Meet Brooke Gustafson! At last summer’s International Thespian Festival, she won the 2022 International Thespian Award for Excellence in Costume Construction. Below, she tells us more about her theatrical background and how she’s planning to build a career in theatre.

Brooke Gustafson
Metrolina Christian Academy
Troupe 8868 | Indian Trail, NC
Meg’s Ballgown from Little Women by Louisa May Alcott

Tell readers the most important steps you took on your way to winning the 2022 Thespy Award for Costume Construction.

Shockingly enough, I found the research element of costume construction to be the most beneficial and important to my future success. For the months leading up to the actual construction process, I remember spending a majority of my free time researching on Pinterest or reading dissertations. These readings ranged from deep dives into the 1860s lifestyles and clothing, character analysis, or pictured examples of clothing from that era. Whenever I attempt to create art, my goal is to learn as much as I can throughout the process and grow into a better thespian. The same was applicable as I presented to the judges. I strived to research facts that wouldn’t only teach me something new, but also the judges. As for the actual submission process and presentation, I presented to multiple friends and family members in order to gain their advice and options.

Little Women show

Scene from Cinderella featuring Brooke’s costume construction.

How long have you been doing costume construction? Is there an interesting origin story about how you came to the craft?

I’ve been sewing for around two years now. The origin story is actually quite fun. It all started in 2020 when the world shut down for COVID. I began sewing masks for individuals and businesses at the beginning of quarantine. From there, I immediately fell in love with sewing and thought, Hey, how hard could costuming a show be? That summer, I costumed a production of Cinderella on my own and learned just how much goes into costuming. Since then, I’ve costumed all of my high school shows and my summer drama club shows, and created my own business doing alterations and custom creations for people.

Is there one costume you loved/hated working on?

One costume that I had a strong love/hate relationship with was the iconic “16 going on 17” dress for Leisl from The Sound of Music. It was made from a gorgeous champagne-colored silk satin that shined on stage. I designed the dress based off the dress from the movie; however, since it was a stage production and we didn’t have historically accurate undergarments, we couldn’t have her skirt fly up like it does in the movie. I tried many different arrangements, but it was difficult to get the correct amount of flow required for the dance yet ensure the skirt didn’t fly up. I thoroughly enjoyed the challenge because it was the first time I had to connect a dress design to the dance sequence in order to create a seamless performance.

Thespian student femaleWhat’s next in your theatre career?

I’m so excited to be attending Elon University this fall for a double major in Arts Administration and Theatre Studies. I plan to work professionally in the industry for five to 10 years, and then eventually start my own drama studio using the skills I learned in the industry and my education to prepare high school students for success.

What would you like to say that we didn’t ask you about?

I’d just like to encourage everyone to pursue some new experience or challenge. Whether it be a scholarship application, competition, audition, job, or new hobby, everything you work towards gives you insight for the future. Even if the outcome isn’t what you expected, you can gain wisdom from your attempts. That includes attending your State or International Thespian Festival. Utilize every opportunity and challenge you come across along the way. Audition for that play, compete in the Thespys, attend your favorite workshops. The experiences, connections, and knowledge I gained at these festivals will stay with me forever.

View all of the 2022 Thespy Award winners, and get ready for ITF 2023! Watch for deadlines to be updated soon at  ♦

Natalie Clare is a freelance writer and regular contributor to Dramatics. Visit her work at

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