This summer, I had the pleasure of interviewing Annette McCaughtry, a seamstress, costume and set designer on an impressive list of films.
1.Please introduce yourself with a brief bio.
Annette Hoffman McCaughtry, I grew up as a military kid, moving every year to new locations all over the US including Germany and Hawaii. My mom was an actress in high school so she always took us kids to plays and even an Opera when we were in Germany. I attended college in Hawaii where I started out as a Fashion Merchandise Major, but after taking an elective course in Theatrical costuming, I ended up being a Drama Major with an emphasis on Costume construction. I also attended the Univ of Texas in Austin in their Masters program in Theatrical Costuming. I finished my MFA in Costuming at Univ of Hawaii. I spent 11 years designing costumes for theatrical productions then decided to venture into the film industry. I started out as a seamstress on various films, then became a Set Costumer and later a Costume Supervisor. I dabbled in designing costumes for a few commercials, too. I currently have my own Organizing business, but continue to work sporadically throughout the year on films on an "as needed" basis. My favorite jobs have been on period/historical films. I have a specialty in historical costuming and love working with period costumes.
2.How did you get started sewing/costuming?
My grandmother taught me how to make Barbie clothes when I was 6 and my mom did a lot of sewing for me when I was young particularly my Halloween costumes. I loved sewing and by age 10 I was making some of my own clothes.
3.Did you ever dream of being a professional costume designer when you were a little girl?
I always enjoyed coming up with fun Halloween costumes for me, my family and friends, however I always thought I would work in the fashion world. I did some professional modeling while I was in high school and enjoyed the modern fashion experience. Becoming a Fashion Buyer was my dream, but my plans changed in college to theatre. Historical fashions became my passion.
4. Do you have any favorite sources of inspiration that you look to when beginning a project?
I have my own library of books on History of Fashion & History of Clothing, etc...I love doing research for a particular period of clothing so I poor through my own books and/or I go to the library and poor through their books.
5.Do you draft your own patterns?
Yes after I took a pattern drafting course in college I felt like I could "fly to the moon"!! It opened up my world to unlimited creative projects...because I learned all of the rules of creating what I was sketching and designing.
6.What are your favorite fabrics?
I love 100% cotton and wool to sew on, however the beauty of silk chiffons and silk velvets are so fabulous that I sometimes will tackle the difficulty of working with them for the final gorgeous effect.
7.Do you have any advice for beginning seamstresses?
Keep challenging yourself with new techniques, new fabrics, advanced classes, etc. I was taking "tailoring" in high school because I needed new challenges. I took a bathing suit construction course, a period hat making course...I bought "how to" books to teach myself new techniques. Just practice, practice, practice until you get it right. If you can train with an experienced seamstress that can help tremendously.
8. Did you attend college for or have any type of formal education/classes for designing/sewing/costuming? Do you recommend any of these for aspiring designers?
Yes, definitely seek out a school that has a good specialty or department in theatrical costuming.
9.When creating a particular costume, do you place more emphasis on historical accuracy, the character who will be wearing the costume, or creativity?
All of the above. Costume design courses in college train you in how to juggle all of those aspects into your final design.