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Blood, fairy tales & disco: Creating the costumes for FEATHERS AND TEETH

March 22, 2017

Costume Designer Sarah Gahagan discusses some of her inspiration for the detailed designs, how washability was key and why multiples had to happen in the making of costumes for Feathers and Teeth.

NC: What was your inspiration for the costumes of F&T?

SG: My inspiration was informed by both period silhouette as well as the history of horror, tragedy and the German fairytale. I was particularly interested in the strong difference between 1970s folk craft aesthetic and disco aesthetic. I was also interested in how the 'Young Edwardian’ fashion movement in the late 1960s through the early 1980s was idealizing anything that wasn’t modern (often as a rejection of war and the status quo) – creating a look much like a fairy tale. Some people would be familiar with the early 1980s version of that style by the designer Jessica McClintock for Gunne Sax. 

NC: How was the process of creating the costume for this production unique and what were some of the challenges?

SG: We had to create distress in multiple levels as well as unique painting, printing and embroidery on many of our costumes, many of those in multiples. 

This was a challenging ‘little’ show because of all the blood, mud and food! It took my assistant Alex Pletcher, intern Jeff Edwards and I many times reading the script and tracking all of this to know what was required of the costumes. For example, many of our fabrics were tested by our team to make sure that their washability would hold up to the rigor of the script's requirements. Because of all of these challenges many of costumes needed duplicate versions – creating time to wash and get clean in-between shows. For a period show like this one it meant that many things had to be built to meet our challenging needs. Period costumes/ clothing often won’t hold up to the wear and tear that theatre actors put on them (after all these period clothing pieces are at least 45 years old!) not to mention you can never find a period clothing piece in multiples/ duplicates. 

Sarah Gahagan is a costume and set designer for theatre, dance, festivals and stop-motion animation film as well as being an adjunct theatre instructor and resident costume designer at Portland Community College. Read her full bio here.

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