Wicked Wardrobe: Costume crew takes advantage of challenges, inspiration for ‘Descendants’

Lourdes Hernandez Peraza, Contributing Writer

The team sat around a circle table, their eyes focused on the task at hand. They meticulously selected different shades and colors, holding samples of different kinds of textiles and fabrics, some soft and others smooth as leather. As one, they threaded ideas and inspiration together. Each member put forth their thoughts, fabricating picture after picture, and outfit after outfit. As they did, characters came to life and a world came together. 

This 2022-2023 season, the costume crew for “Descendants the Musical” has had to assemble looks and outfits from scratch, as well as purchase costume pieces for all cast members after the discovery that, due to the show being recently published, there are no in-state, available costume houses renting out pieces for this specific show. 

“One of the first things that I had to do about a week before we started rehearsals, was I started to look [if] there any costume houses that rent out theatrical costumes,” Jeff Davis, tech theater director, said. “There are a handful that had costumes for the leads, but not the ensembles. I did find one that had a complete pot but they had never rented their stuff out of state.”

After making a decision, the “Descendants” directors, along with the theater booster club members, proceeded with creating a full costume plot for all the cast.

“While [creating costumes from scratch] causes some challenges, and there’s a lot of planning that goes into that, we also got to customize pieces to the way we wanted our production to feel,” Davis said. “We got to customize things to certain people, and it just made the show look better.”

For “Descendants”, each ensemble member had two contrasting looks, since the show transitions between being set in Auradon Prep School, and The Isle of the Lost. 

“For the Isle, we wanted to make everyone kind of individual and different. We stuck with the black colors and the jewel tones, but [it’s] a little more different [from Auradon costumes] because they’re a little more scattered and they’re their own people,” Olivia Lawhead, costume crew head, said. “And, then in Auradon, we wanted everyone to look super uniform, super the same and very preppy, [with] pastel blue and yellow.” 

For most of the costume looks, the crew was able to obtain inspiration from other productions to elaborate a cohesive look. 

“We were inspired by the school uniforms in [the Broadway musical] Wicked, like how they kind of have the same pattern, the same colors, but [each character is] a little bit different,” Lawhead said. “We did take a lot of inspiration from the movie, especially for like the four main kids.”

At the beginning of the process, the crew also had to put together a set of Google Slides and documents to both keep their costume pieces organized, but also to put together a vision for each character.

“I’ve been really impressed by the vision that my costume crew came up with,” Davis said. “I say, even if we didn’t purchase every single piece that they thought was going to make it into the show, the overall idea that they came up with is what we see on stage. And they were really, really awesome about thinking about style, thinking about color, and sizing.”

For each piece, the crew had to measure every cast member and all deck crew members. Majority of the measurements were taken early on in the rehearsal process and were used for purchasing appropriate pieces. However, deck crew members wearing a costume is something new to the department.

“We thought that every deck crew person was gonna get an Isle costume and an Auradon costume and we were like that’s not very feasible,” Lawhead said. “[We] pretty much gave them the same costumes that we gave the ensemble, so it wasn’t that difficult. I was more just worried about them being able to still do all that you need to do in costume.”

Additionally, due to the lack of costume houses available for this show, the directors and booster club members have decided to rent out the full costume plot to other theater companies interested.

“We could be the first with a full rental plot and we can rent out these costumes, which is something that we’ve never done before but it’s a really interesting opportunity,” Davis said. “We can have a revenue stream from that which is really kind of exciting.”

The costume crew for “Descendants” began planning, purchasing, and putting all the costumes together in early October. Ever since then, they have been a consistent element in the rehearsal process

“I think it just says a lot about the amount of attention to detail and planning that particular portion of the crew has,” Davis said. “They’re just amazing.”