The Secret Sewing Society: APA Costume Design Department

By Aiden Jones

January 19th, 2024 

Huntington Beach High School is known for its outstanding performance academy: Academy of the Performing Arts, or as it is better known, APA. You’ve probably seen the posters, watched a show or two, or maybe even know someone in APA. But what you may not have seen is what goes on behind the scenes, and the APA Costume Design department is one that deserves the spotlight.


Recently the APA Acting department performed “The Crucible,” which consisted of a wide variety of costumes and makeup. While some actors do their own makeup, the APA Costume Design department is primarily responsible for each actor’s wardrobe, and makeup. The actors have their own character-specific costumes, sometimes multiple per actor, and makeup that they need for the play. The “costumers,” the APA Costume Design students, are in charge of designing and hand-making each costume, and handling repairs; and it is not a simple process. 


“We first start about a month and a half before the first show,” Leo Piccinino, a member of the Costume Design department, remarked. In order to have enough time to complete the laborious process, the designers must have as much time as they can to do fittings, costume making, and makeup preparation. The process is long, as the costumers work to ensure that the costumes and makeup fit the actor perfectly. Piccinino explained that the department works with the director to decide how the costumes should look based on the show’s setting and overall vibe. To ensure productivity, the Costume Design department assigns each student to have their own job; one does makeup, wigs, fittings, and/or adding details to the costumes for realism. “It’s a very time consuming and stressful course, [but] I love costuming, it’s one of my favorite parts about being at this school,” Leo added.




Photos by Sophia Beckett


Being a part of APA isn’t as simple as one might think. These processes are extensive and time-consuming, as the days are usually 7 or 8 hours long, and there are usually only 14 students per department (the program is divided into two groups: a first-years class and an advanced class) every year in the entire Costume Design program. Some APA students even have a part-time job as well as homework and responsibilities to stay on top of. “I work two jobs as well,” Leo mentioned, “it’s a lot of going, going, going.” It becomes especially difficult to balance it all during something APA refers to as “Hell Week,” which is the week before the first show where all of APA has to run the show and ensure every detail is perfect. For costuming specifically, “Hell Week” consists of setting up the racks that hold the costumes (putting on labels, dividers, making sure all costumes are organized properly), putting together bags full of shoes and accessories, and making final alterations for the costumes. 


performancePhoto by Sophia Beckett


Each costume takes precise detail that is done by hand. Whether it’s brushing out a wig for hours, throwing coffee grains onto a dress to look like dirt, or scrubbing a piece to look worn, the Costume Design department focuses heavily on every aspect of the costumes to ensure high quality. Their effort doesn’t go unnoticed as they have won an award for a previous show, “The Drowsy Chaperone” and continue to submit their work to hopefully win a “Cappy Award” which is done by submitting progress photos and being awarded for the best work. Students from other schools also watch and review the play as a part of this award process. The department does not know if they’ve won yet, but based on their work, I don’t doubt that they will!


costumingcostumingZoya and Maclovia distressing costumes.



Do you want to know when you can see the work of these awesome costume designers? Check out the HB APA website to find upcoming show dates!