Published on February 20, 2024 by Anne Madison Adcock  
costume design

Samford University’s School of the Arts takes great pride in the passion and thought invested into each theatre production. A theatre production comprises numerous elements and moving parts. Whether it’s script selection, identifying leadership roles, interpreting the script or casting, each step relies on the others for a successful show. Attention to detail is paramount, particularly in costume design. Costumes are crucial for accurately portraying characters and capturing the production's overall theme.

"So much can be told about a character through the costumes," said Mallory Hubbard, a sophomore technical theatre major with a concentration in costume design. "It’s storytelling without using words."

The first step to costume design is studying the script. This helps students better understand the theme, storyline and characters, and it equips them to brainstorm representations for each character.

Then the students are assigned characters and begin sketching costume ideas.

Mary Gurney, costume design instructor, guides her students through initial costume sketches. Gurney started her theatre career at Birmingham Festival Theatre on a production of The Quilters at age 19. With nearly four decades of experience, she imparts knowledge about hand and machine sewing, using a serger, pattern making, draping, design details, painting techniques and more.

"I never thought I would have an opportunity to teach at this level," said Gurney. "Being a small part of the theatre department at Samford is one of my greatest joys!"

Sophomore Theatre for Youth major, Anna Sularin, talks about her high school theatre experience fostering her appreciation for costume design. She enjoys being part of the costume design team and the excitement of seeing characters wear their costumes for the first time.

two female performers

"Seeing the costumes come together on stage is very rewarding," said Sularin. "I love working together to make our friends look good."

Both Hubbard and Sularin fondly recall their favorite costumes, including the hand-sewn White Witch, Aslan the lion and the two beaver costumes from The Lion, The Witch, and the Wardrobe in fall 2023.

the white witch

Sularin enjoys working with color palettes and learned sewing from Gurney at Samford. She emphasizes the importance of considering functionality, style and fabric choice when creating a costume, especially given the number of costume changes in a show. She loves sketching designs and seeing them come to life, always striving for cohesiveness.

male student with lion head

Costume design is a crucial, meticulous aspect of theatre production. The students’ enthusiasm for mastering their craft and their commitment to animating characters through their designs underscore their passion for the art. This ultimately adds a special touch that elevates each performance's excellence.

Samford is a leading Christian university offering undergraduate programs grounded in the liberal arts with an array of nationally recognized graduate and professional schools. Founded in 1841, Samford is the 87th-oldest institution of higher learning in the United States. Samford enrolls 5,791 students from 49 states, Puerto Rico and 16 countries in its 10 academic schools: arts, arts and sciences, business, divinity, education, health professions, law, nursing, pharmacy and public health. Samford fields 17 athletic teams that compete in the tradition-rich Southern Conference and ranks 6th nationally for its Graduation Success Rate among all NCAA Division I schools.