Tweed & Taffeta: Marjory Fielding (Part One)
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.
For this edition of Tweed & Taffeta, we’re thrilled to profile Wardrobe Supervisor Marjory Fielding, who has been working side-by-side with renowned costume designers at the esteemed National Ballet of Canada since 1995.
Q: Tell us a bit about yourself and your background.
I grew up surrounded by fabric, my mother sewed all the time. She made wardrobes for my dolls, which I still have, and especially cherish one little dress that was a duplicate of the one I wore on my first day of kindergarten. She taught me how to sew too.
After obtaining a Bachelor of Fine Art with a major in painting from Philadelphia College of Art, I changed directions and started to create works in fabric. Costuming was an accidental discovery but once I started I never looked back. I loved working on projects that involved so many people working towards a common goal, and I was eager to do whatever project was presented to me.
At one time or another I’ve done everything it takes to get a costume to the stage. I’ve worked with celebrated designers from around the world on operas, ballets, mega musicals and films. I also started Chrome Yellow, a company still operating today, specifically to dye, paint and breakdown costumes.
Q: Explain your role and responsibilities as Wardrobe Supervisor with the National Ballet of Canada
My job is to get costumes on stage, on time and on budget. I work closely with designers to make sure the costumes we make meet their specifications and also serve the needs of our dancers.
Q: What is the process of creating costumes for a new performance? How does it differ from preparing costumes for a production that the company has performed before?
Ideally on a new production the first step is to meet with the designer to talk about their overall design concept and to look at their sketches. We also talk about the types of fabric and the colour palette they want to work with. If I’m lucky, the designer will know about the number of characters and number of costumes per character but when we are dealing with a brand new work with new choreography those important facts may not yet be determined.
The next step is to take whatever information I have and turn it into a budget. After consulting with the cutters, I try to figure out how many hours it will take to build a costume, how much the fabric and trim might cost, how many additional people I will need to hire to supplement the ballet’s full time wardrobe staff and what specialty craftspeople will be needed.
Once the budget is approved we can proceed to build or at least line up staff and source fabrics while we wait for casting.
The process is different when we are remounting a show. The design is set when the costumes are first made but the dancers will not be the same. We refit the costumes, alter as necessary or build duplicate costumes when alterations aren’t possible. Our goal is always to respect the original design, our loyalty is to the designer’s vision.
Check back next week for Part Two of our interview with Marjory!