense and hard work, especially for smaller theaters, but the experience when you see everything come together is truly amazing.
Want to learn more about Chanhassen Dinner Theatres? Step behind the scenes to learn more about this Twin Cities staple.
Special Thanks: Kris Howland, Brennen Thomas, Tommy Benson, Nick Haug
Additional Media: Act One, Too, Michal Daniel, Jim Foell, Rich Ryan, Tom Wallace, Zach Peterson Productions
Minnesota Music: Patty and The Buttons
Production Team: Terry Gray, Mark Hentges, Minju Kim, Matt Mead, Ashleigh V. Rowe, Brittany Shrimpton
This story is made possible by the Arts and Cultural Heritage Fund and the citizens of Minnesota.