DEBUT Student Designs Pong, Executioner, Mandarin, and Imperial Guard Costumes For Turandot
Julia Neumann first earned her A.A. Degree in Fashion Design before enrolling in the Advanced Study Theatre Costume Design Program where she designed costumes for the Italian opera, Turandot, for the DEBUT Runway Show. We caught up with Julia, who is continuing at FIDM with her Bachelor’s degree, to learn about her design process, inspiration, and career goals.
Why did you choose FIDM? I chose FIDM because of the Theater Costume Design program—I want to work in theater, TV, and film. I did the Fashion Design A.A. program first so that I would have the skills I would need for costuming.
Describe your costume designs created for Turandot, for DEBUT -- and tell us which character(s) you designed for: I created costumes for Pong, the Executioner, the Mandarin, and an Imperial Guard.
Pong is the head chief of the palace and also has a role in court. He is supposed to persuade the unknown prince to leave after he solves the riddles to marry Turnandot.
The Executioner is there to kill those who failed the riddles.
The Mandarin is the announcer for the court and announces if the unknown prince has succeeded or failed with the riddles.
The Imperial Guard is there to protect Turandot and her father, the Emperor, during the riddles and after the unknown prince has solved the riddles.
Tell us about your design process for this project: I researched ancient Chinese culture along with the art deco artist Erté. We researched ancient China because it was the setting of the opera and we wanted it to influence some of the silhouettes, symbols, and colors. The colors we chose were based on their meanings in Chinese culture along with our understanding of those colors.
What was the most challenging part of the process: The most challenging part was constructing some of the garments. Another challenging part was making sure all my costumes were cohesive with everyone else’s. Constructing the garments was challenging because I had to devise ways for the dancers to be able to quickly get out of the garments. It was also challenging to find the right balance between Chinese culture and Erté/1920s.
What is your favorite costume? My favorite costume was the Executioner because of the fabric that I used. The fabric really transformed the costume. This costume was also one of the most interesting to play around with in terms of color.
How is FIDM helping you get closer to your career goals? FIDM has helped me get closer to my career goals. From doing this program I feel prepared to do costume design for a theater or assist on a movie or TV show. Rosemarie Konar in the FIDM Career Center was a great help for finding internships and job opportunities.
No one could have imagined this global pandemic, and how it would affect our community. How are you supporting your fellow classmate designers or comforting yourself during this difficult time? I still keep in contact with some of the others. What has been helping me right now has been school since I am currently doing the B.A. program, so that has been keeping me occupied.
What creative projects are you working on right now? Right now I'm starting a Rocco style outfit. I hope to make a Marie Antoinette inspired Ursula look. I plan on using a mix of light pastel colors to match the time period and mix in some darker elements so it feels like Ursula from The Little Mermaid.
What advice do you have for someone thinking about applying to FIDM's Theater Costume Design program? My advice would be to apply—it never hurts to apply. The program really pushes you in ways you didn’t think you could go. The program is also a lot of work but it is worth it with how much you learn.
What is your biggest goal right now? I would say my biggest goal right now is to have a stable career in costume design.