Sewing up a storm
June 15, 2012

Elliott Mussett with a wide-brimmed bonnet she just finished.

There’s a reason for Elliot Mussett’s smile.

The NSCAD student doesn’t have to wait on tables this summer. Instead, she’s got the kind of job she’s always wanted as part of a team of students creating period costumes for a summer theatre production.

“It’s been great. I’ve been learning to make clothes that have to be worn everyday for two months. They’ve got to stand up to tough treatment and look good,” says Elliot, who has just finished a bonnet, having trimmed the brim with satin and lace. “Plus it’s been interesting to make things for different body shapes rather than the standard mannequin.”

The students—Elliot Mussett, Maddy Andrews, Tamara Harkness and Ali Columbus from NSCAD’s textiles/fashion program and Nicole Dowdall and Emlyn Murray from Dalhousie University’s costume studies program—are working as interns under the director of Leesa Hamilton, technician in NSCAD’s fashion department and a freelance designer. As the designer for Two Planks and a Passion’s production of Lysistrata, she’s designed 19 costumes that are being built from scratch. Her sketches show designs for frock coats and trousers for the men, bonnets and dresses with hoop skirts for southern belles. The team will also be making all the underclothes, including bloomers, crinolines, chemises and corsets.

Set during the Peloponnesian War, the Greek comedy by Aristophanes has been re-imagined as taking place during the American Civil War of the 1860s. According to the 2,500-year-old storyline, the women on both sides of the war refuse to have sex with their husbands as a way of forcing an end to an interminable war.

“This is great for our fashion students because it can be tough to get practical hands-on experience. For many of them, this will be their first paid work in the field,” says Leesa. “Plus, there’s a mentorship component to this internship, so they’re learning all the time.”

The internships with the Ross Creek Centre for the Arts and Two Planks and a Passion, its resident theatre company, have been coordinated through NSCAD University’s School of Extended Studies. The program is partially funded through the assistance of the Nova Scotia Department of Communities, Culture and Heritage’s Cultural Activity Program.

“There’s a nice symmetry between the resources and expertise offered at NSCAD and what we need for Two Planks and a Passion,” says Ken Schwartz, Two Planks’ artistic director. “Individually, we don’t necessarily have the resources to make this kind of impact on our community, but in collaboration we are much stronger.”

Lysistrata, Temptress of the South, runs July 14 to August 11 at the Ross Creek Centre for the Arts, north of Canning in the Annapolis Valley. See:


 Costumer designer Leesa Hamilton with some of her designs for Lysistrata.