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Costuming with Kathleen Doyle

by W. Vickroy, Marketing Assistant

Last week, we talked to Kathleen Doyle about her creative process in designing costumes for On The Town, opening next Friday here at Lyric Stage. Kathleen even shared with us some concept sketches for costume designs in the show! Enjoy!

Q. How’s it going ON THE TOWN?
A. I’m having so much fun!  The war created radical changes in fashion and clothing.  The war drove actually design. So rather than taking cues from French haute couture, women all over the U.S.A. and Europe were dressing themselves in military inspired clothes, folk wear, home made clothes, work clothes, (which was a new concept), their own military uniforms because plenty of women served at home and abroad, of course, and even in their husbands’ and brothers’ clothes sometimes.

sketch of On The Town costumes by Kathleen Doyle

Q. What aspect of ON THE TOWN attracts you most?
A. This is such an optimistic story.  It was actually on Broadway during the war!  It was a case of  art reflecting life because during WWII, there were three million U.S. Sailors, Marines and Army men passing through New York City for one last fling before shipping out.


sketch of On The Town costumes by Kathleen Doyle

Q. What kinds of dramaturgy and research are you doing ?
A. Lots of time at the New York Public Library Picture Collection!  Just pouring over original images.  Everything from the Sears Catalog to McCall’s, Simplicity, Vogue dress patterns.  Finding knitters to hand knit snoods from vintage patterns.  Reading accounts of real ‘Rosies’.  Watching training videos that factory created during the war, including ‘How To Supervise Female Employees On The Line.’

sketch of On The Town costumes by Kathleen Doyle

Q. What are some especially fun costumes you’re working on? 
A. We’re shopping, borrowing and renting costumes but we’re also building costumes and hats and accessories!  Distressing the factory worker’s clothes is always fun.  And the Diamond Eddie’s Showgirls are going to be ridiculous!  Lots of feathers, rhinestones, sequins and pouffs!  We also have a satire on one of the top entertainers of the era, so playing with her iconic headdress is a blast.

sketch of On The Town costumes by Kathleen Doyle

Q. What is your sketching process like?
A. Constantly changing! For ON THE TOWN, after trying to absorb the research, and meeting with Spiro and the creative team, I started with rough pencil sketches and reworked those as I read and re-read the script and listened to the score again and again. Then, as all of these ideas crystalized, I sketched out the characters again in watercolor.  But the process is constantly evolving, as the ensemble rehearses and gets the show on its feet.  So I’ll adjust the designs too.  It’s a dance between dramaturgical research, the practical necessities that surface in rehearsal and my vision for each of the characters going out ON THE TOWN !

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