Just me talking about costume-y kind of stuff
Now that I've turned my hand to recreating someone else's designs for fun, it makes me aware of just how little thought goes through the designer's head while creating these costumes about the lengths others may eventually go to in order to recreate the original design. Probably not one thought. They are just doing their jobs, wanting to get paid and hoping the show doesn't get cancelled. For example, take Kaylee.
The designer decides to put her in coveralls and boots because she's a mechanic. Of course, she would be in coveralls and of course they would be greasy. Now they need personalizing. so the designer probably thought, it's hot down in that engine room, I'll rip her sleeves off. She probably spends a whole lot of time down on her knees, I'll put holes in them and generally distress the rest of the garment. Again, it's hot,so we'll put her hair up off the back of her neck, but not in a school marm bun or a Buffy pony tail. Pigtails would be too cutesy, so we'll put the pigtails up in buns. We've got to make sure her face is dirty too and her fingernails. Now, we need to show her personality, she can't just be naked under those coveralls, I'll put her in a shirt. I'll make it pink and floral to show her femininity. Oh yeah, almost forgot Joss is wanting everyone to cuss in Mandarin Chinese. I'll write some Chinese characters on her coveralls with a sharpie. Then for my main point: the director/actress thinks Kaylee's costume is great, but if it could just be even more cutesy and little girl like. Her character is so innocent and trusting and believes the best of everyone, we need something that communicates those ideas to the audience. So the designer adds a teddy bear patch over the hole in the knee and a heart patch (big giant screaming metaphor here) and it's done.
The show runs for half a season and gets cancelled. The 3 million people who were watching it originally are devastated, the rest of the world missed it. YEARS go by and somehow (probably through the comic books) the show gets popular--cult status popular. Women all over America are hunting thrift shops, Army Navy surplus, and Ebay for coveralls in just that color of OD green, a pink floral shirt with long sleeves,and combat boots. Once they have the main items, they start scouring Hobby Lobby and other fabric stores for a big teddy bear patch and a tiny red heart. Not to mention the blue Chinese coat with Mandarin collar with buttons NOT frog closures, sandals, and the spiral painted paper umbrella that she only wears ONCE in the first scene. But it's totally iconic and instantly recognizable and because she was such a beloved character, the stereotypical girl next door type, every girl wants to BE her.
The designer never once thought about how easy or difficult it would be for Jane Doe Fangirl to recreate her design. And here we are more than 10 years later and people are still dressing like Kaylee and Willow and Buffy and Spike and tons of other characters besides. You can type "Kaylee cosplay" into any search engine and it will spit back dozens of blog entries documenting how to dress like Kaylee. There's at least one Etsy site where you can buy all three of Kaylee's patches in one convenient location. We have panels and workshops at cons to teach John Q Public how to cosplay. Professional cosplayers get invited to cons as if they were actual stars rather than just people who impersonate the actual stars. We even have a reality show about professional cosplayers on tv now. If you stop to think about it, it's really insane. In theatre everything is a one-off. The show closes, it's over, those costumes go back into storage and no one thinks about them anymore. But on TV and the movies, those costume designs live forever and fans can go back and watch them ad infinitum in order to put together a reasonable facsimile of the original. If you're a costume designer, it's the greatest compliment you'll ever get.
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