354 Intermediate Costume Construction

THR 354    3 Credits    As Demand Warrants
Intermediate Costume Construction (2+3) h
This course is intended to improve students’ sewing and patterning skills through a series of exercises and advanced projects. Students will be asked to construct costumes and mockups, create and alter basic patterns, manipulate sloper patterns and alter existing costumes. The final project will be designed and constructed by the student. (Prerequisites: THR F254 or demonstrated sewing experience and instructor permission. Recommended: Theatre Practicum or Work Study in the Costume Shop.)

Intermediate Costume Construction Syllabus

1. Course Information

Course #/Title: THR 354- Intermediate Costume Construction     CRN: TBD

Time: TBD                                              Location: Costume Shop FAC 107                        Credit Hours: 3

2. Instructor

Name: Bethany Marx, Asst. Professor                Office: FAC 105B               Office phone: 474-5365

Email: bmarx2@alaska.edu      Office Hours: Wed 1:00-2:00, Thurs 3:30-5:00 or by appointment

PLEASE TAKE NOTE: This is an advanced class that builds off of the skill set acquired during THR 254: Beginning Costume Construction. Students who received poor grades in Beginning Costuming or students who have not taken THR 254 from the current instructor may have difficulty completing this course.

3. Course Readings/Materials

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

ISBN 0-435-08610-3

Required Supplies :

  • 3 yards of muslin or cotton broadcloth in an unobtrusive color
  • ½ yard of gingham fabric (¼”- ½” squares) in a low contrast color (light blue, yellow, pink, not red or navy)
  • A small binder or folder which can hold 3-punched papers (can be old/used)
  • Supplies to construct a final design project of your choosing (list provided later)

Students who wish to keep their men’s period (pirate) shirt must also purchase 3 ½ yards of shirting material (lightweight, non-stretch fabric , ideally cotton or linen). Students who wish to donate their shirt to the costume shop may construct it out of shop provided fabrics. Please inform me ahead of time which you intend to do, so I have materials available as needed.

You may also choose to (and I recommend that you do) purchase the following:

  • A good pair of fabric scissors
  • Paper scissors
  • A clear 2” wide ruler
  • A dressmakers curve
  • Push pins
  • Straight pins of your preferred style
  • A pin cushion (magnetic or traditional)
  • All students are welcome to use the scissors/rulers/pins in the costume shop.

4. Course Description

This course is intended to improve students sewing and patterning skills through a series of exercises and advanced projects.  Students will be asked to construct costumes and mockups, create and alter basic patterns, manipulate sloper patterns and alter existing costumes. The final project will be designed and constructed by the student.  Methods taught in this class are those commonly used in professional costume shops throughout the United States and Canada.

5. Course Goals

Students are thoroughly comfortable with shop equipment, including sewing machines, sergers and industrial irons.

Students are able to cut and construct accurately, following universal pattern markings without assistance from the instructor.

Students comprehend and can replicate basic draping, transferring and truing methods to create new patterns made to fit a specific form.

Students can follow written and verbal instructions to complete more difficult projects.

Students are familiar with common costume shop terminology and know when and how to ask questions pertinent to their project.

6. Student Learning Outcomes

Complete difficult sewing techniques such as pleating, felling and blind hemming.

Use seam variations for appropriate projects.

Replace a broken zipper or button in an existing garment, matching the techniques used by the manufacturer.

Repair and alter an existing garment discreetly.

Create bias tape and piping from regular fabrics.

Make alterations to a paper pattern based on a set of measurements and  “true” the seams accurately.

Understand the difference between commercial patterns and shop made patterns and how to use both.

7. Instructional Methods/Assignments

This course is taught in a combination of lecture and studio. Students will learn and practice while completing the following projects.

 Advanced Sewing Samplers-Similar to those required for Beginning Costuming, students must complete the following ten samples of advanced skills: Shirt tail hem, French seam, felled seam, offset zipper, bias tape, piping/piped seam, hand blind hem, machine blind hem, double welt pocket and one inch knife pleats

Men’s Period Shirt-To practice sewing accuracy and refresh memory, students will cut and construct a pirate/peasant shirt. Students may choose to make the shirt to fit themselves or make a shirt to donate to UAF costume stock. If you make the shirt for yourself, you must provide the fabric.

Corset Pattern Adjustment and Mockup-Students will transfer an existing corset pattern to brown paper, remove any manufacturers seam allowance, and adjust the pattern to fit themselves or another student, friend or family member. (If the person is not taking the class, they must be available to come in during class on the mock-up fitting day.) Students will then cut and construct a muslin mockup, adjust fit on the body and alter the original pattern after the fitting.

Draping Project-Students will drape a basic sleeveless bodice (women) or vest/doublet (men) with very simple neck and waistline on one of the shop dress forms. Students will then transfer this garment to brown paper, mark grain lines, label and true the pattern. Students will trade projects and construct a mockup from someone else’s pattern.

Alteration Project– Students will take part in a mock fitting with another student and costume pieces from UAF stock . Alterations will be pinned and marked in the fitting and completed by the student. The student will take before and after photos.

