when i was in grade 12, i did a work experience program that was basically designed for the kids who were barely passing, probably just to get them out of the regular classes, but i joined it because i really wanted experience. i think i was the only person in it who graduated with honours AND with the work experience certificate. at that time i'd been doing community theatre costumes for a few years, and had been sucked into doing the costumes for school plays that year as well. i'd won an award for costumes the summer between grade 11 and 12, and i was seriously considering it as a career choice. they had no idea what to do with me, since they were so used to finding mechanical jobs and such for the kids who joined the program, and i actually had to find my own placement for the first one (working in a vintage clothing store, true value vintage. that placement actually led to a job i had later, working for their vintage wholesaler.)
however, they figured it out pretty quick, and the teacher running it turned out to be pretty awesome (she was awesome after i graduated too, she brought me in to do anti-homophobia and HIV/AIDS talks to all her classes! she was great!). my last placement was working as a PA (production assistant) on a movie set (a really cheesy straight to video horror flick!), which completely cured me of my idea to go into costume design. i hated the film industry, and i was SO glad i got the opportunity to figure that out BEFORE i went to school for it!
the middle, and best, work placement i did was with a professional costumer. she had a studio in east van that she shared with 3 other artists, another seamstress, a jeweler and someone who worked with wood. when i went there with my teacher to see if it would be a good fit, everyone seemed pretty "normal" and "appropriate" and friendly. when i went back by myself for the actual work, they were all still friendly, but the other seamstress had put her images of nude women back up on her bulletin board, and bitched about the new dykes who moved into her co-op with their rainbow pride bumper sticker (she hated pride stuff), and the jeweler told this story about how she and her lover had such loud sex that one of the neighbours kept leaving notes on their door offering her help if she was being abused! it was a great first day, i was instantly much more comfortable than i would have been if they'd been the way they were for the first visit!
anyway. it was really cool. her name was sue, (i think, it's been a while!), and she primarily made costumes for shows up north, goldrush, can-can style, etc. i learned so much about how she designed the costumes, how she determined fit when the performers weren't there to try things on, and all about the different suppliers in vancouver. we'd go shopping and spend the day going to dressew, checking out the options in little india, and my favourite, going to this awesome little millinery store where you had to be buzzed in by the VERY old lady who ran it, and only people she knew and liked were allowed to shop there! i'm sure it's gone now, i can't imagine that she would be able to continue running it. she was really old 10 years ago, so....
i also learned to use an industrial sewing machine (eventually, i broke it my first day! i felt sooo terrible, but it was easily fixed!), and how to use a ruffler foot, which i LOVED! sue moved to one of the islands with her family, which i'm sure was awesome for them, but it sucked for me, because i would have loved to continue working with her.
i found this on my computer today, i'd forgotten that i'd scanned it. i found the ad in a tourist guide when i was living in the yukon, and it's the only picture i have of the outfits that i worked on while i was there. lots and LOTS of ruffles! aren't they fun?
(click the pic to go to flickr and see it bigger!)