About Rachel Maggs

Posts by Rachel Maggs:

Unconventional Costuming

Typically, when one thinks of designing costumes, you think of the fabric being used, color combinations, and textures desired.  However, sometimes, unconventional means are required in order to best bring the design rendering into reality. 


This semester, I was Costume Designer for the production of “Urinetown the Musical” at SUNY University at Buffalo.  With regards to the above, I am specifically referring to the female “Twah-lette” costumes that were created.  After discussions with the director and other designers, my thought process led me to want these dancers to appear show girl-like, but also to create the image of being toilet brushes, and included the image of toilet brushes on the bodice as well. 


Once the concept and rendering were complete, there came the complication regarding the dancers’ choreography; specifically, they were to be dancing and moving on the floor.  The initial problem I saw with this, were that fabric (even fabric supported with boning and other stiffening agents) would not keep the desired shape.  Through discussions with the costume shop, it was determined that the best course of action would be to use foam with fabric adhered, in order to create the desired shape, which would hold up under the choreographed decisions that were made.


The gathered foam created the perfect layers, which not only allowed the dancers to move as required, but fully transformed my rendering image into reality.  Throughout this process, I have learned that unconventional materials are sometimes the best materials for the job at hand.  It has also inspired me to create a cross-referenced table of unconventional materials and their properties, so that in the future, I’ll have a list of materials that can perform different tasks, and inspire greater costumes.


As a future costume designer, a part of the design process that specifically interests me, are the costume accessories.  Specifically in this matter, I’m referring to hats.  I was lucky enough that one of my classes was given the opportunity to visit a milliner located in Buffalo, NY (“Custom Hatter”, owned by proprietor Gary White).  Mr. White has created custom hats for movies, television, theatre, and personal use, all by hand; his hats are truly a work of art and careful design decisions.  This visit definitely inspired me to continue pursuing my passion of costume design, with the hope that in my future career I will continue to be as passionate and excited about my work and process.

His website can be found at <http://custom-hatter.com/>, and includes a description of his process in creating the custom hats.

Collaboration to a Mutually Rewarding Destination

Originally when designing the costumes for the Emerging Choreographer’s Showcase (ECS), I shied away from the idea of using unitards.  For those of you who are not aware, unitards is the term for a dance outfit with the top of a leotard, but which instead continues down the length of the dancer’s leg.  As a designer, I have a tendency to view them more as a distraction to the movement, which flattens the organic shape of the dancer’s body to create different lines.

In the process of designing the costumes, many revisions were made through conversations with the choreographers in order to create a performance that captured both their vision along with my own.  One dramatic turn, was the last piece of the performance, which included the use of sand.  Originally, my design included multiple layers with light fabric which flowed and separated from the body; however, through collaborative efforts and clear communication, I revised the design to include unitards for the dancers.  This change not only helped to solidify the vision of the choreographer, but the combination of the sand and the unitards created a visually dynamic design, which was much more intense.

As a designer, collaboration is one key to the success of my designs.  Part of that is not only being true to my own vision, but the ability to move beyond my personal holdbacks, in order to create a design that becomes much more than its original parts.


Picture Note:  This is a picture of the three dancers in the ECS piece “Hourglass”, which is referenced above.  The picture was taken by myself (Rachel Maggs).

Unification with Individuality

This semester was a change of pace from previous semesters and costuming work that I’ve done.  Instead of costuming the production of a play, I am costuming a dance production with ten individual dance pieces.

With there being ten unique and individual pieces within this show, (and with one of these pieces being a repeated performance with previously designed costumes) my main objective was to create a unified complete performance through the costumes.  Through discussions with the nine choreographers, I decided the unifying element would be the color palette and the concept of layers, with each of the costumes being layered in some aspect; either through color blocking, paint, or physical costume layers being included.  Through this connection, all pieces keep their individuality, but are unified as a whole production.


The below pictures are examples of the final costumes for the Emerging Choreographer’s Showcase.  All pictures are taken by myself (Rachel Maggs).



History and Design

Earlier this month, I attended a panel/discussion titled “Histrionics for Cultural Preservation” which included various topics, including an overview of Project Mist, which is what this entry is going to address.

The idea that appeals to me regarding Project Mist, is through showing history from all points of view; in portraying the past without “rose colored glasses”.  Showing the history of Niagara Falls will make it more of an experience than the Falls already represent.  This is done through the design and technical elements to be added.

From a design point of view, the idea of portraying this history through new lighting and projection elements, and creating a 360 degree theatre is fascinating, especially with the design and technical possibilities that present themselves.  Lighting and projection are able to crate both an illusion and a clearer view of reality.  Currently, the lights that color Niagara Falls are able to change the basic color, but not much else.  Designing a view of the Falls could not only depict a historical event that hundreds of people could experience, but also expand on how visitors view the water cascading over the Falls through a realistic viewpoint.

Changes to the falls displayed, then removed to show the reality; bring a sense of experience and immersion into a world different than the one we’re walking (as theatre and the arts try to do).  The idea of lighting not just as color spots to illuminate the Falls, but additional lighting to display the various aspects of the falls.  Think of the possibilities!  How much more can we see; how much more can our consciousness be awakened?  To help us see beyond the world we’ve constructed/construed for ourselves, and into a new experience that can bring about new ideas.

How much more majestic and fascinating will the falls become, when we can see the water in various lighting and situations, and how many more ways will we be able to view the falls.  Even staying with the obvious, and looking at the water itself.