How the costumes come to life

Angle Brand, costume designer, sorting out pictures on her costume inspiration board.

Walking into the VTSU Castleton campus’ costume shop, you’re transported into a chaotic, colorful atmosphere. 

At one of the middle tables, you can see one to two student workers pulling leather gloves out of a box. From elbow length to wrist length, the students continue to layer glove over glove on their arms. Masks lay across multiple different tables and on two walls hang multiple pictures of orcs, paladins – and Monica from “Friends.” 

Angela Brande, a VTSU theater professor, is the lead designer for Castleton’s spring semester mainstage show “She Kills Monsters.” Along with her five student workers, she has been planning and preparing the costumes for the Dungeons and Dragons-based play since November. 

“It’s been so exciting. People are thrilled about costumes specifically,” said Brande with a giant smile. “There is a lot of pressure to honor that excitement, but there are a lot of people coming in with a lot of energy and happiness and plans already.” 

The costume crew is in the first step of their process. This step is called the “inspiration stage.” Student workers including senior Jaqueline Nash and junior Emerson Jolliffe, have been helping to pull iconic characters and Dungeons and Dragons cosplayers for the inspiration wall. 

This wall includes multiple photos collaged together to create a vision for what color scheme, outfit and make-up look each character is likely to wear. They are paired with the character’s names strung by the photos so the designers, director and fight choreographer can add their own opinions to a specific character as well. 

“It’s a lot of Pinterest and a lot of trying to accurately show what’s on the inside of my brain on the 

outside,” Jolliffe said. 

The costume crew have been on the “inspiration stage” since last November when members found out who got cast for what character. This part of the costume process is one of the most important because it is where everyone finds out who needs what costume, what each costume is supposed to look like, the expectations for each outfit and the limitations they must work under. 

Therefore, a lot of the early work for Brande and her student workers is creating these online and physical boards everyone can 

view and add their opinion to. 

“I spent two hours on the computer printing images, searching and printing images just for all the characters in the show. That part of the process is really important to the end result. Because without the inspiration you’re kind of flying blind,” Nash said. 

Emerson Jolliffe and Salem Singh coordinate costuming plans.

However, it is not only the costume shop workers who are helping to create the inspiration for the costumes. The director of the show, Hannah Hammond, and the fight choreographer for the show, Marisa Valent-Altland, matter in making decisions for the costumes as well. All costume and make-up designs must be approved by Hammond 

“Angela and I have talked a lot about the vibe. Are these high fantasy costumes or are they like the homespun costume? Also, because it is set in the ‘90s, looks that are inspired by ‘90s characters. Agnes, the main character, has the looks of Monica from “Friends.” We’re giving style icons for these characters from the ‘90s,” said Hammond with a laugh. 

Hammond helped to direct Brande and her crew on what icons they should look at and pull for the inspiration boards. Cher from “Clueless” and Rodrick Hefley from “Diary of a Wimpy Kid” hang on the wall for the make-up look for the Succubi and Chuck’s characters. On their Pinterest boards, Monica and Rachel from “Friends” fill up the pinned boards for the characters Agnes Evans and Vera. 

Yet, it is not only the ‘90s look they’re going for. “She Kills Monsters” is a show that involves a lot of Dungeons and Dragons. Therefore, some of the characters need to look accurate to their class and race. Elves, Orcs and Paladins have specific looks that Hammond and Brande want to capture as well. 

But the two don’t have a lot of experience with Dungeons and Dragons. Thus, they have called upon the expertise of Valent-Altland to aid in describing what she needs for the fight choreography, but also what an accurate representation of third-edition Dungeons and Dragons characters would look like, Brande said. 

“It’s this really intricate balance of what Angela has the time and resources to create versus what is going to make sense within the story,” Valent-Altland said. 

Hammond, Brande, Valent-Altland and the student workers will continue working on costumes for the next month. As time keeps moving forward, Brande will continue through her process including pulling pieces for the costumes, doing costume fittings with the actors and doing any last-minute alterations. 

The costumes will make their first public appearance opening night on Thursday March 21 at 7 p.m. 

“I know they’ll be great. My artistic self also always knows you can do better,” Brande said. “But, I will also say that we’ll do a great job. Then we will see them on bodies that are moving and actors that are saying things and 

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