OTC Spotlight: Lynn Graf – Costume Manager
Olde Towne Carolers will regularly feature some of our talented members right here on our blog!
This spotlight edition will be on OTC’s Costume Manager, Lynn Graf. Mrs. Graf makes and manages the costumes for Olde Towne Carolers. Lynn is the mother of OTC’s founder and director, Jennifer Graf-Domijan.
One of the most important aspects of Olde Towne Carolers is the festive and vibrant costumes worn by our singers. We pride ourselves on our visual presentation, and our clients rave each year about how wonderful we look when we’re singing for them! A lot of work goes into looking so good!
Ninety percent of our costumes are hand-made by Lynn Graf. Mrs. Graf individually sews each costume with great attention to detail; choosing the best fabrics, colors, and patterns. She also keeps meticulous records when assigning out costumes to our singers, and attends to the cleaning and costume maintenance.
We asked Lynn a few questions about what it’s like to be in charge of costumes for OTC.
Question: How long does it take to make an average costume?
Lynn: It depends on the costume pieces. For example, the men’s vests are very time-consuming. The fabric needs to be cut out, then the sewing (and attaching of the lining), making the button holes, and attaching the buttons. All in all, a vest takes about four hours of work. As for the women’s capes and skirts, they take about 2-3 hours each. With the extra fabric leftover from the skirts, I make little pouches so the ladies have somewhere to keep their keys, phones, and jingle bells when they’re singing!
Question: What kind of equipment do you use to make the costumes?
Lynn: I have two sewing machines, one of which is a serger. I also have a special foot attachment for making button holes. And then, of course, there’s always a bit of hand-sewing involved.
Question: How long have you been sewing? What other kinds of projects have you worked on?
Lynn: I’ve been sewing for about 50 years. I used to make my own clothes and even made my own wedding dress. Years back, when Jennifer was in the Chamber Choir at West Chester University, I made some Renaissance costumes to help the group replenish their costume supply. That project started when I made Jen her very own costume, and the choir director loved it so much that he ordered more! Nowadays, in addition to making the Caroling costumes, I sew clothes for my granddaughters and their dolls. I also make shopping bags, tote bags, and other crafty things like that.
Question: What have been your greatest challenges when costuming the singers of OTC?
Lynn: Well, I’m always on the look-out for nice fabrics that can work together and fit the color scheme. Sometimes fabrics look different on the bolt than they do once they become part of a finished product. I enjoy matching up the colors and fabrics to see which capes and skirts will go best together – I’ve been taking more risks lately when it comes to some of the patterns I choose. The men’s vests need to be colorful so they’ll pop underneath the capes. And I’m always looking for sales at the fabric store! I’ve also noticed that finding nice buttons has become more challenging in recent years, as some of the local fabric stores have switched their focus more to craft projects, and currently carry less in the way of sewing supplies.
Plus, it’s a lot of work to keep the costumes organized, as OTC has so many singers. I assign each costume a number, and when a singer takes that costume, I have a file where I mark down the costume number next to the singer’s name.
Olde Towne Carolers is truly a family business, and of course we appreciate the hard work of our talented costume manager (and mother), Lynn Graf!
***During extremely busy years of company expansion, we’ve also had some costume creation help from Kate Nealley, who’s worked with Jennifer on many musical and operetta productions throughout the years. She has also been a valuable contributor to OTC’s costume wardrobe!