Spotlight: Augustana costume designer brings strong influence

There are many elements that go into creating a good performance, including lights, music, choreography, and costumes. As the costume Shop Manager and Designer, Ellen Dixon happens to be a master when it comes to not only designing costumes, but teaching students how to design their own.
Dixon grew up in the Quad Cities and received a degree in marketing management at Blackhawk College. After that, she found herself working outside of the state.
“I had been working for casinos in Belexi, Mississippi in New Orleans and Memphis,” said Dixon. After her daughter graduated high school, she moved back into the area in 2006 and began working at Augustana.
Dixon utilizes her craft outside of campus as well by working with The Genesius Guild Summer Stock Theater, making alterations, working on bridal gowns, and whatever else comes her way. “Mainly through word of mouth because I’m plenty busy,” said Dixon.
While students are unable to take any courses through the shop, a work study program does exist.
“I am the staff administration… I supervise the costume shop, and that means sometimes I do the designing as well depending on the year, but I do oversee work study students and some of our scholarship kids… they come in here and work as costume run crew, and so we build main-stage productions and opera,” said Dixon.
“They come a long way. The gal that interned with me this summer, her freshman year she could only sew on a snap, and she just designed this last play as a student designer” said Dixon. The student who interned with Ellen, senior Rowan Crow, had positive things to say in turn about her experience working with Dixon.
“Ellen is a great boss because she works patiently with you and will ask for your creative advice. She also trusts you to push yourself to create garments that challenge your skill level so that you can grow in your sewing ability. She always offers helpful advice when you are working on a project and is quick to share her wisdom,” said Crow.
Augustana graduate Jackie McCall is the lead designer for the first performance, Pinocchio. According to Dixon, she gained a lot of her experience through the costume shop.
“It’s interesting, they’re all learning, and in sewing you can’t just take one course and say you’re accomplished. It’s a life-long skill. So the more you get involved with and the different things you get involved with that adds to your knowledge bank…” said Dixon.
After Pinnochio, Dixon will be the lead designer for the rest of the performances throughout the school year.
“The Augustana Costume Shop is always a happy and exciting place to work, full of people coming and going, full of elaborate costumes, and full of costume shop workers… the shop wouldn’t be the same without Ellen!” said Crow.