Design a paper costume for your mood

Museum of Childhood
March 16, 2022

There are so many creative roles behind a stage production in a theatre, from set-designers and sound engineers to puppeteers and costume designers. In our previous post, we invited you to create a set-design in a shoebox. This time, let’s think about costume design, inspired by the costumes that will be displayed in the new Imagine Gallery at Young V&A.

Introducing Kinnetia Isidore

This Easter school holiday, the Young V&A team will be holding workshops for children in the Tower Hamlets Holiday Childcare Scheme. We will explore creative processes of costume design and have been working with costume designer Kinnetia Isidore to plan the workshop.

Kinnetia Isidore, costume designer, still from a film made by Mmoloki Chrystie © Victoria and Albert Museum

Costume design is an important part of telling a story to an audience. Kinnetia explains how costume design helps to build characters on the stage:

A costume designer is responsible for how people look on the stage. It is different to fashion design because it’s all about feelings and emotions.

In order to get inspiration, Kinnetia likes listening to music, dancing and dressing up. Sometimes she goes outdoors get inspired by nature. The shapes, colours and smells of plants and flowers can make you feel happy or excited. Can you find something that catches your eye outdoors in the park or garden?

Inspired by the V&A Collection

(Activities recommended for 5+)

Let’s look at some costumes from a theatre production of Mother Goose at Hackney Empire in 2014.

Mother Goose, Theatre Costume, designed by Lotte Collett, 2014. Museum no. S.595:1 to 4-2016 © Victoria and Albert Museum

These two costumes are both for the role, Mother Goose, in the play. The costume on the left incorporates the design of the Jamaican flag, which creates a bright geometric pattern. On the right, the other costume has detailed designs inspired by nursery rhymes.

Can you imagine the character in these costumes? Will they be a happy and jolly character? Or will they be quiet and cautious?

The designer behind these costumes, Lotte Collett, created a mood board to come up with the design for another character, Vulture, in Mother Goose. A mood board is a good way to collect visual inspirations and to test early ideas for a design.

Mother Goose, mood board, by Lotte Collett, 2014. Museum no. S.423-2016 © Victoria and Albert Museum.
You can see how the designer was examining the shapes and textures of real-life vultures, and drew some design ideas on top of the photograph here.
Design for The Vulture in Mother Goose by Lotte Collett. Museum no. S.424-2016 © Image Victoria and Albert Museum, London

Find inspiration for your costume design

Now it’s your turn to become a costume designer. Remember, Kinnetia said that costume design is all about feelings, so your design will need to show others how your character feels.

Let’s pick a theme for your costume design by combining a feeling and a type of weather. For example, I will pick happy and sunny.

Now look around outdoor spaces you can access, a park, a garden, or streets around you. Can you find shapes, colours or texture that make you feel happy? Or things that remind you of sunny weather?

I like sunny days in autumn, so I thought that natural shapes such as leaves and flowers of autumnal colours make me feel happy. Examine what you found closely to notice different tones of colours and shapes.

Pick a few shapes and colours you can find and make sketches so you can use them later in your costume design.

Create a paper sack costume

Use some shapes and colours you found to design a costume you can wear.

You will need: a large paper bag (if you don’t have one, a cardboard box might do, but make sure you find something that is safe to put over your head and that still allows you to be comfortable), paper, glue, pens, tape and any other decorative materials.

1. Cut holes for face and arms on the paper bag

Cut slits on the side of the bag for your arms, and create a window for your face on the bag.  

2. Cut coloured paper into shapes

Cut coloured cards into shapes that you found in the previous activity. Try mixing different sizes.

3. Decorate your costume

Decorate your costume with shapes and other materials. Will your costume be abstract and bold, or will it be with detailed designs?

What character will you be in your costume?

Watch a video of this activity here.

Share what you create with us on Instagram (@young.vam) or Twitter (@young_vam).

And don’t forget to sign up to our newsletter to follow the latest news on the development of the Young V&A.

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