Raising the Barre
By Simone McDowell
Posted: Monday, May. 12, 2014
Aimee Coleman owned her first sewing machine when she was 5. She made colorful outfits for her dolls. When she reached high school--and began acting in school plays--Coleman realized her real passion could be found behind the curtain. "We had a small theatre department and we were responsible for getting our own clothes," says Coleman. "So I started making my own things for the stage."
Today, she's the Costume Director for the Charlotte Ballet (formerly North Carolina Dance Theatre). After majoring in Theatre at Ohio State University and focusing on costume design and construction, she began her professional career in Ohio. She has worked with various dance and theatre companies in Ohio and Pittsburgh (her home town) and has even done stints with The Lion King and Wicked musicals. Now in Charlotte, Coleman has been making her mark in the Queen City's most delicate-meets-ornate costumes since August 2013.
Coleman and her team of two other designers collaborate, rent and lend hundreds of dresses, trousers, tutus and more each season for the company. Their workspace feels more like a "Project Runway" studio than office and they regularly receive samples from Mood, a mecca for luxe designer fabrics. Days are filled researching show histories, selecting fabrics and determining how to put on the best show for the audience.
To ensure each production is aesthetically pleasing and authentic, the costume designers meet with everyone involved and complete extensive research on the show and its period. Coleman also keeps a "show bible" which documents pertinent costume details from current and previous shows. Coleman's shelves hold books about fashion history including a collection of magazine reprints from Harpers Bazaar.
As for fabrics, Coleman and her team prefer to work with natural fibers. They like wool for trousers and silk for bodices and skirt. Microfibers and synthetics serve some purposes, but Coleman can tell a difference in the way those materials drape and catch in the light. Her favorite fabric: silk taffeta.
"That stuff is a dream," she says. "It stays where you put it, and it's soft, and it's soft, and it's beautiful, and you can do dramatic things with it."
And beautiful drama is ultimately what drives Coleman's design:"We are trying to put things on stage that represent the finer things in life."
This season, look for Charlotte Ballet's performances of Dangerous Liasons, Nutcracker and Pointe The Way among others.
Visit Charlotteballet.org for information and tickets.
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