Article By: Piper Hale
Published: Nov 15, 2011
Madga Guichard, from North Palm Beach, Florida, is working toward an M.F.A. in production design with a concentration in costume design from SCAD Savannah.
Magda Guichard grew up in a household where both parents sewed, and for years, she observed them working on sewing projects without delving into the craft herself. This changed the year her mother was out of town for Halloween and Magda was determined to have the perfect devil costume. Undeterred by her lack of experience, Magda dove immediately into creating a corset-based costume complex enough for a seasoned dressmaker to find challenging. She managed to pull off this experiment successfully and continued making costumes, both for herself and for friends, over the next few years. "It really grew out of the love of just being someone else," says Magda.
In college, Magda decided to refine her self-taught skills by majoring in apparel design. When she graduated, she was confident in her technical skills, but felt that they were inadequate on their own without a greater sense of design. Her interest in creating accurate period costumes led her to look for graduate programs that would enable her to create custom textiles. She was drawn to SCAD after reading about the fibers program
, and later switched programs after she learned about production design
's costume design concentration.
Shortly before this switch, Magda attended a SCAD play where she was amazed to see the main character's costume change colors onstage mid-show; she realized after a moment that this change was due to a subtle shift in the lighting. Later, while completing her production prerequisite, Lighting I, she learned how to work with this trick too. "It's incredible that you can change a whole costume by using colored lights," says Magda. "Even these basic things can make all the difference."
Learning costume design specifically for productions has helped Magda move beyond just designing apparel; working constantly around scene and lighting designers as well as actors has helped her to see her costumes as just one element of a larger cohesive production.
Since coming into the program, Magda has worked not only on costumes for SCAD productions, but for student films as well. "There is a completely different mindset," says Magda of working with each medium. While she loves the fast-paced, deadline-oriented theater environment, she also appreciates that her attention to detail is captured on film. For one film she recently worked on, an opulent work with a Baroque aesthetic called "The Magic Opera," Magda was given a much higher budget than she'd ever received to create sumptuous period costumes. "It was just a lot of fun to play around and not have to restrict myself because of a budget," says Magda. As part of that project, she created a single costume piece that transformed over the course of the film from a shabby dressing gown to a regal robe.
Pieces that function as more than one costume are one of Magda's specialties. In her summer internship at the Boston Children's Theatre last year, she created a garment that could change into four different dresses with some simple adjustments. This innovative piece allowed the young actress wearing it to "change outfits" onstage in very little time.
This internship was Magda's second working with children. She had also spent the previous summer working at a theater summer camp. Both experiences surprised her by being much more fun than she had expected; Magda assumed that children would be boisterous and rowdy, but was surprised to find instead that the kids who were part of the program "were just incredibly talented and mature," she says. These internships were such an influence on Magda that she is now considering teaching one day.
This past summer, Magda completed her M.F.A. classwork and is now finishing up her thesis, a steampunk reinterpretation of the costumes and setting for "A Midsummer Night's Dream." Magda's take on the Shakespeare classic will feature cybernetic men, Gypsy-inspired fairies, and a dripping pipeworks underworld instead of the traditional forest setting. Magda hopes to one day put her designs to use in a film adaptation.
After finishing classes, Magda returned to Boston Children's Theatre, where she will work as a shop manager for a few months before moving on to design a show for the Charlotte's Children Theater, a job she was given through the Southeastern Theatre Conference's Ready to Work award. Magda says that beginning her costume design career is an exciting time for her; she believes that the theater is an environment that epitomizes the human imagination, and she is driven by the desire to help people fit into that imaginative vision by turning them into someone else, if only for a couple of hours. "Making the costume can be the key link in transforming an actor into a character," says Magda.
View Magda's portfolio.