Upon begin asked, Catherine Bradley, McGill’s Resident Costume Designer and Wardrobe Manager, noted that the beginning of her project was rooted in the practical challenges facing modern costume design. During over thirty years in the field, Ms. Bradley noticed that costume design illustrations are often highly stylized atmospheric sketches, with great visual appeal, but may be impractical and lacking in critical information needed for pattern making, costing of supplies, and the actual costume construction process. The resulting problems that could arise made it difficult for costumes to be realized on-time and on-budget, as they often required numerous design changes before completion.
The Digital Costume Project team has developed specific routines to create physically accurate renditions of actors’ bodies, seeks to address the communication problems that arise between designers, directors and costume technicians, while “levelling the playing field”, to quote Ms. Bradley, for those with varying levels of sketching ability. Using Adobe Photoshop, the user follows specific protocols to render actors’ bodies as line drawings, which allows to-scale recreation of proposed designs. The digital illustration process employs a graphic tablet and pen as a drawing tool, but can also use a traditional computer mouse.
Ms. Bradley notes that the project has been extremely well received; it is now part of the design curriculum at the National Theatre School of Canada and is also being adopted by different American University theatre schools. Additionally, her work, along with that of her team, is now being used as primary source material for further studies of digital costuming.
Going forward, Ms. Bradley is engaged in the development of a second phase, “The Virtual Textile Project”, which seeks to create seamless and endless textile renderings of antique textiles that can be used in digital costume illustration. The project will digitize textiles from the collections of the McCord Museum, the American Textile History Museum and the Ryerson Fashion Collection, and the textile Museum of Canada, in partnership with McGill, Ryerson and Tufts universities. The resulting database will provide an historically accurate collection of virtual textiles, freely available to designers, costumers and students.
Now available freely to the public, the educational guides for the Digital Costume Project can be found at http://digitalcostumeproject.mcgill.ca/