Tweed & Taffeta: Linda Chow

Tweed & Taffeta is a series from Laura Murray Public Relations that explores costuming in celebrated performances – the varying interpretations from one production to the next and the subtle yet sweeping influence of wardrobe on a show’s overall texture.


This time, we spoke with distinguished Vancouver-based costume designer Linda Chow. A graduate from the Theatre Program at Ryerson University, Linda has worked as a seamstress at various regional theatres for many years, eventually settling in Vancouver. These days, Linda is an in-demand costume designer when it comes to dance projects, working extensively with esteemed groups like Ballet BC, among others.


Linda Chow

Makaila Wallace in Ballet BC’s Giselle by José Navas. Photo by Chris Randle.

Can you explain your design process?


First, I meet with the choreographer to talk about their thoughts for the project: who the dancers are, how many are in the work, the music, the colours used, the setting – anything to get a direction. Sometimes they already have an idea, other times they’re blank and open to suggestions.


Sitting in on rehearsals, I listen to the directions the choreographer is giving the dancers to get an idea of the type of movement, and generally keep my eyes and ears open to determine what the costume should or shouldn’t be.


I have no training as an illustrator so I research photos and images to show the choreographer. We then discuss likes and dislikes, and depending on the project I might do a pencil drawing. My strength is in my cutting and sewing; depending on time and budget I may make a sample to try out in rehearsal, otherwise I’ll go straight into building the costumes.


Where do you look for inspiration when designing costumes for dance performances? 


Magazines and books. I’m now discovering electronic ways, but I think paper is better; when it’s on paper I spread out all my clippings and sift through them for the best bits. I look for images that might suit a project – it could be a detail, impression, colour, fabric, etc.


Any favourite Vancouver hot spots when it comes to scouting the perfect item? 


I make the rounds to see what is available. Having a favorite might mean you’ll miss out on something! Just because you didn’t find anything at a given location the last time, it could have the perfect fabric for the next project.


Why is it so important to get the costuming for a performance ‘just right’?


Getting a costume ‘just right’ benefits everyone. It’s part of the choreographer’s creation, enhances the dancers movement, and adds to the overall audience experience.


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