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Rosanne DellAversano Sews Stunning Costumes in Delaware

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Photo by Jim Coarse

In Delaware’s theater world, those who still design and sew costumes from scratch are few. Rosanne DellAversano from Bootless Stageworks is a rare talent who does just that.

Rosanne DellAversano—a creative with a talent for sewing and an affinity for costuming—opened Bootless Stageworks in 2009 with her husband and a few friends. Located in the basement of St. Stephen’s Church in Trolley Square, the small professional theater (“Bootless” is a tongue-in-cheek play on being profitless) gives emerging artists a place to hone their craft.

Here, Rosanne DellAversano, who serves as executive and producing artist, takes us behind the curtain.

Where did you learn your theater costuming skills?

I began sewing in my sixth-grade home economics class at Gunning Bedford Junior High School and continued from there, including mentoring by Sr. Sienna at St. Mark’s High School. My first real costume was for A Day in Old New Castle. As my involvement in theater progressed, so did my interest and skills in costuming.

Where do you source your materials?

There are fewer places to buy budget-friendly fabrics than there used to be. When thrift store shopping, I look at everything from clothes to home goods. I can recut almost anything to create something else. A $20 comforter is now an Elizabethan gown for Kiss Me, Kate. I also rely on the large inventory of fabric I’ve amassed over the years.

What’s one way costuming has changed over the years?

Rosanne DellAversanSizing, especially for women. The sizing of 20 years ago differs from today, and it differs between manufacturers. I measure all my actors and always measure the clothing before buying.

You said in addition to serving as artistic director, you’ve also performed?

I have performed in operas, operettas, plays and musicals for over 35 years. I began acting at 12, but my real love is singing. I started singing in school shows at 7 and began formal lessons at 14 with George Steinhoff Sr. I took acting classes in high school but am mostly self-taught through observation, workshops and reading. I work with vocal coach artists who also coach me in acting. Still, I’m more at ease performing a foreign language aria than I am delivering a monologue in English.

Have other theaters sought your handiwork?

I’ve created for Wilmington Drama League, Arden Shakespeare Gild, The Ardensingers, The Brandywiners and a few others. My pieces have been borrowed for use in opera, theater, movies, films and special events in the tri-state area.

What’s the most memorable costume you’ve made?

An outfit for The Brandywiners’ Evita— for the waltz with Che. The amazing underskirt magically reveals itself when she’s twirled in a waltz.

Any mishaps?

A blouse that fastened at the shoulder unhooked after I was chased and thrown onto a couch. I sat up, and whoops! Thank goodness the play was a comedy.

How many productions are in a Bootless season?

We produce four shows, plus bring in self-produced shows and concerts from local and regional artists. Being an adult contemporary company, our offerings are lesser-known works leaning toward those found at Fringe festivals and off-off-Broadway. We also have a monthly comedy show hosted by board member and comedienne Belynda Cleare.

What advice can you offer aspiring costume designers?

Research. Learn. Knowledge is key. If a show is from the 1950s, know where the hem in a man’s pants belongs for that era. And don’t be afraid to try anything.

Related: Delaware Poet David P. Kozinski Discusses His Love of Language

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