In the theatre costume shop: Paper garments

In a spacious room with floor to ceiling windows, five women and men craft clothes that could not be found at a regular store.

Each year about dozen plays come to life with the help of costumes fashioned at the Costume Shop at the Theatre and Interpretation Center at Northwestern University. The latest production, which is based on Antoine de Saint-Exupéry’s novel The Little Prince, uses mostly paper garments.

Marina Arconti, supervisor of the shop, took me on a tour backstage.



There is something really magical about somebody handing you a picture and two months later it’s there, and it’s physical, and it’s three-dimensional. There is really something beautiful about that.

I am Marina Arconti. I am a costume shop supervisor at the Northwestern Costume Shop in Theatre Interpretation Center. We produce the majority of the costumes for all of those productions.

This season has been great because there has been sort of a wide range of projects. The show that we just finished, which is Little Prince, there is lots of costumes in there, which are gonna be very memorable, because they are all unusual, most of them are made out of paper.

In Little Prince there is a character that is called the Rose and she has this giant sort of paper skirt that is kinda of put together like a . And at the very beginning she has to come up the trap in the stage and come out of the floor. But she needed to be sort of all compacted and sort of looked like a little bud and then be able to sort of bloom on stage.
We spent a lot of time on that show sort of researching different ways that we could get the look of paper, different ways that we could make paper behave. We added glue and net to the back of all of it.
Even those of us who have been doing it for years and years and years every day, we had to learn something new. When you are talking about a show that has hundreds of pieces in it, one piece changing sort of affects everything.

I haven’t enjoyed a play for years, just because, whether it’s ours or someone else’s, just because you get to the point where you look at the technical details so much that it is sort of distracting and it’s hard for me to actually concentrate on the plays. But I would say, there is always mixed emotions – there is always, you look at things and there is, sort of, it’s half pride, and half like “Oh, maybe if that just…” You know? That’s something that’s pretty consistent among all of us as well. We all to some extent are perfectionist