A few weeks ago I had the pleasure of seeing A Gentleman’s Guide to Love and Murder, which won the 2014 Tony Award for Best Musical. I particularly enjoyed the costumes, so much so that I decided to write designer Linda Cho, who also won a 2014 Tony for her work on this show. To my joy and amazement, she responded with a willingness to do this interview, which should be of interest to anyone who enjoys clothing and believes in its power to communicate.
How does someone get into costume design? How did you?
I don’t think there is a prescribed way of getting into what I do. I have an undergraduate degree in psychology from McGill University in Canada. But I took a class in costume construction, and found a wonderful world of crazy, misfit people, after being a teenager growing up in a tiger mom household and being expected to be a doctor.
When I graduated, I was trying to figure out what to do, and surprisingly, it was my mother who suggested costumes. I applied and was accepted at the Yale MFA program, and after I finished, came to New York.
How do you decide how much of the audience’s attention the costumes should occupy?
It depends on the production. For an opera like The Magic Flute, a lot of the storytelling is visual. So you need that vocabulary to tell the story. Also, the kind of audience member that comes to The Magic Flute will often be getting their first introduction to opera, so it should be accessible and visually appealing to that kind of audience. Whereas if you’re doing a contemporary play that’s more about the relationships between the characters and what they say to each other, like an August: Osage County, there’s no need expect that the costumes tell the audience who these people are. A cool shirt or a quirky jacket can sometimes get in the way and distract the audience.