Surrounded by feather boas, colorful draped fabrics and a wall of sketches, five teens practiced their sewing skills in the ImaginOn costume shop in uptown Charlotte. Stitch by stitch, the group crafted accessories such as hats and hairpieces for a performance of Annie Jr. at Childrens Theatre of Charlotte (CTC). They had only two weeks to meet deadline, yet worked calmly and quietly.
These five were chosen for a two-week costume apprenticeship from among a dozen students, ages 12-18, who attended summer fashion workshops at ImaginOn, then put on a fashion show challenge July 21 at the Wells Fargo Playhouse. The apprenticeship gave them the chance to get more hands-on experience ... and see if its something they want to do in the future, said Jimmeka Anderson, teen services specialist at Charlotte Mecklenburg Library.
Winners were Emily Erlien, a home-schooled rising eighth-grader; Kaylin Little, a Northwest School of the Arts rising senior; Danette Nixon, a Myers Park High rising ninth-grader; Raehdojhn Rice, a Northwest School of the Arts rising eighth-grader; and Amy Gardiner-Parks, a Northwest School of the Arts rising eighth-grader.
The challenge, a collaboration between the Charlotte Mecklenburg Library and CTC, encouraged participants to incorporate upcycled fashion techniques: Thats the concept of reusing fabric from donated items to create new designs. Teens were also asked to keep to an all-American theme, in light of the upcoming Democratic National Convention. Designs were judged on piece preparation, creativity, sewing, accessories and overall presentation. The winners pieces will be on display at ImaginOn during the DNC.
To prepare for the Aug. 10 production of Annie Jr., the students brainstormed with the director, researched the time period, drew designs for whole outfits and accessories, and actually constructed accessories for the cast of 75 kids. One of the biggest challenges: Angel Harris, costume shop manager at CTC, charged the teens with creating a polished, sophisticated outfit for Annie to replace her orphanage tatters.
You want to look at society at that time period and you want to stay in touch with that era, Raehdojhn said.
At one session, the five practiced a running stitch and back stitch with snaps and buttons imperative for quick changes in childrens theater, Harris said. This bunch is very creative and they are so eager to learn as much as they can.
Hours of homework and research went into designing accessories fit for the 1920s. The group created a costume plot, with details of each characters wardrobe.
The most exciting part of the play Annie, for me, (was) being able to see the things that we worked on actually on the kids in a public setting, Emily said.
Andrea King, teaching artist at ImaginOn, also brainstormed with the kids, as directors do with professional costume designers, said Harris. The orphanage, King explained, is set in a shantytown, a poor place where vendors have trouble selling their produce of apples and chestnuts. She said at the meeting, We want lots of browns and blacks.
To show Annie coming into a wealthy class, Amy said, she used bright colors, rather than neutral earth tones.
Through research, Raehdojhn said, he is also now able to see similarities in the styles of the 20s and of modern-day. He sees it in business people who wear loafers and ties, he said.
The economy affects fashion, Raehdojhn said. When the stock market crashed then, it affected their style.
Although styles change over the years, the teens agree the key to a successful creation is consistent: Expose yourself to new ideas.
For Raehdojhn, its about pushing the boundaries of fashion. His motto: Mix different themes and stereotypes together and just see what you get.