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Out of Proportions

Submitted by Bonnie Sludikoff on July 5, 2010 – 12:10 amComments

Just a few pounds to go...

I’ve spent the last month rehearsing for a workshop of a new musical. It’s been a whirlwind experience of learning difficult music, bonding with new theater friends and trying to juggle full-time freelance work and my strict gym schedule. And up until Monday night, I had my feet locked tightly into the tracks.

After an exhausting night of blocking- I was herded into the hallway with the other girls to a single clothing rack set up with over a dozen nearly identical little black dresses.

Any shred of maturity I typically carry was blown out the window as I emerged from a bathroom stall, sighing, “I’m not wearing this,” more to myself than to anyone in particular.

“You look fine,” one of my size 6 friends said reassuringly, and I tried not to scoff at her as I took my walk of shame out into the hallway.

“Ok, so you’re good with this dress?” the costumer asked me without batting an eyelash. I stared back at her.

“Are we looking at the same dress here?” I asked her with a snarl- but only in my head.

“Well…” I said gently, “Is there something we can do about the sleeves? I really don’t feel comfortable.”

She shrugged and told me to wear my hair down and I blinked at her as she continued, telling me that it was a uniform look she was creating and I couldn’t ruin it by being the only one to forego the spaghetti strap look.

I could feel a stream of emotion building and I knew that using words would force it out so I stood there for a moment and turned sharply when I felt tears warming my cheeks. I have a rule about crying in front of people- especially over things that make me look ridiculous- kind of like the dress I was still wearing. Unfortunately this costume debacle had occurred at an inconvenient time of the month for me to suppress my feelings.

I returned to the theater all red and puffy and sufficiently shamed for not fitting the mold of a 17 year old in a show choir, but my stage manager stopped me on the way out and said the costumer would work on some sort of capped sleeve on the hefty bag of a dress she intended to outfit me with. As much as I appreciated the sentiment, I took the precaution of spending the next two afternoons at the mall, eventually purchasing a dress I didn’t feel entirely ridiculous in.

I felt weird buying my dress, labeled Petite M- which felt like an odd contrast to the 2XL shapeless Mu-Mu I’d been stuck with at rehearsal. I had first grabbed a large dress off the rack, used to having to grab the biggest size available, but had gone back for a more snug fit.

I stood in the dressing room for a long time, scrutinizing my appearance in the little black dress. Though not as offensive as the first dress, it wasn’t perfect and I still wouldn’t look anything like the 17-20 year old girls I’m performing with. I’ve been through this before- and I know these are the breaks. I do. I get it.

But the idealist that lives inside me somewhere beyond my totally unacceptable 5 foot 6 (and a half), 160 pound frame still believes that I deserve the same sort of care as the teeny tiny girls I compete with each day. In fact, maybe a little bit more.

I don’t expect special treatment or even to be outfitted in a particularly nice costume. But, really? I wear a size 10. Give me a break. I wish I could be a better model of poise in this medium sized frame of mine- brushing off petty experiences like the one I had this week instead of crying in the bathroom like the same ashamed girl I was in junior high when I didn’t fit the mold. But that’s just not who I am.

I go to the gym 6 days a week, eat a balanced diet, and yet I wasn’t the slightest bit surprised at what happened when it came time for costuming. As much as a I love the show Glee with the identical show choir outfits, performers come in more than one shape and size, and if you pretend otherwise, someone is gonna stand out. In lieu of Mercedes’ “beauty at any size” attitude, I choose to stand out because of my talent and not because I’m bulging out of an ill-fitting dress.

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  • Lisa
    The overall experience of working a new musical sounds awesome. Costuming sounds like a difficult experience.

    I know this is totally not the point, but... as a petite M trapeze-ist myself, 5'2" 128lbs, you might find you wear a size 8 in regular sizes. I am often a size 10P and size 8 regular. The costumer must not be clear on how to shape a dress for a woman's figure. It think it shows lack of skill, or perhaps lack of time, more than anything. And it seems quite unprofessional.
  • Bonniejs17
    thanks! I'm sure costuming is difficult- I've never done it- I'm not wonderful with clothes- even choosing them just for myself. But I've done several shows where they cater to 5 different sizes 2, 4, 6, 8 and Jumbo. It's not just this costumer. It's ridiculous, but many costumers seem to give up if you're not tiny. I've purchased my own costume for half of the shows i've been in to avoid some ridiculous choices- and with any luck, I'll be down to a size 8 or smaller for my next show- but this is something that has kind of always outraged me, and yet, blows my mind.
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