The Flint Rock

Julane Sullivan - A Hobby That Got Out of Control

Julane Sullivan - A Hobby That Got Out of Control

Julane began sewing in middle school and loved it. “A hobby that got out of control.” is how she describes her passion for sewing in this insightful podcast.  It began when she was doing community theater; budgets were limited, so she sewed her own costumes as a hobby. Then she began to collect costumes. Before long, word of her talent spread, and she was sought out to create costumes for school theatrical productions. She then took over a theatrical costume company, while still working full time.  15 years ago Julane began doing costuming full time. Her company, All Dressed Up Costumes in Batavia Illinois, was 3,500 sq ft when she bought it. Now it’s over 10,000 sq ft.As Julane shares the process of costuming for an entire production, you hear the passion in her voice. “Inspiration,” she says, “can come from a lot of different sources.” But one thing we learn that the story is always the star. Before you start envisioning costumes, you have to immerse yourself in the play and familiarize yourself with place and mood, and motive and time period. After that, you dive into the characters: their temperament, their motives, their relationships. (4:20-7:46)After she’s thoroughly familiarized with a play, she gets together with the production team, and everyone bounces ideas off each other. The director’s feedback is especially important. If there are fairies in the piece and the director says he/she wants them to reflect a darker natural feeling, you may use the earth, and bark and leaves of the trees as inspiration.  If the fairies need to be magical, glitter may be added to create a more ephemeral feel. The biggest challenge in working as a costume designer on a big production is, as you might imagine, communication. Because she loves things that are pretty, she said her favorite things to create are elaborate French Restoration ball gowns. She describes the process of creating a luxurious Regency ballgown for a client who needed a gown for a formal ball. They shopped for the plush fabric and embellishments together, and she compared the completed product to something out of Bridgeton, saying, “We don’t wear those gowns now.  I wish we wore those gowns now. I think I was born in the wrong century.” (14:38   -16:35)When people tell Julane they can’t sew, she tells them that It’s not them, it’s the equipment.  When discussing the importance of a quality sewing machine, she uses the analogy of a carpenter, saying that if they have the right hammer, the right wrench, and the right set of drills, they get their job done well and get it done efficiently. But with the wrong equipment, they struggle. Her advice is to invest in the best machine you can. She describes in fascinating detail what other tools and equipment one needs to create costumes. (28:22- 34:32) If you’re an aspiring sewist, interested in creating costumes, or just want to get a fascinating behind-the-scenes look at the wonderful world of costuming, you won’t want to miss this podcast. You can connect with Julane by calling 630-879-5130 or emailing You can also follow her on Facebook ( ) and Instagram. (

Duration: 43 min

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