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March 2017

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Computer Programs: The Costume Bible, PatternMaker, and Wild Ginger products

Our program director returned from the recent USITT Conference with a whole pile of great information, including a lot of literature on various computer programs. I thought i'd write up some brief overviews of them here for y'all.

The Costume Bible

The Costume Bible is a software package that contains a suite of cross-linked databases and form-generators designed to streamline the work of costume shop management. It's a FilemakerPro program that was developed by the folks at the Barter Theatre in Abingdon, VA. Barter runs year-round, producing an average of 20 shows a year, several of which run in repertory.

I'm no manager, but i did download the demo and poke around through it to see what i thought. It looked like it might be a bit hard to initially get your head around, but that once you had used it for a show or two, it'd be a great tool, particularly for managing multiple shows across the scope of a season or repertory run. I particularly liked the one-click budget reports and work lists and such, all consolidated within the same program.

TCB (ha!) isn't cheap at $300 for the software package, but it seems like if you are adept with computers, the time it'd save you once you get the hang of it might be well worth the investment.


PatternMaker is one of those software companies i've heard about for years. It's a 2D CAD program designed to generate flat-pattern sewing patterns. It operates off of the Scandinavian fitting system, and you can read all about the measurements required here. You have to purchase the initial software, then suites of basic pattern shapes depending on what kinds of garments you want to make. This page shows some garments for a production of Twelfth Night made from patterns generated by PatternMaker software.

They offer a free 30-day trial version of the software that you can use to make a pair of pants and a bodice, to try it out and see how it works for you. After the 30 days are up, you have several options, depending on how much you want to spend for added features and new pattern sets. The minimum cost involved then is $99, the cost of the basic Deluxe Editor version.

Wild Ginger Software

Wild Ginger produces a number of programs that generate custom-sized patterns based on entered measurements. They're probably best-known for their garment software, Cameo and PatternMaster, and their digital range of basic patterns, Click-n-Sew.

Because it's targeted to my field, I downloaded their free "Wild Things!" accessories program and found it to be easy to use, quite intuitive in its setup for adjusting scale of various elements of the patterns. It generates what look to be CAD-drafted patterns for basic hat, bag, wrap, and simple shoe shapes. I'm not going to be doing any elaborate fancy millinery with it, but the next time i need to bang out a fast newsboy cap, this program's going to make my pattern for me, just to see how it goes!

They offer a more complex version with a wider range of vintage/20th century styles of hats/gloves/etc called Wild Things Vintage for only $40. I might invest in it, just as a speedy way to crank out custom glove and cloth-cloche patterns and the like.

Another of their programs that might be of use in a costume shop (and certainly for home-sewers) is Stitch-n-Stash, a database set up for inventorying and cataloguing your fabric stash, patterns, sewing-related publications, notions, etc. You can scan swatches of the fabrics and notions, and print out suites of project information from the database. Stitch-n-Stash is only $30 for the download.

Got any other recommendations? Favorite computer software you like to use? Do you use one of these and love/hate it? Tell me about it! I'd love to hear your feedback.


I have Dress Shop by Livingsoft.
I have found the fit to be phenomenal if you enter all the measurements, and I like that it doesn't care what the measurements are - I put in the measurements for a 16" Tonner fashion doll, and the pattern it generated was a perfect fit.
I have not explored it to its full potential, but am beginning to do so now that I have a dedicated sewing room. I find it easy to use, and it has good tech support and user groups.
Do you have the Standard or Pro version? That's pretty cool with the fabric pattern samples generating an image of the final garment for you.

And, do you have Hat Shop? I'd be interested to hear how that version is!
I have Dress Shop 5 Pro. Probably I will upgrade to 7 sometime soon... I don't have Hat Shop yet, though I've been thinking about it as I start to make more hats and realize they're not as hard as I thought they were :)

(Looking at the pictures on their Hat Shop demo, I'm underwhelmed with the construction quality... but that might not be the software's fault.)
Yeah, i definitely would be skipping their "construction advice" sections; what i'm curious about is the patterns themselves. They seem (from the screencaps) to base their patterns on a headsize oval instead of a circle, which looked like that was the major drawback to the Wild Ginger free program i grabbed. I'm tempted to shell the $40 for their fancier accessories program, just to see if it too has hat shapes based on a circle or oval, and if it's an oval, whether you can adjust the axes for thinner/fatter heads.

If you do go for Hat Shop, definitely lemme know how that goes!
I use PatternWorks. A few years ago the creator of the software did a workshop at the college where I work, and thanks to her presentation I bought a copy for my costume shop. Our fashion department bought several copies as well. I'm really happy with it, but it's strictly a drafting program, not a pattern generator. I'm looking at getting Livingsoft's Dress Shop Pro for quickie patterns when I don't have time to draft something entirely from scratch. I wonder if it's worth it to have both, since they serve differnt functions?
I have an old version of the Wild Ginger PatternMaster software, and really liked it. I actually need to re-find it now that I have a computer that can run it again...and access to a plotter so I can print the patterns out without having to piece together 348574398573 sheets of paper. :|
Oh man. Has USITT happened already? Where does the time go? I think I got one of those programs when I went in '04 and I seem to remember liking it okay.

Also? I [heart] that icon. Hell yes, you wear proper safety gear when working with Barge! People that think otherwise about it and other substances like it in costuming baffle me.
Yeah, USITT was last week (15th-18th i think). I had to prepare for fittings so i didn't attend.

I've looked into the software more, and so far it seems like everyone's hat versions feature crowns based on circles instead of ovals, which like, who has a circular head? Hats build based on a circular headsize opening always buckle weird and behave freakishly because heads are not roundededed, duh.

And, thank you re the icon. Our school has just started offering a graduate course in industrial health and safety for the entertainment industry, which i sat in on last semester (the first time it was offered) and i was SO DISTURBED by much of what we learned. Not only disturbed because of course reading about people dying horrible preventable deaths is of course awful, but also because how many times in the course of my professional career i have been taught or witnessed such woefully ignorant and wrong and downright dangerous practices (example: people believing they are protecting themselves from harmful fumes by wearing a dust mask--hi, DUST MASK, you would think by the very name you'd get that's for particulate matter protection, not gaseous matter protection).

Some places i have worked, there's been people Barging without any protection in closed rooms; other places, Barge was prohibited because of its danger. I feel like, as a teacher, i need to educate my students about safely using materials (hence, don't deal with Barge by banning it, but by teaching proper safety practices).

It bothers me that there's such a prevalent cavalier attitude toward safety in the arts like in no other field. You don't see, say, chemists being all blase and acting like it's somehow badass to fling hydrochloric acid around a lab with no ventilation or PPEs in use. Yet you see artists doing similarly-dangerous stuff all the time. Doesn't make us cool, makes us either morons or dead.