As costumers, when projects are given to us, we are told what we need and what it should like. However, the process between the original idea and the final product is seemingly just magic for most people, while for us it means figuring out how to create the pieces and on a budget. We do this using three different methods: retrieve it from stock, build it from scratch, or the much more expensive but timesaving–buy it.
For the Gilded Age Fashion Project, we had very little pre-made costumes in our stock to work with (maybe a couple petticoats and corsets, and a few hats that could be reworked). We had some fabrics and trims, which we would take advantage of as well. However, most of our materials and costumes we had to make an investment in. Luckily, fate was on our side as Elaina Wahl-Temple’s college mentor was liquidating his personal stock.
On May 4th, Elaina flew up to Indianapolis for a week with empty suitcases and a ready-to-search-through-materials attitude. She had trained under Dan’l Pugh–two-time National Costumers’ Association winner of the Grand Interntional Award–while she was in college, and was very happy to get the chance to see him and learn even more from him while she visited. When Dan’l retired from teaching, he went to work at Landes Costumes until they closed. After their closing, Dan’l took all the pieces he had made and put them into a 3-story house. According to Elaina every room was filled. The basement was primarily fabric and trim yardage; the next floor was machines, files, patterns, books, mannequins, dress forms, and pattern drafting tools; upstairs were more of the speciality pieces: wig heads, bustles, and pre-made costumes arranged by show.
The most difficult parts of the trip was to only grab what was needed, and to stay on top of time. It took four 9:00-5:00 days for them to get 2/3 of the way through the house. Elaina filled her suitcases and even filled some large boxes which were then shipped back home. Some of the pieces we did not have a purpose for so they were just admired and left behind, including some vintage shoes that were just too small and and dry to be able to get more than a couple wears out of even if they did fit someone.
Even after all these years, Elaina found herself learning even more from her mentor, Dan’l. “Fascinated” is the word she used to describe how she felt as he talked about everything from vintage hangers, to the names and stories of the women who did millinery, to describing the fabrics down to the stores where he purchased them. His knowledge of some things was just unfathomable, especially to remember all these years later. As time passed quicker than imagined, stories had to become more sparse and brief so they could get through as much as possible. As they went through everything, Elaina even found a few pieces she wore back in college; though many of them could not be used, one piece will be making an appearance in the fashion show.
“He was my teacher, I’m your teacher. I did a fashion show for him, you’re doing one for me. It just came full circle.” –Elaina Wahl-Temple on why this project is especially exciting for her as our mentor