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Dressing Scarlett

RMTC costume designer Judith Bowden helps actors bring stories to life

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Judith Bowden

Days before the opening of Gone with the Wind at the Royal Manitoba Theatre Centre, we met with Judith Bowden, the play's costume designer, and asked her what it was like to make the costumes for the adaptation of the famous Margaret Mitchell novel.

What research did you do to help you with this era?

JB: "Museums have exquisite examples, but they are usually high-end and we are going from wealthy people to middle-of-the-road. So I needed to research quite a range in terms of that, so that meant buying a lot of books... Scarlett is about 16, 17 years old, and our version of a 16-year-old is a lot different than what is portrayed in the play."

When making costumes, do you take inspiration from other stage productions or movies, or do you like to go into it without any outside influence?

JB: "The inspiration? Reading the book is the inspiration... Specifically, we are telling Scarlett's story and the journey of her clothing and how she sees other people is what's guiding my choices."

How do you change your techniques from a modern piece to a period piece?

JB: "I just finished doing My Fair Lady, where we specifically decided to choose steampunk and Alexander McQueen as influences because there is a tailoring technique that seemed to suit the dilemma the main character is in... The steampunk gave us a Victorian edge and modern edge at the same time. It allowed us to modernize the piece without actually making it look modern."

What single item have you created that you're most proud of?

JB: "On this show, often what I end up loving is something subtle. And this blouse that Scarlett has is completely destroyed that I love. The fabric is destroyed in such a way that it has a lovely colour and lace that speaks to someone who has gone through that type of trauma. Scarlett is feisty, yet left in something so delicate. She's bursting through it in her personality -- I like that contrast."

Do you like to dress up in your private life or is your personal wardrobe more casual? Is there pressure to be a snappy dresser?

JB: "I like good clothing and interesting cuts. I don't feel pressure to do it, I certainly require clothing that is very flexible to work in but I do like unique pieces of clothing and I do hunt out for interesting pieces."

Republished from the Winnipeg Free Press print edition January 26, 2013 E10

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