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Syracuse University fashion design students Vanessa Laub and Jamie Braden use their imaginations in creating costumes for upcoming production of ‘The Magic Flute’
Syracuse University fashion design students Vanessa Laub and Jamie Braden use their imaginations in creating costumes for upcoming production of ‘The Magic Flute’April 06, 2001Judy Holmesjlholmes@syr.edu
“The Magic Flute,” the upcoming opera presentation (April 18-19) by Syracuse University’s Rose, Jules R. and Stanford S. Setnor School of Music, has many delights for the eyes and ears, including costumes that look as though they came directly off a coiture runway. The costumes evolved from the fiery imaginations of senior fashion design students Vanessa Laub and Jamie Braden. The students were handpicked for the project by Jeffrey Mayer, associate professor of fashion design in the College for Human Development, because of their “dedication, love of design and personal vision,” Mayer says. “We weren’t really sure if we wanted to expend the time and energy that would be needed to do all the extra costume design, which would be in addition to our regular course work,” Laub says. “But after hearing about the opera and the exciting changes the co-directors made in the production, we were intrigued.” Braden says the real turning point came for her when she heard that co-directors Eileen Strempel and Susan Appel transformed the character Monastatos, originally an evil moor that captures Pamina, into a woman, cleverly named Monastatas. Monastatas is portrayed as a lesbian sex lord with three sex slaves. “The concept enabled me to really go wild with the costume designs,” Braden says. In addition to designing the costumes with input from Mayer, Strempel and Appel, the students ordered the cloth; found clothing props; did the makeup design; and pinned, sewed and altered the costumes so the actors could move comfortably while wearing them. Sometimes Laub and Braden would work all day and into the night on the designs, sleep for a few hours, and wake up and do it all over again. Their costumes combine a 20th-century look with the 18th-century dream of the main character, Pamina. The gowns feature old-fashioned bodices with a modern and high fashion twist. They used the music and the story as their guide for portraying the personalities of the characters through color and fabric. They searched high and low for the materials, which came from a variety of places, including Joanne Fabrics, Hot Topic, Pep Boys and the Spandex House in New York City. They got the feathers for the bird people from a supplier in Las Vegas.
“Our biggest challenge was to work within our time constraints and be inventive with the materials we had to work with,” Laub says. “But the project shed a new light on fashion design for us. We learned how different it is to design for a stage show where you have to be concerned about the story, the lighting, the movement of the actors and even their breathing.” Laub says she is considering a career in costume design as an option for the future. She began her career at the University as a speech communication major in the College of Visual and Performing Arts. Mayer encouraged her to “follow her heart,” so she switched into fashion design during her sophomore year. “I’m happy with my choice,” Laub says, “although right now I feel like I was a little bit crazy to take on such a huge project that should have taken a year to do. We pulled it off in less than a semester.” Braden says she began drawing pictures of clothing at the age of seven. “Then one morning, I woke up from a dream that told me to go for it,” she says. “From that moment on, I knew I was meant to design clothing.” She would eventually like to design high-end women’s wear. Her favorite opera costume is Papagena’s bird woman. The costume is sleek and covered in feathers. “It is so fun and original, it makes you want to wear it,” Braden says. “I can’t wait to see the costumes on stage, and I can’t wait to hear the actors singing in our costumes.”