Two things you should know: First off, I once worked in the marketing and public relations department at Virginia Stage Company, an Equity theatre.  Second, I love to sew (and don’t have enough time these days to delve into my stash of fabric).  So, I am absolutely thrilled to welcome Katie Curry to Math for Grownups today.  As a costume designer and technician, she’s worked for the Berry College Theatre Company and the Atlanta Shakespeare Festival. She recently started her own venture called Nancy Raygun Costuming that caters to folks who are into cosplayand conventions or just want a fun costume.

What do you do for a living?

I design and build costumes for theatre productions as well as make custom clothing for individuals. I sketch my ideas and then make them into real pieces for people to wear.

When do you use basic math in your job?

I use basic math every time I sit down to work. Sewing is full of fractions — the standard seam allowance is 5/8 of an inch — and drafting costume pieces is all about angles where different pieces meet. It would slow me down a whole lot if I couldn’t add and subtract fractions as I go.

Do you use any technology to help with this math?

Most of the time I just end up using the calculator on my phone or just old school pencil and paper when I’m figuring out how much I need to take in a garment or that kind of thing. There are a number of computer-assisted drafting programs that can come in handy when it comes to design, but since I’m just getting started I don’t have all the fun toys that a lot of designers do. So for now, just a calculator and some brain power.

How do you think math helps you do your job better?

With just the actor’s measurements, you can draft costume pieces just using a little math. That means, you don’t have to go through the tons of fittings to drape a pair of pants.  Just put the measurements into a series of equations, and you get the exact lengths and angles that you need to draw in order to start construction.

How comfortable with math do you feel?

I am in no way comfortable with math. I have never been the type who could make sense out of a lot of numbers, so I was pretty bummed when I walked into my first costuming classes and was immediately handed a ruler. It took me a while to warm up to the idea that I would be doing math regularly, when all I wanted to do was make costume pieces. But once you see the end results of a long drafting session, everything starts to make a lot more sense. I don’t feel incredibly comfortable with a lot of other math outside of my profession, though. I can do basic things like balance my checkbook, but don’t ask me complicated things about statistics unless you just want a blank stare.

What kind of math did you take in high school?

In high school I took the simplest math I could get away with. I’ve taken algebra I and II, geometry and statistics and I’ve disliked every one of them.  If I brought home a B in an English class it was a travesty, but if I brought home a C+ in a math class the sentiment was, “All you have to do is try your best and somehow manage to pass.” I am in no way a math-minded individual, so I’ve always tried to avoid doing it as much as I can.

Did you have to learn new skills in order to do this math for your job?

I definitely had to learn new skills for building costumes. Costume drafting isn’t exactly something that gets covered in high school math classes, so there were a lot of equations and fractions that I was unfamiliar with that I needed to get very comfortable around. Despite the fact that I’d taken classes that were fraction heavy, I’d never actually had to use them on a daily basis until I started sewing every day.

Do you have questions for Katie?  (Do you need a costume?) Ask them in the comments section, and she’ll come by sometime to respond.