UC Berkeley News


The costume-maker
Suzette Davidson

| 13 September 2006

When Suzette Davidson was in high school, a couple of her teachers encouraged their students to go full bore in their passion for "Dungeons & Dragons." Instead of role-playing with figures, the students dressed for their parts. Davidson, whose grandmother had taught her to sew, began making costumes.

Suzette Davidson (Peg Skorpinski photo)

An executive assistant at Boalt Hall Alumni Center, Davidson studied costume-making at the University of Maine before moving to the Bay Area. Her interest waned until the first of the Lord of the Rings films was released in 2001 and some friends decided to revive the old D&D games.

And with that, Davidson was off to the races, designing Halloween costumes straight from Tolkien's Shire, and then Victorian-style outfits that called for an entirely different level of seamstress skills. Friends attending costume balls enlisted Davidson to create their outfits. A history major at Mills College who had always enjoyed dressing up in vintage outfits, she was, she recalls, "drawn to designs heavy on detail and historical accuracy," going online to find dress patterns from other eras.           

Davidson, who still uses her grandmother's old Singer, finds sewing "a very comforting, reflective process." She logs 10 to 12 hours a week researching, sewing, and shopping for the perfect fabric, describing herself as "completely obsessed."

Costume-making provides Davidson with a creative and intellectual outlet. As someone who  enjoys delving into the history of fashion she strives for authenticity in her creations — going so far as to take a class on corset-making in order to recreate a historically accurate silhouette.

It offers another benefit as well: "Sewing helped free me from being paralyzed by perfectionism when I was finishing my undergraduate thesis," she says. "My mantra became 'Done is good.' When I complete a garment that is sturdy, nicely altered, and designed with beauty, it gives me a great sense of satisfaction."