Traveling Costumes and 1001 Inventions

Me sewing on my Bernina in the workroom at the museum.

One of the actors in costume getting to know the props she will have to demonstrate in the exhibit.

A group of actors in costume infront of the handmade tents we also created for the exhibit.


A few months ago I started working on a project for a traveling museum exhibit called 1001 Inventions. I was recruited as their costume designer and created 20 costumes in about 30 days, totaling approximately 60 garments. The exhibit was at the New York Hall of Science in Queens for the past few months, and recently made its way to the California Science Center in Los Angeles.

In the exhibit, there are actors portraying various people throughout scientific history; that's where I came in. I designed looks for all of the actors, and sewed all the garments from scratch. Last week I made the journey to LA to help transition the exhibit into its new home, and fit all of the new actors into the costumes.

Because I would be working at the museum, I had to anticipate that there would be no sewing room set up for me when I got there. This meant that I had to figure out what I needed ahead of time and ship only my absolute necessities to the museum. My Bernina had to make it through airport security with me, as I was nervous about shipping it. I was expecting a hard time at JFK and LAX regarding my machine, but luckily they were more concerned with the liquids in my bag (machine oil), as opposed to the machine itself. Needless to say, the oil got tossed at the security gate.

The actors were all incredibly enthusiastic and I had a great time working with them. They were all drastically different sizes from the actors in New York, so the costumes required a great deal of fixes, hemming, alterations, and mix and matching. It was odd trying to sew in a work space that I wasn't used to, but my box of necessities made it right on time and I was able to make do with what was there. When I'm at home, I'm amazed and the amount of special notions I think I need to use to get the job done, but when it comes down to it, it all could really fit in a small box.

If you live in the LA area, please check out the 1001 Inventions exhibit which opens this week, and tell the actors I said, "Hello!"


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Nicole Smith

About Nicole Smith


My name is Nicole and I am a contributing editor for Stitch Magazine. I'm originally from Texas but now live in Brooklyn, NY where I try to squeeze my fabric collection and my six sewing machines into a Flatbush apartment.

Previously I was the Lead Editor of SewStylish magazine and Associate Editor of Threads magazine. I was also the Crafts & Decorating editor of Adorn Magazine and worked in the fashion and beauty departments of Teen People and Seventeen Magazine.

My second book, Dorm Decor (Chronicle Books) with Theresa Gonzalez, is available now. My first book entitled Fashion DIY (Sixth & Spring Books), which I co-authored with Carrie Blaydes, is also available now. I'm currently working on my third title to be published by Lark Books in 2012.