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A Stitch In Time: The Story of A Costume Designer

Rebcat is in Conversation with Victoria Mortimer.

Costume Designer, Theatre Dresser & Clothes Designer.

Victoria Mortimer lives in San Francisco with her husband John and their two dogs. She is employed by the San Francisco Opera as an assistant dresser. She has worked with the American Conservatory Theatre in the San Francisco Bay Area since 2015. Victoria has worked on numerous big shows such as The King and I and the Donna Summer Show.

How did you get into making clothes for a living?

I initially went to sewing school in Utah to see if I liked sewing. Then I went on to study fashion design and costume design at college. I spent five years at university learning my craft.

How did you get into theatre?

I had this amazing mentor in college who helped me get into theatre. She was really so inspiring. I got into the American Conservatory Theatre as a fellow in 2015 and just before the pandemic hit, was awarded my Union card for wardrobe.

What did you do in theatre?

I do costume design assistant and wardrobe in theatre rather than actually making the costumes. It is better paid and actually a lot of fun. That means I help the actors get into their costumes backstage and make sure that everything is ready. I also go out and buy costumes. There are great budgets and so it is so cool to spend the money to help bring the imaginary character to life on stage.

What Did You Do During the Pandemic?

The theatre project I was working on closed down, so I found a contract making medical grade masks for nurses. At the peak I was making 150 masks a day. I also made up alot of my own designs and sold them on Etsy and to friends and family. In addition, I was awarded a contract sewing high end corsets for Dark Garden Corsets before the end of the second lockdown in San Francisco. It was fun and very intricate work.

What are you doing now?

I have a wardrobe contract with the Opera House in San Francisco.

What was your most challenging assignment?

I made a classical tutu the dancers in Swan Lake. The Construction is very complicated with all the pleats on delicate tulle material. Getting all the pleats to stand up was a real challenge. It was a very demanding yet satisfying assignment.

What Qualities do you need to do your job?

You need lots of patience! You need to be very friendly and outgoing with actors, and know how to read people- fast. There can be some big egos in this industry and you need to know how to handle them. It is physically demanding too as you carry heavy materials. You also need to be very quick, nimble and responsive to cope with the pace of costume changes in some of the bigger shows. Finally you need to love this world because the hours are long and there can be alot of sitting around.

What is your future plan?

I plan to stay in the theatre world for the next few years. Then I want to really expand my own business. I really like making my own signature house dresses and men’s 50s style button down cotton shirts in funky, cool patterns.

I call my work wearable art. This would appeal to people who like unique statements with their clothing:- fun and with a quirky, original twist.

Do you take commissions?

I make clothes for friends and family and I am happy to take on commissions.

Where can people find you?

They can find me on instagram: victoria_k_mortimer

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1 Comment

Amy Comer
Amy Comer
Nov 16, 2021

Great interview!

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