What’s your “deal?” Who are you? What’s your story?
Bourgeau_Sera_webI am Sera Bourgeau. This is my second season at TAM. I’m the wardrobe supervisor, and I’m also a stitcher, and I designed the costumes for Turn of the Screw and assisted the designer of The Winter’s Tale.

What is the biggest misconception about your job?
I think a lot of audiences miss some of the magic, or they forget that it takes time and talent to create that magic in costuming. Everyone wears clothes, so a lot of people feel they understand clothing the same as any costumer. There’s a lot more to the art form of being a costumer. If you’re a designer, there’s psychology involved. There’s art history, fashion history, an understanding of mood and atmosphere, character, etc. You have to make choices that support all of that. Then there’s the technical sense. You have to figure out how to actually make it all happen. Sometimes you’re modifying garments that you purchase. Sometimes it’s just making the right choice of texture or color. There are many little nuances that people miss unless you’re in the middle of it.

Colorized Governess with black background copy

Sera’s rendering of The Governess

Which artist or designer is your biggest influence and why?
It changes production to production. For Screw, there was a lot of looking at fashion illustrations of the period. My personal favorite artist is Caravaggio, who does a lot with lighting design in his paintings; it’s really spectacular. I’m definitely a fashion fan. I love Dior; Alexander McQueen, who is very theatrical, and I love Ann Roth from the costuming world and Jane Greenwood as well.

How would you describe your style?
I guess my personal style is very feminine; I just never wear pants. That’s the first rule. For my design style, there’s definitely a lot of trying to design with the character in mind. That’s crucial to any designer, especially for costumes. I always try and think about what [the character] would have in their closet, and how he or she came to have this garment. You have to ask yourself lots of questions like, How fashion forward is this character? Where do they live? Do they have access to the latest styles? How much money do they have? What did they grow up having? What is their mental state at this point in the play? 


Sera’s costumes come to life in Turn of the Screw

For Screw, I put a lot of thought into [The Governess’] degree of mourning. It seems to be indicated in the script that she has recently lost her father. There are very strict rules to the mourning culture of the time. What colors and textures would she have been expected to wear? I had to think of ways to integrate that in a way that’s supportive to the overall concept of the show. I didn’t want her in total black because she would’ve turned into a floating head in our more minimalist space, but I still wanted to have that clear indication of mourning. There was a lot of thought about her dress itself. Was this a dress she had previously? Did she modify it to make it a bit more fashion forward? We’re seeing styles changing during the early 1870’s. We’re starting to see a shift to the bustle era of fashion. We used to see a bell shape in the dress, but now we’re seeing the fullness shift to the back. Maybe she couldn’t afford a whole new outfit, but maybe she’s modified something she had. There are lots of things that go into it. It’s a road map to get to the garment.

What was your first impression of TAM?
I remember getting off I-95, I had been driving for about ten hours last summer. I drove another ten miles off the highway. I got to this little town and was looking for the theater as I was driving along Main Street. I remember my GPS told me, “It’s coming up soon.” So I thought, “It’s here somewhere!” And I drove past this very tall castle- like building plopped right in the middle of Main Street. As I drove past I said to myself, “I think that was it!” So when I came back I took a second to take it all in and said, “What is this building doing here? In this town?”

What advice would you give to anyone who wants to be a costume designer?
Work hard. It’s a lot of work. Learn as much as you can. Study as much as you can. Know as much as you can. Be interested in people. Cultivate your own personal aesthetic and marketability.