Fall brings the change of foliage, cooler weather, the familiar scent of pumpkin spice and our personal favorite — fall television premieres. I sat down to chat with *Pattern Maker and Fitter Yuan Hua to talk about her work on Atypical season two, recently premiered on Netflix.
Set Costumer Melissa Kidd began her career studying theatre, tech/design, and costume design, gaining hands-on experience as an intern and later as a PA. Her experience as a PA connected her with the right people and shortly after, she landed her first non-union costuming job, which later turned into a low-budget union job and joined MPC 705. Since that time she has discovered a passion for the ins and outs of set costuming and honed her skills in wardrobe issues and day-of troubleshooting, as well as on set strategy and logistics. Read on to learn more about her love for set costuming and the places it has taken her!
As a Pattern Maker and Fitter for the action-revenge film Peppermint starring Jennifer Garner, MPC 705 member Natalia Gattini made patterns to fit the actors, then built the costumes to bring the designers’ visions to life. These costumes, designed by Lindsay McKay and ACD Kayti Haugh, did an amazing job of setting the time and place of this film, while the costumers focused on the many multiples needed to keep up with the high number of different bloody scenes portraying Garner’s battles with the cartel who destroyed her family. We sat down with Natalia to learn more about her career in costuming, the biggest challenges working on this new film, and how important being part of MPC 705 and union membership is to her and her career.
Where are you from?
Where and what did you study?
University of Texas at Dallas. I studied Art & Technology, an interdisciplinary BA combining computer science, electronics, animation and art history.
How did you get into the industry?
I’ve been sewing since I was a child, as my family has a long history of garment construction. I got into high-end alteration for the red carpet when I moved to Los Angeles after college, which led me to constructing builds for commercials, which got me into doing costuming for television and film.
How long have you been a member of 705?
About a year and a half!
What does a Pattern Maker and Fitter do?
Make patterns from scratch to fit actors perfectly, and use sewing and building skills to translate a designer’s vision into the three dimensional world. Sometimes it’s just you, or sometimes you have a team helping you. It could be as simple as altering a pre-existing garment’s fit, such as slimming a pair of pants or hemming the length of a dress, or as complex as making a futuristic suit for a character that’s never existed before. It’s basically a lot of math, an intuition for the human body and how it moves, and the painstaking business of making your hands make things that existed only in your head before.
What were the biggest challenges for you on this project?
There were a LOT of multiples for characters that were getting bloody! We had to make patterned shirts that we found in stores look like one another, so when we changed the actors to do another take of a bloody scene, the plaid of a jacket wouldn’t all of a sudden jump out at you in a completely different spot. We went through a lot of shirts, and changed a lot of collars, pockets, hems, sleeves, everything. Looking at ten plaid shirts at 2am trying to pick out three that look the most alike can really mess with your mind.
What were your biggest accomplishments?
We were shooting a lot of overnights, and the costume team was just absolutely amazing. I’d say the biggest accomplishment was how kind everyone was to one another, how much everyone cared about each other and how we all worked together in such high spirits to get it all done. It was a very happy costume department!
How do you work with other costumers to get the job done?
I work closely with the Costume Supervisor, the Key Costumer and the rest of the costume team to know where I should be each day, what our priorities should be and what the timeline is like.
It was so easy to work with this team — particularly our Key Costumer Emilea Rivera . She’s an outstanding person to work with, and I’ve learned so much from her. Everyone was extremely engaged and excited to help one another. The designer Lindsay McKay and ACD Kayti Haugh are just an absolute joy — we had a lot of conversations about style, fit and just the sheer logistics of getting it all to the time and place it needed to be. We had a wonderful Ager/Dyer who took the garments after they were altered and really got them into character. I couldn’t be happier about having been a part of this film.
What advice would you give to people who are reading this and want to have a career as a Pattern Maker and Fitter?
If you love to sew, it will absolutely show. If you’re passionate and nerdy and excited about building costumes, it will emanate from your every pore and people won’t be able to not notice. I think the best advice I’ve ever gotten is that if the career you want is an art, the only resume that counts is what you’ve actually created and what you have finished and shown. And to not give up when the road gets frustrating — a career that is based on skill will only improve when you put the time and the work into it. There’s no “fake it till you make it”…more like “work it till you make it and then unpick it and reverse engineer it until you could teach it.” Be open to learning from others, and take comfort in knowing that you will never know how to do everything, but you can figure out how to make anything. If you’re the kind of person who finds themselves distracted by mentally taking apart an interesting jacket a stranger is wearing this is the job for you.
What are your goals for your career?
I love helping to build worlds, and I want to keep working with kind and outstanding people. I want to integrate more technology into my builds. I’m working on creating electronic components — like LEDS, animatronics and motors in general — and also on sculpting/mold-making, 3D printing and laser cutting. I’m interested in knowing more about specialty costumers. It’s such a big world out there.
Why is being a member of a union important to you?
My grandfather was a huge union guy for Railroad Workers in Chile. I always admired that about him. I think unions are extremely important because they protect the rights and health of the worker against huge corporations. In today’s landscape, with giant corporations controlling so much of the world, unions are our shield and our platform to communicate what is important to our brothers and sisters. I can’t wait to see and help shape the future of IATSE now that so many more of us are deeply fired up and involved.
Fabric Buyer Laura Wong began her career studying costume design, gaining hands-on experience as a PA on the set of a period film. Since that time she has discovered a passion for the prep side of costuming and honed her skills building new costumes, scouring costume houses, and sourcing materials from vintage to modern. Read on to get her advice for aspiring costumers and to learn about her love for the art of kimono dressing.
How she got educated in costuming: by working as a PA on a period film.
Her most memorable experience: working on the set of Key and Peele, where the schedule could call for everything from barbarian to church ladies costumes — all in one day.
Her advice for aspiring costumers: take care of yourself, travel, and experience other cultures.
Originally a fashion design student, Set Costumer and MPC 705 member Rebecca Leigh Adams quickly realized her passion for costuming film and TV. After getting on-the-job training through her experiences on American Film Institute student films and staffing non-union commercials and films, she became a union member and began working on fan favorites like The Newsroom and Brooklyn Nine-Nine. Read on to learn about some of her most interesting on set challenges and to get her advice for becoming a professional costumer.
What originally inspired her: a love for costume dramas.
Her most creative short notice costume solution: creating a pregnancy belly from an old hood.
Her advice for aspiring costumers: find a program in LA where you can get costume house experience.