254: Beginning Costume Construction

Theater 254: Beginning Costume Construction Syllabus

1. Course Information

Course Number: THR 254      Title: Beginning Costume Construction

Time: MWF 2:15p-3:15p        Location: Costume Shop-107 FAC          Credit Hours: 3


2. Instructor

Bethany Marx, Asst. Professor           Office: FAC 109B    Office Phone: 474-5365

Email: bmarx2@alaska.edu    Office Hours: Mon 3:30-4:30, Thurs 2:00-4:00 or by appointment


3. Course Readings/ Materials

Textbook: The Costume Technician’s Handbook by Rosemary Ingham and Liz Covey

ISBN 0-435-08610-3



2 yards of muslin or plain cotton fabric in unobtrusive color

A small spool of hand sewing thread (Gutterman recommended)

One medium-large hook and eye/loop set (Sold in multiples.You may want to share with classmates.)

One skirt hook and bar (Again, sold in multiples.)

Small binder, slipcover or folder equipped to hold 3-hole punched paper. Doesn’t have to be new

3 yards of woven cotton or flannel fashion fabric, pre-washed

½ yard or more of contrasting fabric, also pre-washed*

Small shirt button, ½ inch or smaller (Sold in multiples. You may want to share with classmates.)

½ or ¾ inch wide elastic to fit waist

Paint or decorations for your leather mask (leather provided)

*contrast should be lighter in color or equivalent to fashion fabric or pockets/seams may shadow through. To test, hold up contrast behind main fabric.


Optional Supplies:

A good pair of sewing scissors

Colored marking pencils

A clear, 2”x18” ruler

A tape measure

Pins, hand sewing needles or other sewing supplies


4. Course Description

Introduction to basic methods of construction used by professional shops and costume houses to create theatrical costumes. Students will complete several projects, covering hand and machine sewing, cutting, fabric identification, simple alterations and costume crafts. Class also includes lectures on shop organization, job positions and policies.


5. Course Goals

Students can identify and execute common hand sewing stitches, and know the proper situation in which to use them.

Students are able to thread and operate a sewing machine with accuracy, following straight lines and curves, and starting and stopping at exact points.

Students can interpret pattern markings and instructions to properly cut out a garment.

Students are familiar basic construction methods, including pinning, stitching and pressing.

Students can envision the construction of a basic garment from the pattern pieces through observing the pattern markings and garment illustrations.


6. Student Learning Outcomes

Learn a selection of common stitching techniques by completing samplers, which can be referenced in the future when the skills are required.

Name the parts of a sewing machine and identify them on different makes and models.

Be able to rethread a sewing machine with speed and accuracy, including filling an empty bobbin.

Diagnose simple problems that may be preventing the sewing machine from functioning.

Take measurements of another person and apply them to the following: identifying whether an existing pattern will fit, measuring an existing pattern, completing a basic pattern drafting (sloper).

Visually identify common fabric weaves and fiber contents.

Use a burn test to determine the fiber content of an unmarked fabric.


7. Instructional Methods

This course is taught as a combination of lecture and studio.


Sewing Samplers

Students will complete samples of common hand and machine sewing techniques, hardware and closures. Samples should be firmly stapled to the appropriate worksheet and submitted in a binder or folder.


Students will complete 20 hours of time in the costume shop working on actual shows or stock repairs. Students receive two points per hour.

Sloper Pattern and Construction

Students will take accurate measurements in class and draft a sloper for themselves, marking and truing the pattern. The sloper will then be constructed out of muslin and checked for fit accuracy.

Dye Project

Students will be instructed on using dye equipment and be asked to attempt to match a provided color sample.

Pajama Pant Construction Project

Each student will follow provided instructions to mark, cut and build a pair of pajama pants in his or her size, or for a friend or family member. Details include contrasting side seam pockets, waistband lining and rear patch pocket; top stitched button fly and elastic waist. Students will fit each other to mark desired hems. Grading will be based on functional completion of project, care in following instructions, attention to detail and effort.

Leather Mask Making

Students will be taught techniques to cut and shape a simple leather mask.

Final Exam

The written Final Exam will test terminology and practical skills learned throughout the semester.

8. Tentative Course Calendar (Please note: this is an example syllabus.  This schedule is not correct for your class.)

8/31 Introductions, talk through syllabus/supplies. Introduction to the Costume Shop, basic fabric/material terminology.

Assignment: Acquire supplies for class.

9/3 No Class

9/5 Begin hand sewing samplers.

9/7 Continue hand sewing samplers. Finish at home.

9/10  Introduction to the sewing machine. Threading the machine and bobbin, filling a bobbin. Introduction to the serger. Machine practice exercises

9/12 Basic machine skills. Begin machine samplers

9/14 Work on machine samplers.

9/17 Begin hardware: Zippers

9/19 Begin hand-sewn hardware including buttons, snaps, hooks

9/21 Continue hardware

9/24Machine made buttonholes

9/26 Last day to work on samplers in class

9/28 Taking measurements. Measuring a patterns. Measuring a dress form.

