Shirlee Idzakovich: Theatrical Costume Designer – Theatre People
By Mitch Stark
Hello TheatrePeople! This week I am so excited to introduce you to an incredible costume designer and teacher, Shirlee Idzakovich.
Shirlee travels (or does when there isn’t sickness about) the country creating for shows across the full gambit of entertainment. I met her at the International Theatre Festival a few years ago, and she instantly stood out as the person to get to know and learn from—not only for her craft, but her genuine love for teaching others and the artform of theatre.
I hope you enjoy her interview as much as I did!
Shirlee Idzakovich, theatrical costume designer and teaching artist.
What’s a show that inspires you? (explain away!)
One of my top three is Miss Saigon. It’s a solid story. The history, the beauty of the love story, and the sadness all rolled into one amazing piece. When the men come out in Act II and sing Bui Doi, it is all I can do to not weep out loud.
Knowing that the song is speaking about children left behind is gut wrenching no matter where you stand on any political side. I costumed the show in Cebu Philippines for Broadway Youth Cebu and I cried every time they sang this song. It was a beautiful testament of what love can do when you are looking at it through the eyes of a child.
What’s one of your happiest moments in theatre?
I was asked by Baayork Lee to help costume a group at PS 124 in NYC. This was her actual elementary school she attended as a child. So I wanted the kids to see me do my job. I took my sewing machine to the school to make the costumes. Once I got there, they brought a huge table and I sat my big bag of stuff and my machine on the table. All the kids would gather around me the entire time I was sewing or cutting and they asked nearly 1000 questions and had a ton of their own ideas about the costumes.
Once the show was over, I received a large envelope from them with 40 handwritten thank you cards with many drawings. It was the sweetest thing to open each of them and read them. Many had pictures of the big table, the sewing machine, or their costume. But one said, ‘Thank you. I liked my costume, even though it didn’t fit.’ I laughed so hard and went back and got the picture of the student and laughed even more because I realized it was someone who told me their waist was under their hips and they didn’t want to pull the waistband up to their actual waist for it to fit. Moments you will never forget.
What’s the biggest ‘fail’ or goof you’ve seen on stage? (do tell the story)
During a big Beauty and the Beast outside of NYC, Belle comes running off the stage after the dance scene and a ruffle on her big gold skirt caught on a piece of set and it ripped nearly 3 feet of ruffles off the bottom of the dress. The floor mics were very hot, and that sound came through loud and clear. But no one could figure where it was coming from. Even Belle didn’t realize it was her dress until she hit the side of the stage. It took 3 of us to gaff tape it back on to the dress from underneath until she could come out of the skirt for us to RUN to the machines and reattach it. I have never heard a rip so loud.
Why do you love theatre?
Theatre and costuming allow me to travel all over the world and meet like-minded people that become lifelong friends. Not only do I get to create, I get to teach as well and that has been an incredible journey. I have a small Facebook group for any costumer and older students that is open to anyone who wants to learn and we all stay in touch there. It’s truly amazing the power all of us have together.
Theatre is for…
It feeds the smallest part of your soul that you didn’t even know was hungry. It allows you to be taken to places you would never go or brings you questions you didn’t know needed answered. Once your soul feels it, you feel it for life.
More about Shirlee
Shirlee Idzakovich is a professional costume designer/stylist who lives between NYC and LA. She is a seasoned costume designer with over 100 builds under her name. She is a designer who works on Broadway, Off Broadway, as well as videos, TV, and the movies. Red carpet styles and special event styling.
One of her passions is to teach the next generation the way it really works in a professional costume shop. She is an editor as well as curriculum editor/ writer for the NAA/NEA for high school students in costume design and costume construction. She has a Facebook group, Costuming for Everyone, in which she mentors young designers—along with showcasing young talent all over the world. Her passion has taken her overseas many times to work on shows and designs. She has taught or costumed in 41 states and 3 continents.
Now, her goal is to teach in every state and every continent over the next few years. She is a proud member of the Teaching Artist Alliance. She is married and has 3 daughters along with 7 grand dogs.