Friday, July 18, 2014

Designer sew thankful to create costumes at Grossmont College

Esther Skandunas
From theater costumes to figurine outfits, costume designer Esther Skandunas loves to sew thanks to her mother, who started teaching her when she was 5 years old.

“She made most of my clothes when I was little, and I loved to watch her take a piece of fabric and turn it into something I could wear,” Skandunas said. “As I grew, that interest stayed with me.”

Now, the La Mesa resident designs costumes for Grossmont College theatrical productions in addition to her work as a freelance costume fabricator and professional tailor.

At the college, Skandunas teaches students to sew and serves as the in-house costume designer for theatrical productions. This summer, the department hosts its first-ever conservatory, featuring local high school and college students in acting and technical roles in The Three Musketeers, as directed by La Mesa resident and Grossmont College instructor Beth Duggan.  

When it comes to costume design, Skandunas collaborates with the play’s director and the technical crew. Once a play has been selected and designed, Skandunas and her students examine existing costumes to see what can be transformed, and  create new costumes as needed.

“I teach the students how to sew the item together step by step,” she said. “Many of our students, when they first come to the class, have never sewn before. For some, the entire process is brand new.”

Outside of the classroom, Skandunas is a freelance costume fabricator and professional tailor. She designs and creates costumes for Steam Powered Giraffe, a local band; has an Etsy shop – Once Upon a Bustle – where she sells Victorian-inspired menswear; and is the personal tailor to Glenn Hetrick, a judge on the Syfy reality program and special effects make-up competition, Face-Off .

However, her smallest customers are her most well-known ones – she is a freelance costume fabrication artist for Sideshow Collectibles, where she has created costumes for 12-inch figures of Batman, Captain America and G.I. Joe. Visitors of this year’s San Diego Comic-Con International will be able to see her designs in the company’s booth.

Tickets for the The Three Musketeers are $10 - $15 and can be purchased by visiting, calling 619-644-7234 or visiting the box office. Showings take place at 7:30 p.m., July 24, 25, 26, and at 2 p.m., July 30 and 31, at Grossmont College’s Stagehouse Theatre, 8800 Grossmont College Drive in El Cajon.