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Costume students reveal the intricacy behind the magic at NIDA

NIDA’s third-year Bachelor of Fine Arts (Costume) students, Samantha Manning and Bethany Hewitt, have just finished presenting their major projects, which they researched, made and presented in Sydney’s COVID lockdown conditions.

The stunning results reveal the intricacy that lies behind the magic of performance costumes.

Bethany researched the ancient Chinese art of dotting with kingfisher feathers (Dian Cui) and how it can be replicated from the perspective of a contemporary costume practitioner. This is a technique of embedding kingfisher feathers in metal frames, often used for jewellery and headdresses.

Bethany made two headdresses (above). The first was a peony design using goose feathers, tin and wire, and the second was a phoenix design made from foam clay. One was made for a film scenario, the other was more robust for a stage environment.

Bethany is looking forward to being back on campus at NIDA, and to start work in the industry next year. ‘I would like to try lots of areas such as millinery, art finishing, and supervising,' she said. 'I look forward to seeing the direction that my career goes in the future.'

Samantha Manning’s presentation (above) explored live performance costumes that have the ability to transform and reveal another costume underneath.

‘It’s a technique that has been used throughout the world for hundreds of years in various forms,’ said Samantha. ‘Currently, one of the most well-known costumes using these techniques is seen in the Roger’s and Hammerstein production of Cinderella, in which Cinderella’s clothing is transformed from “rags to riches” – her maid outfit into her ball gown.’

‘I wanted to explore the kinds of functions and techniques in costume that can really elevate a performance and create this kind of “theatre magic” that is often talked about, something which drew me to pursue this career initially.’

‘These quick-change costumes have huge potential to enhance a character, story and performance. Learning about and practicing the techniques involved with these costumes has opened my eyes to the vast possibilities of costume construction and how that can be utilised in storytelling.’

Looking forward, Samantha said that, ‘As someone who loves live performance, I can’t wait for another opportunity to be involved in putting a show on the stage. I am also excited to go  back to working at NIDA, surrounded by so many talented, dedicated and wonderful people.’

Feeling inspired? Applications for studying Bachelor of Fine Arts (Costume) at NIDA in 2022 close on 30 October, 2021. Course guide and details on how to apply here.

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