For Jamey Varnadore, every journey begins with a single step into the fabric store. The costume designer has worked on Charlotte plays and musicals for more than 30 years. High school productions are close to his heart, since he started designing costumes while attending West Charlotte High School. Varnadore, who won the 2011 Metrolina Theatre Award for Outstanding Costume Design in the Davidson Community Players production of “Ragtime,” hopes his costumes inspire actors to thrive onstage.
Q. When did you start designing costumes? I’ve always loved clothes. When I was a kid, my favorite thing was watching old movie musicals. The clothes were always just fascinating to me and how they told a story. (At West Charlotte High School), I started as an actor. They wouldn’t let you be in all the shows, so I did costumes for the shows I couldn’t be in. That’s how I got into costuming. I studied acting, singing, and did that for years and really got to the point where I enjoyed design so much better.
Q. Where do you get your fabric? We’re lucky that Mary Jo’s, known around the world, is in the Gaston Mall in Gastonia. I also buy a lot of fabric online and I try to get to New York once or twice a year. While I’m up there, I always go shopping in the Garment District for fabric that looks interesting. A lot of times, a piece of fabric can inspire you.
Q. What is the usual design process for a show? I do research and start to come up with what I want each of the looks to be like. Then, I start shopping for fabric. The actors are cast, so that’s when measurements come in. It goes pretty fast after that.
Q. How would you describe the Charlotte theater scene? We have an amazing amount of theater and a lot of truly gifted people in a community that doesn’t financially support (theater performers) with regular paychecks like they do in a lot of major cities. Even without those paychecks, we have a huge number of people that are as gifted and talented as any of the people in those other cities. They stay here because they love Charlotte and they do theater because they love theater.
Q. What drives your passion to make costumes? I really like being able to make beautiful costumes available at a price schools can afford. If you spend any time at all around high school kids, they are so passionate about theater. It’s really great to give them one more tool to bring their performances to life and make it a great experience for them.