Meet Janine McCabe, Guest Costume Designer for “A Christmas Carol”

We are beyond thrilled to have professional Costume Designer Janine McCabe provide her artistry for our upcoming production of “A Christmas Carol,” helping us make this timeless show feel reinvented and cast in a whole new light! Hear from her about her design process below:

Share with us your story of getting into costume design. 

I didn’t find my way into Costume Design until almost my Junior year in College! I did grow up dancing so I was always onstage for that but I never wanted to be an actor and had no idea that people could have careers as a designer. No one in my family was in the arts so I focused on the other things I was good at and actually started college as an Engineering major. I grew up in NJ though and beyond the excellent academics we were able to take classes in sewing, wood working, drawing and painting, metal shop and more so when I finished high school I was a proficient stitcher and would alter and create my own patterns for garments, like my prom dress!

When I realized engineering really wasn’t my passion I transferred to the College of Charleston where I took an Intro to Theatre class and learned that the department would hire Work Study students in the shops. I marched straight into the Costume Shop and proclaimed that I knew how to sew and wanted a job. After showing the professor at the time, Mary Halloway Jollensten, some sample garments, she hired me and I was sucked into the theatre world. I started taking all the classes and realized that Theatre and design combined so many of my passions and interests – sewing, teamwork, drawing, history, fashion, sociology, psychology….I was hooked.

I started designing shows my junior year and never stopped. I went on to graduate school and got my M.F.A. in Costume Design at the University of Virginia and then spent 5 years working, learning and designing in NYC. I worked under Martin Pakledinaz for multiple years on Broadway, opera and dance while designing my own shows off-broadway and for things like New York Musical Theatre Festival with friends I made along the way. I was lucky in NYC. I never worked a non-design job. It was hard work, freelance, but I loved every bit of it!

What do you love about what you do? 

It’s the collaborative aspect that I love most. Working with a team toward this shared goal of bringing a story to life in the best way possible for the audience…I can’t imagine anything better. And it is always something new. Each play, musical, dance piece brings you to different research, expands your view, allows the opportunity to learn about different cultures, time periods and other people’s journeys.

What is your favorite time period to design costumes for?

I get asked this a lot and I am not sure I have a favorite…they are all so interesting when you really start getting into the research and details. I do love when I get the opportunity to create a look that combines periods and creates some sort of timeless feel or look of another time and place that is undefined for the audience.

Tell us about your artistic inspiration behind the costumes for A Christmas Carol. 

All Julian had to say was that he wanted a more colorful approach and I was hooked. My design style tends towards the use of saturated color and textures so this was a chance to really play with that. There were movies he mentioned where the use of color served as inspiration for the team but then getting into the historical research of the early to mid 1800s demonstrated a fantastic use of color and mixing patterns and textures in the time period.

What would you like audiences to know about the costumes for this show?

This has been a really special process for me, one because I am thrilled to have the opportunity to design with such a passionate team and be part of Julian’s last production and two, because I was able to work with two amazingly talented students who will definitely become names people know, Brandon Alston and Molly Rumph. We started the summer brainstorming, researching and working together on a number of design projects. Through a SURF grant from the College of Charleston, Molly was able to work full-time for 10 weeks as an Assistant Costume Designer. Molly and I have had a blast working on the research, colors, renderings, shopping and planning together all summer and we really are looking forward to realizing the design with the Charleston Stage staff.

Rendering of Topper and Ms. Tilly Topper in “A Christmas Carol” by Costume Designer Janine McCabe.

Rendering of Mrs. Cratchit and Tiny Tim in “A Christmas Carol” by Costume Designer Janine McCabe.

Rendering of the Ghost of Christmas Past in “A Christmas Carol” by Costume Designer Janine McCabe.

Rendering of the Ghost of Christmas Present in “A Christmas Carol” by Costume Designer Janine McCabe.

Rendering of Mr. Wiggins and Mrs. Tabor in “A Christmas Carol” by Costume Designer Janine McCabe.