Mixing Avant Garde with 1660s French Fashion: Gustavus Senior Designs Costumes for Fall Production of “The Misanthrope”

Posted on November 1st, 2021 by

Kjerstin Anderson '22 is the costume designer for the fall production of "The Misanthrope."

For Gustavus Adolphus College’s fall production of The Misanthrope, senior Theatre major Kjerstin Anderson ’22 is the costume designer. The play, written by Moliere and directed by Visiting Assistant Professor Kimberly Braun ’11, is set in 1660s France and explores the importance of balancing honesty and societal expectations.

Anderson’s costume design rendering for Célimène, featuring removable fluffy sleeves and panniers.

As this production is set in a modern reality TV show about 1660s France, Anderson’s designs combine historical period elements with modern avant garde fashion and reality tv inspirations. Anderson says one of the characters the team spent the most time discussing was Célimène, Alceste’s love interest, as she can be interpreted very differently in different productions. “As a character, she is not a super great person, but she’s also not the villain of the story,” Anderson explains. “Is she this woman who’s just using men and not caring for their feelings, or is this a way of her asserting her own agency in this time period where she doesn’t have much?”

“Having the adaptability in her costume to show varying levels of vulnerability is important, so she has things that are sweeter and a little fluffier and then she has things that are much more pared back and things that are a little more seductive,” she says. Célimène’s costume also incorporates the panniers of the historical time period, which Anderson explains as both a nod to the roots of the play but also a “very literal metaphor of the cage that women were in” during the time period of the play.

“I am so excited to be creating the designs that Kjerstin has developed,” says Continuing Assistant Professor of Theatre & Dance Larissa McConnell. “She has brought to this production her radiance that infects all of us in the costume shop making each day full of excitement for what we are doing.” McConnell supervises the costume shop at Gustavus.

Turning the costumes from ideas and designs into actual creations was the part that Anderson was most nervous about. “I work in the costume shop, and so I do understand how things are built and how things are being made, but I am not our strongest stitcher,” she says. “It’s just so humbling and invigorating to be around people who just can do such wonderful things with fabric and who are so excited to help these things that were literal figments of imagination become real.”

McConnell says Anderson has created an atmosphere of enthusiasm and enjoyment in the costume shop. “We love to show her what we’ve been working on because her reactions are heartfelt and full of gratitude,” she says.

“I learned how to trust myself and how to have confidence in my own ideas,” Anderson says. “It’s just been so fun and this experience is something that I’m going to compare everything to for the rest of my life.”

Anderson plans to attend graduate school in costume design after graduating in the spring. “I think one of the most important things that I’ve learned is just standing my ground and having faith in myself,” she says. “Finding it in myself and truly believing that what I’m doing is important, because the way that the arts affect people and affect opinions and can create narratives, I think, is really important to the way that we function as a society.”

Performances of The Misanthrope are November 11-13 at 8 p.m. and November 13-14 at 2 p.m. in the Rob and Judy Gardner Laboratory Theatre. Tickets are on sale now. 

PLEASE NOTE: All ticket holders must show proof of full vaccination against COVID-19 or a negative COVID-19 test result received within 72 hours of the performance, and a valid photo ID to attend the performance. Ages 11 and under are exempt from this requirement. Masks must be worn at all times, regardless of vaccination status.



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