A Q&A With UNC Professor Pamela Bond on Theatrical Costumes

The laws of dress codes that dominated the Elizabethan and Regency eras are of great interest to UNC professor Pamela Bond, one of this year’s keynote speakers at the Jane Austen Summer Program. “I have a fondness for how people discovered the power of clothing and used it to create their world,” says Bond, the artistic production assistant for North Carolina Central University and an assistant professor of dramatic art at the University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill. Her theatrical credits include costume designs for “House of George” by Howard Craft and “Dreamgirls” by Tom Eyen.


We asked Bond some questions about her work and what to expect at this year's Jane Austen Summer Program.

We are excited to host the Jane Austen Summer Program in-person this year. What topics can we expect you to discuss?

I am excited to be a part of this year’s Jane Austen Summer Program. I must admit I was not as proficient in her writings as I am Shakespeare. This has granted me the opportunity to explore and appreciate your enthusiasm for such a program. I am excited to discuss how social and political ideals of the era affected how people dress and the sartorial laws that were enacted.


What inspired you to pursue a career in teaching while also actively participating in costume design?

I have always been a teacher. It came naturally being raised as an only child. I think as an only child your imagination leads to teaching others all the scenarios that you create in your mind. I have two undergraduate degrees. The first being in theatre and the other in apparel design. While teaching the apparel design class in public schools we took the opportunity to make the costumes for the theatre productions.


In what ways have your experiences/projects as a costume designer incorporated Austen and Shakespeare? Teaching costume design at North Carolina Central University theatre has allowed me to explore more Shakespearean costumes than Jane Austen. Working with different directors you never know what their vision will be. Some have chosen to place productions in the era which they were intended and I have designed a Shakespeare play placed in Central Park in 2000.

Could you explain some of the challenges that may arise in the process for designing costumes for Austen or Shakespeare productions?

I have mostly worked with educational theatres who have not had the budget for the amount of costumes needed to produce an accurate depiction of the era. Also when borrowing costumes that are replicas of the era, there is a sizing issue. Most of the student’s sizes are larger than the costumes that are available for rent.


Why do you find it particularly important for students to consider diverse ethnic and cultural backdrops when they're creating a costume?

A true designer considers the fixed elements of different cultures that must be considered in order for the audience to be immersed into the play’s world. Knowing the silhouette, textures and compositions of different cultures are important in telling the story. Liberties can be taken with colors to pull an audience in that may not have existed during the play’s time period but would attend to the visual delight of a present-day audience.


Of all the productions featuring your costume design expertise, which one has been your favorite and why?

I am more of an early 20th-century designer. I have a fondness for how people discovered

the power of clothing and used it to create their world. Designing costumes for "The Color Purple" has been the most rewarding, and it stretched my imagination with color and style.

"The Color Purple" by Alice Walker. Photo courtesy of Pamela Bond

Are you currently assisting in costume design for any upcoming productions?

I am assistant director for the production “One Monkey Don’t Stop No Show” by Don Evans at North Carolina Central University, March 31- April 3. This will be my debut for the main stage!

Bond is scheduled to give her plenary address Saturday, June 18, at 11:15 a.m. Registration is now open for the Jane Austen Summer Program: Austen & Shakespeare. To register, CLICK HERE.