Sunday, April 25, 2010

The Tailcoat Adventure

The San Diego Opera costume shop, where I work part-time in the winter and spring, has just wrapped its season. As I make the transition into my summer schedule of more blogging, I hope, I wanted to share a fun project we worked on recently. Tailcoats for La Traviata.

This opera season my team was assigned the task of building eleven custom-fitted men's tailcoats from scratch for La Traviata. It was a team effort, led by Su-Lin Chen and including Corey, Nunzia, Yang-Chen, Issa, Mary Jill, Mark, and me. Ingrid Helton is the shop manager.

This is where it all happens, the costume shop of the San Diego Opera.

Some of the fabrics that are used to build the many complex layers of the tailcoats. There is much more to tailoring than most people know.

After the pieces are cut out they are thread-marked for precise sewing. Each tailcoat has 52 separate pieces - I counted them!

The mannequin (sized for each jacket) is necessary to build the curves of the human body into the garment.

The layers of the jacket, lapels, and collar are beginning to be built and shaped.

A look at the path-stitching, done by hand, that shapes the lapels.

Su-Lin working on positioning the shoulder pads inside the jacket.

This helps to create curves in the right places.

The bodice front pieces are attached to the tail panels.

With the back in place you can see how important the stitch marks are.

Now the four panels of the tail are together, the side seams are sewn, and the sleeves are basted in place.

The jacket takes shape but still needs to be fitted and then taken apart for precise reconstruction. The sleeves are only basted for now.

On the ironing table. Careful pressing is important at each step.

The crisp edges of the tail and its lining contribute to the elegance of the tailcoat. Nunzia is expertly ironing here.


Finally the jacket has been fit, taken apart, and reconstructed. The lapel and collar fabric is now included.

With buttons in place this tailcoat is finished.

Back view. The tailcoat's shape gives the gentleman an elegant posture.

A tailcoat with its own white brocade vest, also patterned and constructed by our team (Su-Lin and Corey, to be specific). In addition to the tailcoats we made twelve pairs of pants and five vests!

Ready for La Traviata! Plus these tailcoats will be used in future operas and available for rental to other operas and theaters.

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