Gina Coyle: self-made stage costume designer
Meet Sacramento’s costumer
The show must go on—but maybe not without the proper attire. That’s where local costume designer Gina Coyle comes in, crafting outfits for B Street Theatre and Sacramento Theatre Company. She doesn’t sew just anywhere; she has made her very own costume shop in the middle of her family dining room, and enjoys some unique perks of working from home.
“[My family] are like my living mannequins where I force them to put on costumes I’m working on,” Coyle says. “My poor husband has worn every male outfit I ever made, and my poor son—I have put him in more dresses than I would like to admit.” Coyle has been making costume magic for more than 20 years, working on a 1960s sewing machine given to her by grandmother. She has designed costumes for more than 125 plays, including Les Misérables, Legally Blonde and most recently The Wizard of Oz at B Street. The master seamstress set aside her needle and thread to chat with SN&R about her creative influences, her rockin’ hobby and some garment mishaps.
What led you to design costumes for a living?
I learned how to sew when I was about 10, and my mom made costumes for the singing group that we were in. She made the costumes for us in exchange for tuition for me, my brother and sister. So I learned how to sew then, and that’s where it came from. I first started costume designing at a performing arts school in Fresno in 1999. I knew theater and they needed somebody to help with costumes, so I just started doing it and it’s grown since then.
What inspires you when designing?
I love color, and I love how it adds to the story that the actors are telling. I love that certain actors when you put them in costume, [the color] brings their character to life.
When you’re not designing costumes, what are your hobbies?
I’m in a band, and we are actually just getting ready to release our second album. The name of my band is Mikey LP & The Krooks, and I’m a vocalist with my best friend Kate Richardson. We’re the backup singers; sometimes we help build some of the lead parts, but the rest of [the band] are just a bunch of fellas. And then of course, I have my kids, and they are into all sorts of activities, so they’re a lot of fun. I very rarely have a lot of down time, but that’s all right.
Have your costumes ever encountered wardrobe malfunctions?
I’ve had at least probably half a dozen incidents where somebody has completely blown their crotch out of their pants onstage, doing some kind of dance moves. So yeah, stuff like that happens all the time in live theater. That’s probably the biggest one, is people tearing the crotch of the pants onstage.
Do you have any advice for future costume designers?
Unfortunately, I don’t have a degree in costume design. I have a degree in criminology and sociology, so I just did it through experience. Even though I went to college and graduated, just that basic skill has gotten me where I am. … [Costume design] is one of those jobs where there’s not a lot of people that do it, so it can be an invaluable skill to have. If you’re determined, there’s opportunities in Sacramento.