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"Insights from Dr. Sara Jablon-Roberts on Costume Design Innovation"

Updated: Apr 4

At INNOVATION Insights…We challenge you to be moved, to explore, reimagine, and innovate within your spheres of influence. Let's be the catalysts of change and the harbingers of progress.

Welcome to my latest blog post, where I reflect on a fascinating conversation with the brilliant Dr. Sara Jablon-Roberts on the INNOVATION Insights Podcast. As her major professor during her doctoral studies, I had the honor of guiding a mind as astute and creative as hers, and today, I am thrilled to share the insights from our recent discussion.

A Journey Through Fashion and Scholarship

Dr. Jablon-Roberts is an Associate Professor in Fashion, Merchandising, and Retail at Johnson and Wales University in Providence, Rhode Island. Her journey in fashion and costume design is as diverse as it is impressive, with a doctorate from Iowa State University and an MFA from New York University. Her professional experience spans over two decades and includes working with iconic Broadway productions like “The Lion King” and “Rent.”

Unveiling Historical Accuracy in Costume Design

Our conversation centered on her dissertation, "Historical Accuracy in Contemporary Costume Design: A Qualitative Analysis of the Experiences of Broadway Costume Designers." This work is not just a study; it's a groundbreaking exploration of costume design, presenting a theoretical framework and a grounded substantive theory about the design process in historically set productions.

Dr. Sara Jablon-Roberts presenting her research at the United States Institute of Theatre Technology (USITT) conference. Their Grants and Fellowship Program partially funded Dr. Jablon-Roberts' dissertation.

The Infectious Passion for Costume Design

Sara's passion for her subject is infectious. As she described her journey and the evolution of her research, I was reminded of the countless hours we spent dissecting every detail of her work. Her study challenges the notion of historical accuracy in costume design, a topic she approached because of a noticeable gap in scholarly research on the practical aspects of costume design.

Balancing History with Artistic Expression

As Sara puts it, historical accuracy in costume design is complex and nuanced. It's not just about replicating the past but interpreting and presenting it in a way that resonates with contemporary audiences. Her research delves deep into this idea, examining how costume designers balance historical detail with artistic expression.

A Model for Creative Costume Design

But what truly sets Sara's work apart is her proposed model for the creative process of incorporating history into costume design. It's a detailed, iterative process that begins with incubation and moves through research, role-playing, and historical manipulation. This model is not just theoretical; it is a practical tool she has successfully used in her classroom, helping students navigate the complex world of costume design.

Insights on the Future of Costume Design

As our conversation continued, Sara shared her insights on the future of costume design, noting trends like sustainability and the use of technology like 3D printing. Her thoughts on how young designers can use her research were particularly enlightening, offering a path to creativity and practicality in the field.

Costumes designed by Dr. Sara Jablon-Roberts for Spring Awakening at Iowa State University, Ames, IA. The costume designs for Spring Awakening were awarded the Certificate of Merit at the 2015 Kennedy Center American College Theater Festival.

Defining Innovation through a Designer's Lens

In closing, I asked Sara the question I pose to all my guests: "How do you define innovation?" Her response reflected her work and thinking – seeing innovation as a blend of critical and creative thinking to improve and transform a field, concept, or practice.

Reflections and a Path Forward

Chatting with Dr. Sara Jablon-Roberts was more than a trip down memory lane; it was a reaffirmation of the incredible impact of her work and the ongoing evolution of costume design as a field of study and practice. Her dedication, intellect, and creativity are a testament to the power of innovation in any area.

To all the aspiring designers, educators, and innovators, Sara's journey and insights offer a roadmap to pushing boundaries and redefining what is possible. Keep innovating, keep dreaming, and keep making a difference!

To view my entire interview with Sara, click here.


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