Failure and Folly
How costume design made it more ok to drink wine in the tub
I will be the very first person to admit that I fail on an almost constant basis. I fail at getting to the gym regularly; I fail at not eating popcorn for dinner three days a week; and I fail spectacularly at least once in every costume design project I work on.
It’s an interesting study in hubris and humility. I will be working steadily, thinking to myself, “Oh man, I am really nailing this- it’s gonna look so good” only to cut the final thread and see that instead of a perfectly tailored jacket, I have, in fact, created something that looks like the unfortunate offspring of a cape and a snuggie. Thus, I am left to seam rip approximately 9,000 yards of fabric while swearing out loud to myself, as my dog looks on, pityingly. That’s a lie- he’s seen me make so many obvious mistakes, he no longer offers sympathy. And yet, despite the fact that they are indeed very obvious mistakes, I make them. I sew one giant pant leg, instead of two. I cut the fabric out backwards, yielding two left sides. I buy the wrong size of EVERYTHING even though I wrote the sizes down.
So why on earth do I keep doing this? Why on earth do I subject myself to the constant humiliation of failing in little ways all the time? You mean, aside from the fact that I get to make people shirtless at the drop of a hat? Well, mainly, it’s because each failure has only been an opportunity for growth (WERE YOU EVEN READY FOR THAT NEW AGE TRUTH BOMB?!!). And I don’t mean growth in the sense of “Oh I’ll never make a mistake again”- this is quite obviously not the case with me. I mean the “Oh dang it, these shoes are the wrong size and I cut the tags off already and the store exchange policy clearly states that
the tags need to be attached so maybe I can hot glue the tag back on and they won’t The fear of failure is something that has a crippling, stunting effect, and yet is ingrained in our essence from the get go. Socially, academically, financially; all these arenas seem to demand success (of course, you are welcome to disagree. You’d be wrong and I will laugh at you, but still…juuuuust kidding, friend). When I was younger, I developed some pretty severe anxiety around making sure I was “succeeding”, which quickly turned into fear of trying, should I look like a failure to those around me. Then, out of the clear blue, I stopped caring and everything was perfect, the end.
Psyche. That did not happen. I still regularly drink wine in the bathtub while I stretch my mind around a seemingly unfixable issue. What did happen was costuming (in tandem with reading a loooooot of self-help quotes…). I fell into costume design by pure bravado, so instead of using my fear of failure as a detriment, I switched to using my natural tenacity as a catalyst. I stopped thinking about how embarrassing it would be to fail, and started focusing on how rad it was when I fixed something, and made it a thousand times better. Like when I made the sleeves of a cloak way too long, so I doubled them up, and magically created a unique, interesting layered look- AND NO ONE KNEW IT HAD HAPPENED BY MISTAKE! Bwahahahaha! Mistakes and failures are going to happen, it’s inevitable, but it’s not the end of the world. I hate to be “that girl” who includes a quote, but I am, so deal with it: “When we give ourselves permission to fail, we, at the same time, give ourselves permission to excel.” – Eloise Ristad
Working as a costume designer has been one of the best things for me, in terms of growth and acceptance. It has made me far less afraid of trying something, because it has helped instill in me a sense of trust and confidence in myself to solve any issue that may arise. Not to mention, worst case scenario, I just make everyone be shirtless.
-Casey Ballard, Costume Designer