XVR27's Improv Interviews - Dawn E. Emanuele - Costuming

Whose Improv Is It Anyway? : Original On-The-Spot Satire

An Interview With Dawn E. Emanuele


ChivalRuss: OK, so your acting background is done and your improv background. Next, the costumes. Tell me what you do and how you got into it.

Dawn E. Emanuele: I'd probably have to say that the beginning of my costuming was with Barbie. The things I would do to Barbie is, as you get older, it's less fun to play with Barbie and act out scenes, and it got to a point with me where it was more fun to just dress them all up and set scenes and then I was done playing. I'd still do that even when I was fifteen. What I would do is I would take tin foil and I would create outfits out of that for Barbie, including bikinis or lavish dresses or huge hats or ball gowns or things like that. One time I took a balloon that said 'I (heart symbol) Italy' and it was a white balloon and what I did was I cut it so that it actually looked like a skin-tight tee shirt for Barbie. So for years, she had this 'I love being Italian' tee shirt with no sleeves and the head cut out. And I would just do stuff like that. I would make Barbie clothes and with me, I first did what all little girls did, taking slips and wearing them as bridal veils and things like that. But I would also then take pieces of material and wrap it around... I would always try to get the most out of everything. When I was in high school and we did Robin Hood, I tried making a few outfits but I wasn't quite there - I didn't take any sewing classes or anything. My great-grandmother had insisted on buying me a sewing machine when I was about twelve or thirteen which just, mostly, sat around a lot until I was about twenty one or so. I mean, I'd play around with it every one in a while, but I really started getting into it. I started making costumes for a "Cry For Dawn" character that I'd actually wear to GenCon. And I didn't know what the hell I was doin'. If I could go back and do that costume, it would be so much easier, but I took it and I transformed it and I've never had any formal sewing training or anything like that. I've now progressed to a certain point where I can look at something that needs to be altered or changed somehow and I can completely pull it apart in my brain, but I can't explain it to somebody else. And the hardest part for other people to understand is that I look at it and I know how to fix it. It is so simple to me, like the alteration or something, but it's the translating it to somebody. It's almost like if I taught myself how to play an instrument. Y'know, I can hear a song in my head, but I wouldn't be able to translate to somebody else how to get the notes across or what chords they were. It's been in the last couple of years when I get bored on a Friday, go out in the afternoon, buy some material, come home, make an outfit, and have it to go out that night. I've developed quite a reputation where it's gotten to the point where it's automatically assumed by most of the people I meet, whether it be at conventions or my friends, that if it's a cool outfit, I made it. But I will never take credit for something that I didn't make.

ChivalRuss: Oh, of course.

Dawn E. Emanuele: I don't think that's right, y'know? I will flat out say, "Yes, I made everything but this." Even if it's a skirt you see an inch of underneath another skirt. I don't think it's right to pass myself off as something I'm not.

ChivalRuss: Sure. How many would you say you currently have?

Dawn E. Emanuele: Outfits?

ChivalRuss: Yes, that you've made.

Dawn E. Emanuele: Umm...

ChivalRuss: Rough estimate?

Dawn E. Emanuele: I'd say around a couple dozen; not a huge, exorbitant amount, but then again, what I'll also do is I'll try to get the most out of pieces. Like, I'll see what I can add to, or take away from, other clothing or accessories to make and create a completely different look out of the same piece(s) of clothing. And I'll do that sometimes when a friend is giving away stuff to Goodwill. And I'll say, "Oh, well do you have that black corset?" or "What about that red shirt?" Yeah, it's different material, but it would go good with the flowers along the bottom. And you can just see this light of, "Oh, well maybe I shouldn't be giving this away then" [look in their eyes] and they didn't even think about it, and that's what I try to do.

ChivalRuss: What's your favorite thing that you've created? Describe it as best you can.

Dawn E. Emanuele: Well, I really like the dress that I had yesterday.

ChivalRuss: I can actually put that up on the site.

Dawn E. Emanuele: Right. The corset is the only part I did not make. The rest of the dress I did make, and the front actually laces up, but it gives it a different look with the corset.

ChivalRuss: That did look good yesterday.

Dawn E. Emanuele: Yeah, thanks. And one thing I do want to say is when I go through the trouble of making clothes for myself, I'm going to use expensive, or expensive-looking, materials because if I would've made that same black velvet dress but done it out of plain, blue cotton I would've gotten compliments, I'm sure...

ChivalRuss: But it would've lost that edge?

Dawn E. Emanuele: But it wouldn't have been that show-stopping... I went to Denny's last night and handed out six business cards because everybody was just so... it caught their eye. And I think if you're going to go through the trouble of doing something, you should make it worth while and you should definitely make it long lasting.

Dawn E. Emanuele: Yeah, well it is all about attitude. Also, sometimes the clothing you wear will change your attitude. For me, a sexy walk can only come when I wear heels and the slinky dresses as opposed to the combat boots and the jeans.

ChivalRuss: I don't think I took a picture of you in jeans. Combat boots and jeans, for you, are kind of out there - I've never seen you in jeans.

Dawn E. Emanuele: With me, I have such a difference in my personality. Back into the personal part again. I have known people for five or six years who have never seen me wear pants, who don't know that I don't wear makeup. They've never seen me without my hair done. They've never seen me without nail polish. They've never seen me with glasses on and didn't know I even owned glasses. There was a surprise party I threw for Joel two years ago. Everybody came a little bit early and I hadn't been able to get out of the house. So when everyone showed up, I'm wearing cut-off knee-length jean shorts, flip-flops, my hair is in a pony tail, had my glasses on, no makeup, and I'm wearing a sports-bra tank top. I just walked in, shoved vacuum cleaners at them, and I'm like, "OK, somebody needs to take out the garbage", "Please do this", and "OK, here we go. I need to take a shower." And I went and took my shower and I came out and my hair was done. my contacts were in, I had my makeup on, jewelry, dress, nice clothes, and apparently, the entire time I had been taking a shower and getting changed, the only topic of conversation was the fact that none of those people had ever seen me like that before.

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