10/1 Sewing Samplers DUE. Explain basic drafting techniques. Draping vs. Drafting Demonstrate dart manipulation

10/3 Begin sloper drafting

10/5 Continue sloper drafting

10/8 Explain basics of cutting/cutting terminology. Cut sloper patterns out of muslin

10/10 Finish cutting and stitching. Fitting demonstration in class

10/12 Last day for slopers in class. Lecture on pattern alterations and truing.

10/15 Sloper project DUE. Demonstrate dyeing techniques. Short lecture on color theory and safety.

10/17 Work on dying projects in class.

10/19 Refresh cutting and layout instructions. Explain pattern pieces.

10/22 Half class begin cutting. Other half excused unless dye project unfinished.

10/24 Other half class cutting

10/26 Finish cutting, begin serging PJ pants. Dye Project DUE.

10/29 Continue serging/sewing.

10/31 Happy Halloween! Extra credit if you wear a costume to class (provided you can still work in it). Pajama pant construction: Build and attach fly.

11/2 Pajama pant construction: Begin side seam pockets.

11/5 Pajama pant construction: Finish side seam pockets.

11/7 Pajama pant construction: Make back patch pocket

11/9 Pajama pant construction: Attach back patch pocket

11/12 Pajama pant construction: Refresh memory on buttonholes. Practice buttonholes.

11/14 Pajama pant construction: Stitch buttonhole in fly. Cut open. Stitch on button.

11/16 Pajama pant construction: Make waistband. Attach waistband.

11/19 Pajama pant construction: Stitch side seams and crotch seams.

11/21 Pajama pant construction: Finish seams.

11/23 Thanksgiving Break. No class

11/26 Pajama pant construction: Fit elastic and mark hem. Finish pants.

11/28 Leather mask demo

11/30 Design leather masks, cut leather

12/3 Pajama pants DUE. Wet mount masks and leave to dry until Wednesday.

12/5 Paint and decorate masks, add ties

12/7 Mask DUE. Final lecture on costume shops in the real world. Final Exam review.

12/10 Final Exam

Practicum Hours DUE by end of scheduled exam period, Friday Dec, 14 at 3 p.m.


9. Course Policies


Attendance is required EVERY DAY. This is a hands-on class and you need to participate to learn. I know everyone has an occasional “brain lapse,” so students will be granted two excused absences in the semester. Any further absences will count against your final grade (see grading below). “Life events” such as weddings may be excused if consent is obtained prior to the event and an effort is made to promptly reschedule and make up missed work.

If you become ill or have a personal or family emergency, such as a funeral, please contact me prior to the start of class and bring a doctor’s slip, obituary or note. If you have doubts about whether something is considered excusable, please talk to me sooner rather than later. Excusing students from class for any reason will remain up to the discretion of the instructor.

Cheating=Bad. Learning=Good.

It is difficult to cheat in this course, as most of the work will be completed in the presence of the instructor. However, as they say, where there’s a will, there’s a way. So, if I catch you cheating, or you work doesn’t look like yours, you’ll lose all the points for the assignment. A second offense will result in failure of the course.

Also, please treat your instructor, the shop manager, the equipment and your fellow students with respect. Hurtful, racist or derogatory comments, excessive use of inappropriate language, physical violence and improper use or vandalism of university equipment will not be tolerated. Please see the instructor if any class activity or your classmates are making you uncomfortable so we can address the issue promptly. (Please refer to the UAF Catalog Academics and Regulations under Student Code of Conduct for more information on the University’s policies regarding student behavior. I am very serious about this.)


All information included on this syllabus, detailed assignment instructions and up-to-date grades will be available on Blackboard at classes.uaf.edu within the first few weeks of the semester. Emails will be automatically sent out to remind you of major deadlines; however, failure to receive a reminder email is not an accepted excuse for late work. All due dates are printed in this syllabus under the tentative weekly schedule. If you do not regularly check your university email address, you may wish to set up forwarding to an address you check frequently.

10. Grading/Evaluation

points                    % of total grade

Sewing Samplers                     60                                15%

Practicum                                40                                10%

Sloper                                      60                                15%

Dye Project                             40                                10%

Pajama Pants                           100                              25%

Leather Mask                          40                                10%

Final Exam                              60                                15%

Total:               400

Attendance is mandatory. Rather than earning points for being in class, you will lose points from your final total grade if you miss. For each unexcused day you miss you will automatically lose points regardless of whether you make up the work. The first day you miss will cost you 10 points, the next day will cost you 15 points, and each day after that will cost you 20 more. 20 points is 5% of your final grade!

Late assignments will be downgraded 5% each day and will not be accepted beyond one week after due date unless ok-ed by instructor. Students will be granted a 48 hour grace period on first late assignment only.

A+ 97-100%                     B+ 87-89%                        C+ 77-79%                     D+ 65-70%

A 93-96%                          B 83-86%                          C 73-76%                       D 60-64%

A-90-92%                         B- 80-82%                         C- 70-72%                      D- 58-59%

Failing is below 58 percent

11. Support Services

If you are having problems with any part of this course, please contact the instructor.

12. Disability Services

I will be glad to work with the Office of Disabilities Services (208 WHIT, 474-5655) to provide reasonable accommodation to students with disabilities. It is the responsibility of the student to contact the office and provide a letter of accommodation within three weeks of the start of class.