Costume designer prepares for opening night

Outfits will take on a monochromatic and Victorian style


Ashlynn Bakemeyer

In the girls’ dressing room, costumes for “Alice in Wonderland” are ready for their actors to wear.

Ashlynn Bakemeyer, Co-editor-in-chief

The theater department’s production of “Alice in Wonderland” requires the teamwork of several adults and students with various roles. A substantial amount of that work takes place behind the scenes, including costume coordination and design.

Costume coordinator Ms. Brittany Kugler said, “As a costume designer, you work together with the director and other designers to pull off big ideas.” Kugler added that some of the “big ideas” for the CaTheatre’s production of “Alice in Wonderland” include having a monochromatic — meaning outfits will be all one color — and Victorian design. “‘Alice (in Wonderland)’ can be set in a lot of different time periods, and the director decided to go with the Victorian era,” Kugler said.

Kugler said that another aspect of her job as costume coordinator includes seeing if costumes are decently comfortable and fit the actors. This part of the process was made complicated by Covid-19. “Usually the entire costume crew is much more involved, but with Covid-19, having less hands was safer. So I fit the entire cast in one day.” Kugler added that this took around two and a half hours. “Actors washed their hands and I was constantly sanitizing because I was basically touching everyone that day.”

An additional effect of Covid-19 on the costume design and coordination process was the incorporation of masks. “In one of our shows earlier in the year we wore full-face masks, but with this show we went with the half-face masks.” Kugler said she bought 40 black masks that all have an appliqué. She added that each mask was designed “depending on whether the masks were for human or animals characters. All humans are designed as Victorian era clowns.” In terms of the non-human characters, Kugler said she was able to get the effect across that the actor was an animal through the mask by using smaller animal-like add-ons, rather than creating large whiskers or noses. 

Utilizing masks within the costumes allowed for additional Covid-19 safety. “Makeup is an easy place for transmission. But obviously the masks take up most of the face, so there wasn’t a large use of makeup.”

Although, the masks did create some problems. “The costume crew has had to talk a lot with the sound crew because the masks interfere with the mics. So we’ve had to work around some of those issues.”

Kugler began working on the Hill five years ago, but she said, “I have been sewing ever since I was a kid. My mom taught me. She sewed all of my Halloween costumes.” Kugler added that she went to school for costume design and construction.

Actors tell me that once they get into costume they understand their character better.”

— Mrs. Brittany Kugler

After school, Kugler said she has been assisting and working for several other professional theatres. The Indiana Repertory Theatre, Summit Performance Indianapolis Theatre Company and Indiana University Kokomo are just a few of the departments that Kugler said she has worked with. Kugler added that she is even helping with the world premiere of “Apologies to Lorraine Hansberry (You too August Wilson)” which is debuting on May 7. 

The three words that Kugler used to describe the CaTheatre’s production of Alice in Wonderland are “Colorful, exciting and funny.” Kugler said that the costumes bring the show to life. “Actors tell me that once they get into costume they understand their character better. It influences how they stand and perform,” Kugler said.

As for the audience’s perspective, Kugler said, “The costume designs convey who is part of the same group.” Kugler identified an example saying, “The Queen of Hearts’s costume is all red and all of her attendants are also in red. So when there is a big group of actors, the audience knows that all of them work for her visually. Other examples are that the jury members are in all black and the birds are in brown.”

Kugler said that the costume design process takes about two and a half months for the spring production. “Costume designers figure out what they can sew and what they can buy. Designers also make alterations.” Kugler added that costume storage is also important to finding and fitting costumes. “Cathedral High School has a really great storage. Making things is really fun, but you can’t make everything because you’re on a time crunch, so having good costume storage can be effective in meeting deadlines.” 

Kugler said, “I feel lucky to be working at Cathedral High School. I take teaching people sewing skills seriously. Even something like sewing buttons is important, because buttons are everywhere, including your uniform polo shirts and winter coats. Students are always telling me how their khaki pants never fit right, and learning how to do these alterations or even understanding how much work it takes, and valuing someone else’s time if you take something to get sewn or fitted is really important.”