By Paul Haesemeyer • December 3, 2019

Costume Design in NYC

            I am still surprised that I’m in New York City.  The place where the arts thrive despite living in a society that is a razor’s edge away from falling apart.  The people are kind, but don’t cross them. And time is the most valuable commodity where transit sucks up your time more than work itself. And it’s incredible.

            The Metropolitan Opera Costume Shop is best characterized as a military base.  Every person has their job, they do it well, and handles any catastrophe thrown at them. Somehow, patience infiltrated this place where I observed younger staffers asking questions, and managers responding in kind.  They like having new people there to learn, ask questions, but you must get it done on time.  I was often sent by the shoppers to pick up swatches, drop off fabric, and solicit businesses. I learned how many shops exist in New York to serve the theater and fashion communities.  One shop presses fabric into pleats and shapes that defy physics!  They are artisans dedicated to serve artists and shows. Each shop displays their pride with show posters and playbills plastering the walls. 

            Often, I would wrap bias tape at a table and listen to conversations about plumbing and upcoming designs for next season’s opera.  (I’m not allowed to discuss next season. I will be sued if I disclose such information).  Tony-winning designers worked there, and I ran sketches to their homes.  What is this life I’m living?

            My coworkers were fun, excited, and loved being there.  They work hard. I respect them very much.  The head draper started to teach me how to tailor before I left.  We ran out of time, and I look forward to continuing the project.  The head milliner taught me how to make a fedora! And I got to keep it. 

            Once I left the MET, I started interning at New Light Theater Project as an assistant.  Imagining Madoff was a continuation from the spring where I helped load in and be a wardrobe supervisor.  Being a supervisor founded a relationship with the actors and stage managers whom I now consider my friends.  Right now, Everything is Super Great just opened by the time you’re reading this.  I helped the designer pick up orders, sew on pompoms, and be an assistant.  It was exciting to see my aspirations come to light.  Tech nights were long, but seeing the characters come to life is breathtaking. As is seeing your name printed on the sign. 

            I plan on coming back to this city. And I can’t wait to see what happens next. 

Written by Paul Haesemeyer