There are two types of projects I work on as a seamstress and pattern maker: custom made or alterations. The two can overlap a bit, but normally a project will lean in one direction or the other. In my Bella and the Bulldogs post I talk about making a custom garment for an episode. A seamstress’s job when doing alterations is to make existing garments fit the actor perfectly. Here, I'll walk you through a day on HBO’s Insecure, a show where I mostly did alterations.
Insecure was a very fast paced show with lots to get done in a short amount of time, so I start my mornings early. If we are shooting on location, I can be on set as early as 4 am! As soon as the actors arrive, I rush into the fitting room with the costume designer and a costumer. The fittings for Insecure were often several hours long. On a television series costume designers like to have a “closet” for their main characters, just like you and I have. This makes creating the multiple looks for each episode easier. Since this was a brand new series we started from scratch to create the looks, and most everything needed to be altered. Our designer Ayanna James had the task of setting a unique style for over twenty actors and actresses with multiple costume changes. For an eight-episode show, that's a lot of clothing, and one busy seamstress!
After a long fitting it’s time to take a short coffee break and then figure out my sewing schedule. Which garment shoots first? What needs a check fitting? A chat with the designer or costume supervisor is very important so that everything is scheduled appropriately. Then it’s a full day sitting at my beloved workhorse, the sewing machine. On Insecure we shot on location most of the time, so I could be doing alterations just about anywhere. Most days I was set up on the back of our wardrobe trailer—a huge truck outfitted with racks and storage for costumes. It’s like a portable office for the costume crew, one day we are downtown, the next Malibu!
No matter where we are shooting, or how crazy the schedule is, somehow all the work gets done. The actor is dressed, the camera rolls and our job is done for the day. That is until an unexpected change happens, or a pair of pants rip, or an actor gets BBQ all over their costume. The job of a seamstress is never done!