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Thursday, April 18, 2024

Behind every great production is a great costume designer. After all, what would Sex and the City have been without Patricia Field's stylistic talents?

For UF's rendition of "Pride & Prejudice," M.F.A. student Jason Estala is in charge of bringing the characters' wardrobes to life. After only two years at UF, Estala's skills and creativity led him to the position of head costume designer for this large-scale production.

What was the most difficult part of designing the costumes for "Pride & Prejudice"?

The size of the cast. This is a huge show, and all the costumes had to be fitted to each person. Ninety percent of this production was built from scratch. I have spent a whole school year's worth of time on this show.

What has the design process been like?

I was assigned to do this show last semester. I started doing all the research and started sketching then. During winter break, we went to New York to get fabric from the Garment District. As soon as we got back to school, we started making the costumes. We document the whole process to show how we do things from the first patterns to the final details.

What kind of research did you have to do?

I read the book and the play, because they really are two different pieces of literature. I saw all the movies and looked at a lot of costume books. I really had to break down each character to figure out what they would really wear.

Tell me about the costumes for the show.

I was really inspired to make this like an English rose garden. There are a lot of pastels and florals - very earthy and organic. I have the Bennets in lighter cottony fabrics, because I feel like they don't follow the rules. The other characters are in more structured patterns and richer fabrics - silk and taffeta - to symbolize wealth and rigidness.

How much creative freedom do you have as a costume designer?

A lot more than you would think. It's really about telling a story. I take the designer's vision and interpret it. I got to play with color, fabrics and motifs.

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What is the importance of costumes in a show?

Especially in a show like this, it really sets the era and shows the difference in social class. I tried to create a closet for each character, so that their clothes looked like something they would have picked out. I even have the older people in older fashions, because I imagine they wouldn't be wearing the latest fashions.

What is your favorite costume in the show?

Each one is special to me, but I really love Lady Catherine De Bourgh. She wears a regal purple-striped dress.

How did you get into costume design?

I learned to sew when I was really young in El Paso, Texas. My mom was a seamstress, and she taught my siblings and I to sew. She said it was a skill we had to learn and with me, it just stuck. In high school, I was an actor, and I made my own costumes, that's really how it started. At New Mexico State University, I taught band, and I made flags and color guard halftime-show costumes.

How have your previous design experiences influenced what you do now?

It got me to see things not for what they are, but for what they could be. I have worked in basements and churches with no air conditioning. Sometimes all you have is what you have, and you just have to make it work.

How does working at UF compare?

We are lucky to have a lot of space and good resources and equipment. My colleagues are amazing too. I couldn't have done this show without them, really.

What are you looking forward to in your career?

Learning more. I still have so much more to experience and see. I don't think I will ever be satisfied. I learn every day.

Would you consider fashion design or costume design for movies?

I would do both of those as side projects, but I really love the theater, because day-to-day you never know what is going to happen. Each show is different. I get to create these fantasy worlds and recreate history. It's something about the storytelling that I just love.

What is the biggest payoff?

To see your vision on the stage, singing, dancing and walking. It's weird because part of you just wants to say, 'That's mine, I did that,' but it really is about the whole show.

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