Dress to Impress

Last year UNC Asheville alumna Taylor Pico traveled all the way to Russia to see an extensive exhibit of costume designs from around the world, Costume at the Turn of the Century: 1990 – 2015. Now she’s helping to bring that experience back to UNC Asheville.

Costume at the Turn of the Century, curated by UNC Asheville Visiting Professor of Drama Igor Roussanoff, premiers in the United States this month at UNC Asheville in galleries and spaces across campus. It includes work by artists from more than 30 countries and features a special exhibition of works by UNC Asheville students. Pico is assisting Roussanoff with setting up the exhibition—sorting through hundreds of costume renderings by country and artist, setting up costume pieces on dress forms—and with curating the student exhibition.

“I look for things that are unique, which I know sounds kind of trite,” said Pico, who is also working with fellow alumna Carina Lopez on the exhibition. “It could be a unique shape, or a unique use of materials… I think it’s important when designs look intentional, and if you’re looking at the whole design project, that it all looks cohesive. Those are things I look for particularly. Something that’s special.”

Lilyth Hinson, a junior drama major, has her work from a costume design class selected for the student exhibition.

“When I make costumes I like them to be big and out there, Renaissance mixed with Elizabethan era clothing,” Hinson said. “I tend to head more towards high fantasy and decadence.”

Hinson applied this unique style to the characters of The Tempest, creating elaborate digital costume renderings for each character in the play. The class assignment wasn’t Hinson’s first attempt at working on costumes, however. She assisted Rosemary Fischer in costumes for Wiley and the Hairy Man.

“I got roped into making entirely by myself, two weeks before the production, all the costumes for Wiley and the Hairy Man,” Hinson said. “It was very hectic, being in the costume shop until 1 a.m. for two weeks with the costume designers. It was insane and I kind of decided that I loved it.” Hinson approached Roussanoff about working as the costume manager for the drama department, and she hasn’t stopped since.

Both Hinson and Pico have international dreams for their costume work.

“When I graduate I’m applying to several different fashion schools all throughout the world, and I’m hoping to attend a really small selective fashion school in Belgium,” Hinson said, “and I’m hoping to start life there and work as a costumer.”

Pico, who currently attends Rutgers University’s Mason Gross School of the Arts, will spend next year abroad, studying costume design at Shakespeare’s Globe Theatre in London.

“At the Globe you learn some kind of original practice, like a construction technique,” Pico said. “Students design both the costumes and the sets, and sometimes the lights. So it’s just a different way to look at theater from more of a holistic viewpoint, seeing and creating the whole show.”

Taking her costume studies abroad is the perfect fit for Pico. “I would like to be able to work globally. That was always my intention and why I think I like to travel so much, and why I’m so interested in international projects.”

But for now, Pico is able to find the world of international costume design back at her alma mater.

“To have something like this, to see what other people are doing in other countries, what kind of designs they’re doing, what kind of styles their designs are, I think that’s important,” Pico said. “And it’s more than just theater, because this exhibition encompassed more than costume designers and theater designers, there were also performance artists and people that design fashion. So it’s a really big deal, it’s really important to go see it, especially as someone who is also an aspiring designer.”