Jessica Wilmot: The Costume Designer Behind SAAS Productions
Jessica Wilmot is a designer, drag queen, and general fashionista whose recent work unveils the world of costume design that is behind-the-scenes of the Culture of Performance at SAAS. Jessica, a now senior, only jumped into the mix of designing clothes a year ago. In the short time since, Jessica has designed costumes for the SAAS productions of “Urinetown,” “Love and Information,” and was a wardrobe assistant for the Middle School production of “Disaster Fairytales.”
Sparked by her interest in RuPaul’s Drag Race, theatrical costume, and Geoffrey Mac (who was on Project Runway), Jessica dove into the art of clothing design independently. Through a process of reaching out to local and national drag queens via social media, email, and events — Jessica gained a network of support to help with not only design questions but mentorship. Jessica also sought to be a teaching assistant in in costume design at SAAS. She was gifted a sewing machine from her grandma, who taught her the basics of sewing, and is now learning to sew alongside her mom who is taking up the craft, too.
There was, of course, a lot of support on campus and outside of school. “Lily Hotchkiss is amazing. She was my mentor during senior project and while designing for SAAS, and she has helped teach me a lot about proportions of a body,” says Jessica. Jessica also took outside classes at Academy of Art University in California, which covered fashion construction and how to draw fashion croquis, which are fashion designs that pose the sketch so as to accentuate how clothing will move on the body.
Jessica infuses elements of avant garde and punk into her designs (think East London and the 70s, Sex Pistols, the Ramones). “I really love everything that has to come with that, especially the attitude about it. I think it’s just, essentially, be yourself. Nobody really cares, and do whatever you want, but also be a little bit rebellious. And that’s what I really try to embody with a lot of what I do,” says Jessica, who utilizes the contrast of hardware and softer, shiny fabrics to accomplish this effect. Take her self-designed prom outfit, for example, (way cool, although she wasn’t able to secure an artist to collaborate on her design in time for prom) which incorporates a mesh corset on top of layers of fabric; and accessories. “If I leave the house without four accessories, I turn around and I go right back home,” jokes Jessica.
Jessica identifies drag as a big influence in everything she designs, from reds to darker greens & blacks, her current design color scheme. “As a drag queen, watching a lot of drag and going to a lot of drag shows, and seeing all of the gay culture that surrounds fashion – and taking that as inspiration – I feel like there is a lot of drag and campy stuff that is also in my punk-related fashion,” explains Jessica.
Jessica celebrated her one year drag anniversary last Halloween by designing a Crystal Methyd-inspired version of Freddy Krueger involving layered sweater dresses held together with safety pins and a well-executed mullet. This design is now part of her fashion portfolio which she submitted to different colleges, leading to her acceptance to London College of Fashion for fashion design.
Also in Jessica’s portfolio is a blue silk taffeta suit with a cropped blazer. A reinterpretation of Animal from the Muppets, made from scratch: a hybrid of a bowling shirt and 80s rockstar. And an industrial, punk buffalo-checkered design for a drag performance of “Night Crawling” that Jessica filmed at SAAS. Her favorite project: a three-piece collection designed out of light gray and green pinstripe fabric, a safety pin belt, and excess-fabric pants. “I feel like it is kind of punk and kind of weird,” says Jessica, “but it’s also commentary on how much fabric waste there is in the fashion industry, and how bad that is for the environment. So, I wanted there to be pools of fabric at sombody’s feet. It feels unreal; it definitely is a standing outfit, not a walking outfit.”
Jessica has just taken the SAAS Culture of Performance and given it a makeover.