Artisans: Costume Designer Dot Auchmoody

Behind the scenes of the productions by The Naples Players

BY April 3, 2015


Dot Auchmoody

Costume Designer

Age: 59

Years in Southwest Florida: 16

Years with The Naples Players: 13


In a tucked-away basement room at The Sugden Community Theatre, a group of sewers huddles around a large worktable. They feed their fabric steadily into the yammering mouths of six hungry sewing machines. Heads bowed with concentration, they are completely engrossed in their craft.

If you’ve ever seen a play at Sugden, there’s a good chance the costumes for the show were created at one of these machines. Each year, Dot Auchmoody, her staff and a few dozen volunteers create hundreds of costumes from every time period imaginable. It’s quite a feat considering this table is pretty much the extent of the entire costume shop.

“People are always surprised at how small the costume shop is,” says Auchmoody, costume designer for the local theater company. “We’re packed in here like sardines!”

But they’re supremely skilled sardines. From smoking jackets to swing-era dresses, Auchmoody has designed, sewed and altered it all. She’s also fixed it all—being a costume designer means being very good at dealing with serious wardrobe malfunctions. “If you make it through a show without something happening, you’re like, ‘Whew!’” she confides.

Despite the long hours and the stressful moments, Auchmoody says she loves her job: “I’m going to retire from here. That is, unless they get sick of me and kick me out first.” Judging by her long list of show-stopping creations, that’s unlikely to happen anytime soon. 


Sew Enterprising

“After college I started acting in some local shows and I was one of the people who knew how to sew. So I started working on costumes out of necessity. It wasn’t that I was that good at it, it was that I was one of the only people who knew how to do it.”

A Renaissance Couple

“My husband and I were busy with our careers and we didn’t have time to be in shows, so I got out of it until we started sewing costumes for renaissance fairs. When we moved here, we thought we might audition for a show and then I saw on the website that (The Naples Players) were hiring a costume designer.”

Reaching Out

“We don’t make everything. If it’s a period show or something really specific and I don’t think we’ll use the costumes again, we’ll rent. For example, The Producers is massive and really specific. Nazi uniforms with hot pants? When are we going to use that again?”

Repair Central

“It happens on a pretty regular basis that someone blows a zipper mid-show. We rely a lot on safety pins or stitching people into costumes backstage. A blown-out heel or someone splitting open their pants is pretty much par for the course.”

Study as You Go

“I don’t think most people understand how much homework is involved before you start designing. I do a ton of research on the period and sit in on a lot of meetings with our directors.”

Not a Shoe-in

“If you’ve never done costumes for a show, you don’t know what hell shoes are. You can find the perfect pair of shoes but then your actor’s feet don’t like them. Shoes are the most glorious or frustrating part of the job.”

Take Care

“When I watch other people’s shows, I’m looking at whether the costume designer really paid attention to the details. Did they put them in the proper underwear? You stand differently in a whalebone corset—you can tell if someone really took the time to get all the proper underwear and underpinnings.”

Don’t Overdo It

“The costumes shouldn’t outshine the play. If that happens, I haven’t done my job correctly. It’s like a bride—sometimes the dress wears the bride rather than the bride wearing the dress. If people don’t really notice the clothes, that means I’ve done my job.” 


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