Fit for the Real World


Posted by in May's Magazine

It’s that time again for students the length and breadth of the land to sharpen their pencils and forego the delights of daytime TV in anticipation of the evils of the end-of-year exams. For this year’s graduates, in a world with few certainties, the pressure to do well is extreme – the future must look at least a little hazy to this millennial generation. Sadly, arts subjects at university in particular are an easy target, seen as undemanding options for the intellectually lazy or the mathematically challenged. Well, so goes the cliché…

But as the art degree shows go up across Scotland I would like to applaud the industry and dedication of the art graduate, in particular to celebrate the hard-working and dedicated costume students who have the imagination, talent and grit to see that there might be more to life than becoming another golf manager or one more brick-in-the-wall of the financial sector. As that last stitch goes into that last hem, it’s time we recognised those who dream big of working in Hollywood or creating amazing frocks that even Disney has yet to imagine.

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The fantastic work of some of these budding designers and makers will be on display on Friday 19th of May, at Summerhall Arts Complex, as the B.A Costume Design and Construction students from Queen Margaret University College (QMUC) host our annual Costume Showcase and Exhibition. The variation and creativity on display is something to behold, as the parade demonstrates the work of over forty individual creative students plus costumes created and constructed by them for the four theatre productions which QMUC’s Performing Arts course – along with Edinburgh Napier University – directs and performs every year.

Sashaying down the catwalk this year are colourful creations from every corner of art and literature, including: characters from the imagination of Mexican’s most famous painter, Frida Kahlo; all the fun from the fairytale world of Little Red Riding Hood; costumes inspired by the dark world of prostitutes and thieves from John Gay’s The Beggar’s Opera; Lady Bracknell from The Importance of Being Ernest, Carnival Queens; plus a host of other strange multi-coloured creatures – who’ll not so much sashay as stomp and shimmy down the runway!

The Summerhall showcase will also display work from the Costume Design and Construction B.A students in a free exhibition where you can see drawings and costume designs from the students (and see the costumes) up close and in detail on stands. A further exhibition and several performances will take place throughout the day on Friday 19th May, showcasing work from the Queen Margaret University Drama & Performance B.A students in Summerhall’s Upper Church space, a fantastic added bonus which really brings the costumes to life.

The imagination displayed in these costumes is undeniable – and to be applauded. But often, it can distract from the incredible amount of hours and sheer hard work that they truly represent. In a world of ready-made and cheap disposable clothing, these costumes demonstrate a love of thoughtful dressing; every stitch, fold and cut is considered in careful detail to create looks which effectively express a character, time and place.

That’s not surprising though, as the costume students at QMUC use extensive historical research and theatre studies routinely as part of the course, for example when producing costumes for the theatre productions staged by the Performing Arts course run with acting students from Edinburgh Napier University. These productions also challenge the costume students to create costumes which must fit correctly to the particular actor, be appropriate for the production, be hard-wearing, made to a budget and made in a specified time.

All of these aspects of the course give the students a chance to experience the requirements of a professional production, gaining the skills and confidence needed to excel in the real world. And that’s not just talk. Over the years, B.A Costume Design graduates from QMUC have gone on to successful careers in the theatre and arts industry in Scotland and across the world – a rare achievement in an increasingly competitive arts environment.

I know from personal experience that the costume students at Queen Margaret University are some of the hardest working and creative students in the country (and that’s not just bias talking!). But most inspiring of all is their continuing delight in all aspects of theatre costume showcased here – a real passion that comes through time and time again and is self-evident at the Costume Showcase. Ultimately, it’s their chance to get dressed up and show off their brilliant costumes to you and the rest of Scotland. Surely, no matter what the uncertainties for the future felt by many graduating students this year, that’s something we can all enjoy.

Info: QMU’s annual Costume Showcase and Exhibition, 19th May, Summerhall Arts Complex 3pm & 7pm £13

Pics Caption: Emma Wilson and Natasha Murray from the QMUC Costume Design and Construction Course show off their corsetry skills

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