Get 2 Know Lauren Carmen!
Growing up, my mother (who is a brilliant seamstress) would always make homemade costumes for the entire family for Halloween. An exciting part of this process for me was that we actually had a large say in what we wore, even at a young age. My older sister and I would decide on our costume concepts, then we would have to draw out a sketch of what we were thinking it would look like. Next, we would go fabric shopping with my mom, roaming the aisles, and helping pick options. As I got older, I began always picking fabrics that are difficult/annoying to sew, because they were the "pretty fabrics" in my eyes, and should be used--regardless of if true to life or practical for a character. Pretty quickly, I was told "if you want it made out of those fabrics, you can sew on that material yourself." Game for a challenge, I began learning to sew through the years, to follow patterns (with much assistance), and to create my visions.
Around high school, I began helping in minor ways with costumes for ballet productions at Nolte, before applying to undergraduate programs for both Costume Design and Ballet. Though accepted into both programs at several locations, ballet was my priority, so I went to my first choice program for dance (The University of Oklahoma), where it was not possible to double major in these time-intensive programs. Convinced I would make it happen nonetheless, by the end of my four years, I had held a part-time job in the University's Costume Shop, constructing garments and accessories, altering, dying, running fittings, and occasionally helping teach lower level costume classes. I also had the opportunity to take almost all the Costume Design majors' classes in construction and design, I was hired to construct tutus for clients outside the university, and I had landed an internship, following graduation, with Travis Halsey in Chicago IL, who had just finished creating costumes for Madonna's world tour, and was now working on Houston Ballet's 2016 Nutcracker. Under Travis (here's my plug! Look up Halsey Onstage and be "wow'd!") I learned so SO much about costume design, construction, the business side, and because I was "ballerina sized" it was also my job to be guinea pig and try on all sorts of stunning costumes that made their way through the shop before heading to big companies. What fun! Since then, I have worked various other costume gigs both designing and constructing for a range of occasions, around the country. In the future, I would love to return to school to get my MFA in Costume Design, to further investigate my interests designing for dance, opera, and musicals.
Another thing that some might find fascinating is my love of France.
During college, I somehow wound up with a Minor in French, facilitated a study abroad opportunity for dance majors to Paris for a summer, and found myself playing French ballet scores on the pianos during my free time into the early hours of the morning. I always have found France fascinating because as a child I had learned that it had castles (and hello, castles meant princesses...), was a major home of all sorts of ballet and art history, and had can-can dancers (my alternate career goal at age 5). In middle and high school, I studied French and though all my credits were fulfilled upon entering college, I didn't yet feel fluent, and wanted to improve my language skills. So, I signed up for a class. At the end of the semester, I had improved, but still didn't feel fluent... so I signed up for another class! I kept signing up for classes, wanting to learn more, and voila I ended up with a minor (and having a stronger background in economics/business in France taught in French than in the States taught in English! Who'd have thought...?!). Not only did I love the language, but coincidentally it proved a good way to connect in class with other fascinating minds outside the artsy group with which I normally spent my time.
Starting my sophomore year of college, I was inspired to seize all the opportunities at a college student's fingertips. As all my honors classes were urging me and my classmates to study abroad, with ample opportunity for business and engineering majors, there were no opportunities for dance majors to study abroad and get credit toward their degree. I had brainstormed where I felt like I needed to go, and scoured the web for any university that had a dance program in France. Most surprisingly, Florida State University had a program that sounded more like my dream vacation than summer school, in Paris. I began communicating with their program coordinator, sent an audition reel, and held meetings with various Oklahoma personnel to arrange how class credits could transfer. Eventually, it all sorted out, and several other dance majors hopped on the bandwagon to go study dance, dance history, and art history abroad. and Taking ballet, modern, variations classes around the city at pre-professional conservatories, open classes, and even ballet in the Opera Bastille from a retired Paris Opera Ballet dancer with her students, we also had the chance to tour backstage opera houses, and see performances. Museum visits were daily, and we would have class discussions in cafes and on benches in the park, learning about dance history and art history, exactly where the history occurred. The experience was quite empowering; taking control of my education, creating opportunities where they didn't exist, and learning to reach out to enough people that eventually someone's able to provide assistance were all lessons I walked away with. Someday I'll move over to France for a bit, but in the meantime, I try to keep my language skills sharp by reading the French newspaper online, speaking to my dog in French, and watching French films.