– Riley Naughton –
Dr. Sandra Starkey has taught all of my design classes at Nebraska and she’s been the one really pushing me to do research, try new things and hone my style. I started doing undergrad research with her that ties into my past experiences dealing with poorly designed color guard costumes.
I did color guard all through high school and noticed that the costumes didn’t fit very well, especially in the arms—which is obviously important for color guard performers. So I started using the body scanner that we have in our department to look at how body measurements change during performances, and then I apply that to different patterning techniques to allow for more movement within costumes.
I'm on my second year of doing this project which is funded through (the university’s Undergraduate Creative Activities and Research Experience program). The first year was a lot of observational research, watching videos upon videos of performances, finding those moments where you can obviously see something's wrong with the costume, going to practices and performances and talking to performers about their experiences with costumes. This year, I'm working more with our body scanner to identify measurements in movement. The goal by the end is to have a good pattern or a good kind of solution to keeping the style but allowing for full-range, comfortable movement.
It’s really helpful to have Dr. Starkey there to help me because she’s known me long enough now that she knows if I’m not giving something my best effort. She’ll call me on it—which is always a good thing— and she challenges me to push my abilities.
My textile apparel design major also requires me do three internships while I’m here. I started my first one the summer after my first year at the local playhouse in Des Moines. I had taken one basic sewing class and I ended up creating over a hundred costumes in under three weeks.
It was crazy, but that’s what really pushed me toward costuming. Being required to do internships has improved my skills so much. To learn stuff in class, like patterning, construction, and how materials work together and then be able to apply it right away to costumes people will actually perform in has worked together perfectly.
Through other students in those classes, I’ve gotten to work on two shows with the Lied Center for Performing Arts: Motown and The Sound of Music. I worked in wardrobe as the dresser for a couple actors. I made sure all their costumes were ready to go. If there were repairs, I got them fixed, made sure that the costumes were cleaned, washed and pressed. And I was in charge of all their quick changes. If they have 15 seconds to change from costume and other, I’m the one who has to make that happen. So yeah, it’s high pressure, but it really helps to understand first-hand what the costumes I make need to be able to do and how they need to function. Plus, it’s really fun.
It’s like, there isn’t just one solid experience I’ve had at Nebraska that will set me up for my future—it's a culmination of everything I’ve gotten to do.