Final Construction Project-Students will create sketches and submit proposals for their chosen final construction project. Keep in mind the following:

The project should consist of one costume item. You may choose to design a larger outfit but select one piece to be constructed and graded for class. I want you to make one thing very, very well.

You will have to purchase all of the supplies yourself. Fabric can be very expensive. Design something you can afford to build.

Project must be reasonably difficult, without being too difficult to construct with the skills you’ve already obtained. Capes, cloaks, ponchos, peasant blouses, etc. do not utilize enough advanced skills. Suit coats and structured jackets require skills you do not have.

Project must be fitted. Please do not propose things made of stretch fabric or extremely loose. Garment must be made to fit you or a person that can be brought in to class at the end of the semester.  You will be graded on whether your project fits.

If you plan to use a commercial pattern for your project, you will be required to transfer it to brown paper, remove the seam allowance and true the pattern. Leave time for this.

Suggestions for projects:

Build a corset from your corset pattern. Must be fully boned, top and bottom finished with piping, and have grommetted or buttonhole lace-up closure. Decorated as preferred.

Drape and build a sleeveless fashion top to fit yourself or someone you know. Must be fully lined, and include zipper, grommets or button closures. Turn in draping, pattern and final top.

Alter your draping project from class to build a period bodice, waistcoat or doublet with closures, advanced seaming, peplum, wings, pockets and/or pocket flaps. Simple tie-on sleeve optional.

Build a men’s button-down dress or western shirt with breast pockets and decorative accents.

8. Tentative Schedule/Class Topics

Week 1

Introductions, Syllabus. Review of basic construction, sewing machines, serger, etc. Begin Samplers

Work on Sewing Samplers in class

Week 2

Finish Sewing Samplers in/out of class.

Week 3

Review cutting techniques, cut period shirts and begin construction

Construct period shirts in class

Week 4

Continue period shirts

Week 5

Period shirts due.

Lecture on pattern transfer, alterations and truing. Begin corset pattern adjustment.

Week 6

Finish corset pattern.

Start cutting corset mockup.

Week 7

Finish cutting. Construct corset mockup.

Finish and fit corset mockup.

Week 8

Alter corset pattern after mockup.

Demonstration of draping and truing. Begin draping project.

Final Construction Proposals due. (Two ideas, note which you prefer.)

Week 9

Finish draping on form. Begin transfer to paper pattern.

Complete paper pattern. Label and notch. Exchange with classmate.

Final Construction Proposals returned. Make shopping lists/yardage est. Students must purchase supplies for final project by Week 11

Week 10

Cut draping mockups, begin construction.

Continue with draping mockups.

Week 11

Draping Mockups due. Begin Alterations project with class fittings.

Alter garments in class.

Week 12-14

Final Construction Project. Due during final exam period.

9. Course Policies


Attendance is required EVERY DAY. This is a small, 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.

Students may be excused at the discretion of the instructor for illness, family emergency or life event ONLY if the absence is cleared IN ADVANCE.[*] I will not back down on this. If I do not have a phone call or email from you by 5:30 the day of class, you are unexcused. Documented proof, such as a doctor’s note, hospital bill or obituary may be required to obtain an excused absence.

It is the responsibility of the student to inquire about and make up missed work if he or she is absent. Students who are consistently late will be penalized at the discretion of the professor.

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.

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.

10. Evaluation/Grading

Project                                                                                                 Points                   Percent of Grade

Sewing Samplers (Ten, 3-5 points each)                                 40                           ~9%

Period Shirt                                                                                        60                           ~13%

Corset Pattern and Mockup                                                        80                           ~18%

Draping Project. Pattern and Mockup                                     80                           ~18%

Final Project Proposal                                                                    20                           ~4%

Alteration Project                                                                            50                           ~11%

Final Construction Project                                                            120                         ~27%

Total:    450                         (~ means approximately)

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

A 93-96%             B 83-86%              C 73-76%              D 60-64%    Failing is below 58 percent

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

**Late Assignments will be docked one letter grade (B becomes a B-) for each day they are late and will not be accepted after one week. Design assignments that must be presented in class will not be accepted after the due date unless prior consent is obtained.

You have two excused absences, no questions asked. Following these, your first absence will cost you 10 points, the second 15 points and each subsequent absence an additional 20 points. IT IS VERY EASY TO LOSE SEVERAL LETTER GRADES OR EVEN FAIL BECAUSE OF POOR ATTENDANCE. Remember if you are ill you must contact me the DAY OF CLASS (I’ve told you twice now)! Repeated tardiness will cost you points at the discretion of the professor. Please tell me if you are traveling a long distance from another class.

I will do my best to keep you informed if it is obvious to me that you may be failing or falling behind, but ultimately it is your responsibility to attend class and complete your assignments every week.

11. Support Services

If you are having difficulty with any part of this course, please make an appointment with the instructor.

12. Disabilities Services

I will be glad to work with the Office of Disabilities Services (203 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. Letters of accommodation will be accepted at any time, but will not be applied retroactively after three weeks.

[*]Exceptions will be made for exceptional circumstances, but you better be bleeding, unconscious or actively administering CPR, I kid not!