The importance of design: Greer King and her work in the Sewanee theatre department

Greer King (C’21) poses with her costumes for Scapin. Photos courtesy of King.

By Caroline Hoskins
Contributing Writer

Greer King (C’21) began her work with costume design as a Sewanee freshman. Upon entering Sewanee, King was a theatre fellow and worked in the theatre department’s work study program. Trying both the scene shop and the costume shop, King eventually chose to work with costumes. “Costumes really spoke to me,” King said. When speaking of her work in the costume shop freshman year, King said that she was “totally transformed…from the beginning of my college career with the theatre as someone who just wanted to perform.”

As her senior project, King is designing the costumes for the up-coming production of Scapin by Molière. Because the setting is in the streets of Naples, Italy, King has designed the costumes using the influence of modern street style. In discussing the original idea for the costumes, King stated: “Pete [Smith] told me before I even started working on it that he wanted the costumes to have some sort of Italian, high fashion influence. And he wanted them to be ridiculous and over the top.” In designing, she pulls inspiration from Italian fashion houses like that of Versace and Dolce and Gabbana, due to their “bright colors and wacky patterns.” 

With these costumes, King has practiced putting together different patterns and textures in a cohesive way. While describing her method of putting together outfits, King said,  “I guess I pick out the colors and stuff, like I know what colors I want to put people in. It doesn’t really happen in a linear fashion at all. Sometimes you stumble just upon the piece and you find it and you’re like ‘yes this is it. This has to work.’”

One of King’s design image boards for Scapin.

For the process of designing in general, King stressed the importance of knowing the play being designed. She described how designers must also take into consideration the themes of the piece and the motives of the characters. Once a designer completely understands the play, they have to decide on a metaphor for their costumes to promote. In regards to Scapin, King said “The Italian, high fashion heightens the ridiculous qualities the characters already have.”

Scapin isn’t the first show King has designed costumes for. During her sophomore year, she and a friend co-directed a show with the student theatre. “It was set in the middle of nowhere, Texas” King said. “Like the setting was the back of a run-down bar. That was my first actual costume design that I had done.” King described how this was the ideal show for a new costume designer, as most of the characters were dressed in denim. 

Outside of academics, King runs a thrifting Instagram called “thriftwgreer.” On this account, King sells cute and trendy clothes she has thrifted. Those who want to buy from her can see pictures of the clothes and bid on items in the picture’s comment section. Because she posts frequently, one can go to her page on any given day and find something cute to buy. In discussing her thrift account, King said  “I guess I’ve been into fashion forever, but it wasn’t until I started my thrift account —because I like thrifting and stuff too —and people were like: ‘you’re kind of good at it. You find cool stuff.’”

When asked about life after Sewanee, King expressed interest in pursuing a career in fashion. 

“Maybe, not necessarily costume design will be my future,” she said, “but l want to do something with fashion. And I don’t know if I want to do fashion merchandising and retail and expand the thrift business that I’m already doing. If I do want to design. If I want to do one as the main thing and one as a side-hustle. I don’t know which one.”

King sees clothing as an expression of self. “Clothes are just so important,” she said. “It’s more than something you wear to just not be naked. It speaks so much about someone, what they choose to wear on any given day.”