From Mental Picture to Finished Costume.
One of the hardest parts of being a costume designer is finding a way to translate what the customer sees in their head into something I can see in mine. There are tricks I use to help me flesh out what the customer is seeking. Feel free to steal these tricks and also to reply with tricks and tips that work for you!
First, and most important, is communication. Each of us has a preferred method of communication. Some like to talk, others prefer pictures, some prefer links to websites with images, some prefer to strictly use messenger, others only use email. Finding out how my customers prefer to communicate makes the process much simpler. Asking the right questions can make all the difference in customer satisfaction so do not be afraid to ask. The hardest part of costume design is realizing that your goal is to create what the customer wants. As tempting as it is to create what you think the customer wants, this is their dream and vision. Many times, the customer doesn’t know how to tell you what they want precisely. It is your job, as the expert, to give them the options and details in a way they can both understand and use to narrow down decisions.
Sometimes, but not often, it means convincing the customer to trust you when it comes to things such as fabric, trims, patterning and fitting. I try and start with the big picture and narrow things down as we proceed.
For some of my clients, I have created private Pinterest boards and pinned pictures of things that match what I think they are looking for. This allows them to see designs, images and material types and point out which ones match the pictures in their heads. I also up the boards for the customer to pin images and pictures they have as well. There is no such thing as too much information when it comes time to sit down and figure out how you are going to create a new masterpiece.
Other customers have requested costumes based off video games or movies which make the process of deciding on the costume much simpler and, at the same time, more demanding. Replicating an exact costume can be much more time intensive than creating one new. I have spent hours studying video game videos frame by frame to find the details I need to make this costume perfect.
Once I have the basic concept down, then we can begin narrowing down options.
Since costume is both a visual and a sensory art form, remember to ask your customer about allergies to certain fabrics or dislikes of certain materials. If you aren’t sure of the response, don’t assume. We all know what assuming does. Ask until you can think of no more questions to ask. Just as important, record the answers. Put together a designs and ideas page for your costuming. Show it to the customer and make sure they see what they want.