Mess Fest

Dir. Liz Joynt Sandberg

Costume design: Grace Gilbreath

Actor: Laila Weinrich

Due to the unconventional nature of this production, this look has a rather unique story. It was designed before we had an actor to wear it, and it was constructed before we had a performance piece to use it for. Mess Up!, a sketch series written and performed by comedy majors, was one of the featured shows within the Mess Fest festival. While the costume was being built, the comedy student team worked on writing and rehearsing sketches to use it in.

My two initial inspirations behind this costume were British pantomime and the recent trend of historical dramas such as Bridgerton that take place in period settings but use purposefully anachronistic costume design elements. The heightened and often downright garish dress designs often used in Pantomime productions were a far cry from the more tasteful, subdued design projects I had been assigned previously, and they intrigued me since Pantomime is an all but nonexistent genre of theatre in the United States. I also found inspiration in 18th- and 19th-century satirical cartoons, several of which mocked womens' fashion trends of the time by exaggerating the proportions of different parts of their outfits.

As time went on, I leaned farther from Pantomime and more into this satirized modern-day image of a Victorian or Rococo aristocrat. The puffs of the sleeves abstract the actor's arms into chains of silly shapes that also partially hide the hands, while the circuslike stripes of the bodice and skirt invoke a sense of wealth or luxury without the taste one expects to see alongside it.

Digital costume rendering

Preliminary design research collage

Final fitting front view

Final fitting side view

Final fitting back view

Final onstage look