The official student newspaper of University of Wisconsin-Eau Claire since 1923.

The Spectator

The official student newspaper of University of Wisconsin-Eau Claire since 1923.

The Spectator

The official student newspaper of University of Wisconsin-Eau Claire since 1923.

The Spectator

Opera gives formal gowns another chance

When considering Victorian ball gowns, tight corsets, beautiful petticoats and sweeping bell skirts should come to mind.
So when Professor Amanda Profaizer started planning out the spring Victorian opera, she knew they couldn’t do anything less than authentic when it came to the costumes.  But a tight budget for the opera meant Profaizer had to rethink how to get
the dresses.
Her idea: create dresses from scratch using donated dresses.

“The opera is so big so they have to be beautiful ball dresses,” Profaizer said, “but how do we help tell that story and do it all on a small budget?”
She said they are only going to purchase 10 percent of the show — the other 90 percent is going to come from the theatre stock, donated or bought second-hand.

“It’s this exciting project of mod podging everything together,” she said.

Profaizer said they are planning on taking all the lace from one dress and the beading from another to really make the gowns
from scratch.

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The opera will hit the stage in February so Profaizer said they haven’t hit the main stride of work quite yet but this winter break they will be.

Nontraditional student Jake Lindgren, the assistant designer on the project, said he was immediately interested when approached by Profaizer. Lindgren, a theatre major with an emphasis on costuming, knew this project would be great for his résumé and education, but also fun.
When Lindgren first started asking for dresses, he asked for any wedding dresses, mother of the bride, prom dresses — any fit, any color, any size, any decade.
“I kind of neglected to think about the ’70s,” Lindgren said, “and the ’70s were a very different style aesthetically with their formals and oddly enough the majority of the dresses we have been getting from the community.”

Because dresses from this era were more casual, they have been difficult to rework, Lindgren said. Many women have a really strong connection to the dresses they donate, Profaizer said, so she wants to community to feel involved and see the process of what their dress is changing into. “I wanted to show other people outside of our theatre world what we do,” Profaizer said. “I think a lot of people don’t realize what goes into a theatre production or any form of theatrical performance.”
One of Profaizer’s favorite parts of the project is the opportunity for students to see the process of creating real costumes from scratch and inspire their creativity.
“I really wanted to have this opportunity to show the students how to stretch a dollar,” Profaizer said, “How to change clothing into a period and to do it well.”
Profaizer and Lindgren strongly encourage students to consider donating their old prom dresses. Lindgren said the style of prom dresses in the last couple of years have really good fits and would be perfect for assembling the gowns. Donating can also give dresses another life rather than sitting in closets for years, Profaizer said.
They have set November as the end date for accepting gowns and they are hoping to receive a lot more before then.
“We need to construct about 30 to 40 gowns and we are estimating to construct one historically accurate piece, we’ll be needing at least four to five dresses to one,” Lindgren said. “We easily need two to three hundred dresses (donated).”
The easiest way to donate dresses is to log onto and email Profaizer and Lindgren about the donation.
Although the project seems hectic and like a lot of work, Profaizer said she couldn’t be more excited.

“It’s going to be a nightmare but it’s going to be so much fun.”

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Opera gives formal gowns another chance