Langford said she creates a playlist for each show or char­acter that inspires her. Eliz­abeth Bachmann | Col­legian

“I am trying to capture the essence of a person in a costume,” she said. 

Though Langford appears pre­cisely at home in the basement of the Fine Arts Building, her position there is recent. Hillsdale’s Department of Theatre and Dance hired Langford as costume designer this semester to fill the hole left by Bryan Simmons, who retired to Arizona after 17 years of designing for the college’s theatre pro­duc­tions. 

Langford speaks with passion about her role in the the­atrical process. 

“The goal of the costume designer is to let the audience know who that char­acter is before they even open their mouth on stage. It’s not just throwing some­thing on somebody,” Langford said. “As people, we choose things for certain reasons. Maybe it makes us feel good about our­selves, maybe it has a certain style. As a costume designer, I get to do that for char­acters and con­cepts and try to convey those things. It is fun to come up with how to say those things about a char­acter without actually saying them.” 

Langford has a strong back­ground in research design and a pen­chant for pastels. Her early love for drawing and theatre led her to pursue a masters’ of design from the Uni­versity of Memphis. After grad­u­ating she stayed in the area, designing for small shows, operas, and any other oppor­tunity pre­sented to her. 

A break­through moment in her young career, in which she first dis­covered her own designs to be “real impressive,” was when she cos­tumed a pro­duction of Moliere’s “Learned Ladies.” 

“I had to make big Rococo gowns for it, so like 18th century, pastel colors, giant gowns, and that was a com­plete draping project,” Langford said, referring to the process of arranging each piece of fabric by hand to create the volu­minous skirts of the period. “No pat­terns existed; the pat­terns were made based on the mea­sure­ments. That was the first time I made some­thing that big and that serious, and I thought it came out really well.” 

James Brandon, chairman of theatre and dance, said that he is excited to welcome Langford to the theater team after a rig­orous appli­cation process, both because of her skills with the needle and her fresh vision. After working with Simmons for the last 17 years, Brandon said, it will be both rein­vig­o­rating and chal­lenging to learn how to com­mu­nicate and work with a new designer. 

Brandon also said Langford has a lot of power to influence the design process. 

“In a pro­fes­sional costume shop, you have designers, you have drapers, people working on stitching, people spe­cial­izing in wigs, and people spe­cial­izing in hats, and some have costume designers that are good at French neo­clas­sical, and some that are really good at stylized drama,” Brandon said. “Here, Corinne has to do all of that. She is the one voice.” 

With that respon­si­bility comes certain lim­i­ta­tions. Nat­u­rally a per­fec­tionist, Langford prefers to craft each costume from scratch, but with little staff or time, that is impos­sible. 

“If I have six months to do a show, I can make every­thing myself, and it would be perfect and beau­tiful and every­thing I wanted,” Langford said. “But if I have a month to do it then I have to use a couple things from stock and really make it count for the main char­acters.” 

Langford admitted to watching most of her shows for the first time with an eye to what she could have done if she had more time and help. 

One of her few assis­tants, Lilian Schmitz, a senior pur­suing a career in ballet design, said she wants to learn as much as she can from Langford before grad­u­ating. 

“Corinne has an incredibly calming effect on the costume shop. As the season picks up, things can get hectic with the work and sewing piling up,” Schmitz said, “But with my limited expe­rience working with Corinne so far, she’s pretty laid back while at the same time staying on top of every­thing and ensuring that things are done at a high level of excel­lence.” 

Though her job is inher­ently cre­ative, Langford has developed a prac­tical process to accom­plish a lot with only a little bit of time and help. 

She begins her design process with music, cre­ating a playlist for each show or char­acter that inspires her to connect with the emo­tions, colors, and tex­tures that she wants to incor­porate into the costume. Langford admits that it’s “a little weird,” but that the process helps her commune with her inner genius. 

From there, she creates a Pin­terest board with applicable images, win­nowing them down until she develops a clear image of the costume. 

Then comes her favorite part: ren­dering. 

“Now ren­derings I have down to a science,” Langford said. “I can do a ren­dering in an hour from start to finish. That includes coming up with the ideas and sitting down and actually drawing it. But that is just because I have been doing it forever.” 

Finally, she builds the costume. An entire period dress with a skirt, over­skirt, corset, and slash and puff sleeves — like the one she designed for Narissa in Tower Player’s pro­duction of “Mer­chant of Venice” — is a simple days work for Langford. 

As dif­ficult as it is to meet her own high expec­ta­tions, Langford said that she still appre­ciates sitting in a dark theater to enjoy the final product. 

“I enjoy seeing how if we work really well together col­lab­o­ra­tively, then every­thing is going to tie in together,” she said.