Taking a break from posting about my all-but-halted health challenge while I reevaluate my goals, to post some old pictures of me working on silly costumes, and some thoughts on derivativity. (Is that even a real word?)
As you all know, I come from a theatrical background. In theatre, design is a collaborative process. Sure, the costume designer ultimately gets credit. But there are many other people within the process who add valuable, necessary input to the final product.
- There might be a sketch artist, who creates the final rendering based off the designers description and sketches.
- The director has an overall vision for the show that will impact the design.
- The choreographer designs movement that the actor performs within the costume.
- The wardrobe supervisor is aware of all the ins and outs of the show, and whether or not the costume will work in that setting.
- And the draper who is taking the design from paper to real fabric has technical knowledge that impacts how the garment is built.
It is very organized, civil, respectful process. When the show finally opens, and maybe the designer wins an award, everyone who had a hand in (and on!) those costumes shares in the glory. Costumes are truly a labor of love.
Even bear costumes. Reeve Carney and I at Broadway Bears, 2011
This is the attitude I bring to Lineagewear. As I quickly discovered though, this is not the attitude in fashion. This business is weird. People are secretive about their sources. They are... less than forthcoming. Some are mildly opportunistic, others downright cutthroat. Every decision I make with my business, I want it to be morally sound. I want to feel good about my choices, be empowered by them. Not so with everyone else.
Yesterday I stumbled across a new brand that had very obviously gotten a hold of my leggings, and used them to start their own line.
One of their prints was actually a print I had when I first opened. Their product photos showed crooked, misaligned seams, which made me really sad. Their leggings- excuse me, MY leggings- only have THREE seams! There's no excuse to get them wrong. And their sizing and brand name were so obviously mine that I had to laugh at how brazen they were. Don't even try guys!
See, the thing with my leggings, is the design is unique. My fit is based off of patterning techniques I learned over ten years of working in a theatrical costume shop. It is completely dissimilar to commercial athletic wear in both form and grading.
Commercial patterns are cut in a way that is most efficient to the fabric, and is graded in a way that does not take body shape into account.
Not a commercially patterned garment.
My patterning technique was developed collaboratively for countless shows, over thirty some odd years, by my predecessors, my mentors, designers, wardrobe supervisors, and even the actors and dancers that wore them. These are tights, leotards, and unitards that appeared in shows like Phantom of the Opera, Lion King, Disney on Ice, Spiderman- Turn off the Dark, and even the Ringling Brothers and Barnum and Baileys Circus. They were designed to be costumes. How are the costumes I worked on different from regular clothing?
- They need to be sturdier- WAY sturdier. You can't expect a piece of cheaply made junk to hold up to eight shows a week of an actor sweating and dancing and running around.
- (For stretch costumes) The seams need to be hidden. You can't have a dancing fish on stage with a great big seam running up the middle. It takes you out of the moment.
- They need to be SO comfortable, the actor doesn't even notice them. You can't have a monkey pulling up her leggings on stage! Or worse, a "wardrobe malfunction"!
- They need to fit perfectly. Imagine a nude look unitard with wrinkles ... yeah, actors LOVE that.
Me, circa 2008, with a wrinkle free unitard I built.
That flat front legging thing?
That was me.
The fashion industry would never have thought of cutting leggings that way, because it is LESS efficient in terms of fabric. It impacts their bottom line. I'd rather spend a little more on extra yardage if it means a better fitting pant.
I spent ten years on the fitting room floor, mouth full of safety pins, frowning at a performers crotch to make sure their unitard/tights fit them the most flattering way (so as not to draw attention to it). You bet your bum that eliminating the center front seam was the obvious solution to that.
Occasionally, I stood, and my dear friend sat.
I should also mention the contoured leg seams. Many cheap leggings patterns are just straight tubes. If you ever bought a no name brand of leggings from overseas for like, eight bucks, you've probably noticed that they slide down in the back, or bunch up around the knees, or pull weird in the crotch. That's because the seams aren't contoured.
If you cut open a pair of my leggings along the seam and laid it out flat, you'd be able to see the curve of the calf, the thighs, where it dips in under the kneecap, and where it's shaped along the butt. My leggings look like real, actual legs. They fit like a dancers unitard would fit. That's why they mold to the body.
Not only that! But they are graded differently than commercial patterns. They take into account how and where women carry weight. How many of us with even a little bit of a tummy have felt squeezed to death by clothing that doesn't take your real, actual shape into account? Or found something that fits well in one area and is super baggy elsewhere? Like, all of us I'm sure.
I designed these leggings right after my c-section, and took that into consideration. I've also, again, spent ten years staring at actors bodies, so I already knew how women are shaped, and how unique and beautiful all of our bodies are.
In short, other brands might be derivative, but I do my own thing. Clearly it means my leggings are the best. ;)