Head to Tails

Lizzie MacAdam

Standing in the wing of the stage, senior Jessica Moore threw junior Janie Carr’s mermaid tail to the side. She pulled the white wedding dress over Carr’s shoulders before pushing her back out onto the stage. She watched as Carr spun towards the audience, her tulle skirt flowing around her. The skirt Moore had sewn herself, along with all the other costumes on the stage.

The seven members of the musical costume crew spent three months finding, cutting and sewing together almost 100 outfits for the cast. In past years, actors had brought in their own costumes, or they’d been reused from previous shows. But for The Little Mermaid, the crew wanted something they could only get from creating their own designs  — a Blue Star Award.

Blue Star was a competition entered by all of the high schools theaters in Kansas. East had been nominated in previous years, but not for costumes. Moore knew making their own costumes would give them an advantage over other theaters. 

“Obviously we don’t have a giant budget, but I really wanted to focus on our design and make it a big aspect,” Moore said. “It gets you brownie points if you make the costumes yourself.”

Moore and the rest of the crew found inspiration for their costumes by looking at other renditions of The Little Mermaid on the high school level. They recreated what they liked, like attaching extra pieces of fabric to the back of the costume to create fins, and cut what they didn’t, like the cheap material or overly simplistic designs.

Once they found their style, the crew spent every Tuesday and Saturday at East in the dressing rooms, hunched over their sewing machines. By the time show week came around, they were there everyday for over four hours, trying to make sure the costumes were finished in time. But the hours spent cutting and pinning paid off when they watched their creations being modeled in front of a live audience.

“It was honestly really incredible because I did not think that we could pull it off,” Moore said. “But when we saw everyone on stage in their costumes and it looked good, we were super proud of that.”