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Dressing with Pride: The costume design behind University Theatre show “Pride and Prejudice”

If you haven’t seen the University Theatre’s new adaptation of Pride and Prejudice, I highly recommend you do. The show, which runs until Nov. 22, is three hours long and is filled with laughter and ornate, hand-crafted costumes.

“The costume element of this production is of such a high caliber, from design to creation to performance of each piece,” said Matthew Ober, who’s acting in the show. The University Theatre decided to take a more modern spin on Jane Austen’s Pride and Prejudice, published in 1813, which included a major creative opportunity in the costume department. The head designer behind the whole production is Alexandra Bonds.

Bonds is the Professor of Costume Design at the University of Oregon and manages a team of designers for the theatre.

“We have a full time shop manager, Vicki Vanecek-Young, who also makes all the patterns for the clothes. There are two GTFs, five or six work study positions and up to 20 students from the introductory technology sequence who contribute to the construction of the clothes,” said Bonds.

While Bonds had a whole team to help create costumes, finishing them took a long time.

“I did the first sketches in August, shopped for the fabrics and finished the design in September and we started building the costumes at the beginning of fall term,” she said.

The play’s costumes reflect the Regency era, known for it’s detailed columnar dresses and exquisite tailoring. Every character of the play has their own unique styling that contributes to their attributes as a character. For instance, Bonds described the dress of one of the main characters, Kitty, whose dress has more of a “silly cotton candy” look to it because her character is a bit ditzy. While each character is distinct, they all circle back to a main look that fused old-world Jane Austen with modern day fashion.

“They all had the high-waisted line and the pastel colors to unify them with the past and present qualities of fashion,” Bonds said.

The element of costumes in a production is crucial. They can better help the audience understand the characters and the play as a whole.

“You can see from my designs that I place a high value on all the details of silhouette, color and ornamentation. I use these elements of design to create distinct characters so that the audience will come to understand who each is through their visual image,” she said.

Costume design is a great way to contribute and experience theater if acting isn’t quite for you. Any student can apply for a job in the costume shop or enroll in TA 122. “We can teach you how to sew while you are working on simple parts of the costumes and more experienced stitchers will be assigned more complex projects,” Bonds said.

Follow Sarah Vella-Labrador on Twitter @SarahKiana95

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Sarah Vella-Labrador

Sarah Vella-Labrador