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Issue Date: April 2007 Issue

A Seamless Tale

Kim Schneider
Esther Haberlen, a patternmaker at the Great Lakes Theater Festival Costume Shop, eyes the ruler she has placed on top of her paper, stepping back to make sure the angle she is about to draw is accurate. 

Inside the small storefront on East 14th Street, just around the corner from Playhouse Square's Euclid Avenue marquees, eight women cut, sew, iron and pin costumes for the spring repertory featuring "Hay Fever" and "The Tempest."

Nicole Frachiseur, shop manager and designer, sketched 22 outfits for the production of "Hay Fever" and has collected the spools of fabric piled on tables that are on their way to becoming pants, dresses and belts. 

With the task of outfitting 18 actors for the two productions, organization is key - thanks to her bible. "It's basically a notebook that contains any and all information on the show," says Frachiseur. From concept to completion, the costume process takes from six to eight months. 

But paying attention to details, like Haberlen does as she determines the lines she has drawn are correct, proves that every step in the process is instrumental in turning these sketches into life. 

Left: The actors schedule time for costume fittings. Many of the characters have multiple costumes. For example, Jeffrey Hawkins, who plays Simon Bliss in "Hay Fever," tries on a pair of muslin pants during the mock-up fitting for waist size and length. Each ready-made piece, like the vest, goes through a process of fitting, altering and refitting before it reaches the final stage. "The more you build, the better," says Frachiseur. "It's easier to control the outlook of it."


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