“I see, and I notice, but then I shut it off so I can do me.” Meet Davita Galloway, costume designer for IF PRETTY HURTS

Davita Galloway is an award-winning entrepreneur, stylist, and costume designer based in Charlotte, NC. When she is not costuming stage productions or styling photo shoots, you can find her at her brick & mortar boutique Dupp & Swat in Camp North End. IF PRETTY HURTS UGLY MUST BE A MUHFUCKA is her second production with Actor’s Theatre of Charlotte – she also designed costumes for Season 33’s HYPE MAN. Davita took time to sit down with us on July 15, 2022.

How long have you been styling and designing clothes?

Since the day I was born. I’ve always been into clothing, and wardrobe. Mainly color, you know, just wanting to wear them all at once [laughs]. That’s how I am. Even when I can’t find the words to say the things I need to say, I feel so much comfort in what I’m wearing. Oftentimes that will be my escape. I use wardrobe and clothes as a form of expression. I remember 8, 9, 10, I had this sketchbook that I would sketch all kinds of designs. Ever since then I knew I wanted to go to design school. I always knew it was destined – I didn’t know how my journey was gonna end or where it was gonna take me, but here we are!

Was there a point where it switched from “I love dressing myself,” and self-expression to, “I wanna work in styling and design.”

Was there a switch? No. I really had no idea. Once I got older I started styling for my friends and so forth because they appreciated it, you know, the way I dressed myself and my aesthetic. That was an easy way to dress and have fun with friends and play with them, to do some photo shoots. But how I entered into the industry, if you will, in terms of live theatre: Quentin Talley, OnQ. He knew me from doing styling and all of that but – what was the production? For the Love Of Harlem, by Jermaine Nakia Lee, local playwright. So they called me because they were in need of accessories. I was like, “Oh, yeah, just show me where I gotta be, bada bing bada boom. Got that!” So I pulled up with the accessories and I was completely enamored. Just from seeing behind the scenes, the actors, the process, all of that, I was immediately hooked. That was my first real look at how a production is produced. Ever since that show, I was [Quentin Talley’s] resident stylist, or resident costumer. Ever since then it’s been on and poppin’. It was a great entry, it was a great launching pad.

Who in this field has made an impact on you since you began doing styling and  costume design?

Once I landed in this world I did research, you know, here and there, because I don’t really like to be influenced by others. I see and I notice, but then I shut it off so I can do me. But definitely June Ambrose, she’s an amazing stylist. I love Rihanna’s style, period. Iris Apfel – by far, okay? How much style and class, like, what? She is so dope, always. But then when we talk about film, Ruth Carter. She does a lot with Spike Lee, but she also did Black Panther. The costumes she creates are top-notch. Chef’s kiss. Those are definitely some influences. But music, and art, that is also influential, you know? How it makes me feel. And I think even with wardrobe, I remember being when I was able to go to Parsons for fashion design, the instructors would ask me why would I choose this fabric, or why I would choose this fabric, and for me it’s based on how it made me feel in the moment.

What is the difference or the intersection between styling and costume design?

Where they intersect? Both ask for my opinion. Both allow me to sketch, and dream, and plan, and theorize, and predict, and create characters. Create a feeling, create a vibe, instill confidence, tell a story, evoke emotion. Where they are different? Oftentimes with costumes, in my experience, it’s very specific. Some of them are decade-based or they need to have this certain silhouette, or it has to be complete fantasy. That’s where it differs for me. Oftentimes when I’m styling someone it’s modern, contemporary attire. You know, just make it look nice. Where with costume I can stretch, and I can be more creative. I can tap into that side a little more.

Are you finding that with the mimes and the dance scenes in IF PRETTY HURTS?

Oh yeah, absolutely. I was so glad I was able to go to rehearsal and have that conversation with [director Sidney Horton]. Being in the space grounds you, it makes it make sense to me. That’s definitely a part of the process, to where you can see the characters move and know what they’re gonna be in here to make it make sense and feel like Massassi, or feel like Akim, or feel like Kasim. And then of course getting feedback from Sidney helped. We can piggyback off each other – oh, what are you thinking here. I was thinking this. Oh okay, what if we add this and that? That’s also something that’s a little different versus styling. It’s not really that much back and forth. The client’s frontload their ideas and from there I’m able to create these looks for them. Whereas, the process with costuming is a lot more collaborative for sure.

You’re involved with Charlotte Conservatory Theatre on Witch right now too.

New theatre company – I just happened to meet Marla [Brown of Charlotte Conservatory Theatre] at a portrait show at VAPA, and we started talking and she just mentioned how they were working on this new piece. Women’s empowerment, how this Elizabeth character is othered by the characters, it’s classism and a lot of things. But then as I started reading it and attending the production meetings, what I’m most excited about is that the silhouettes of the costumes are gonna be very period, but we’re gonna modernize with the colors and trim, we’re adding a lot of neon and textures and chains. It’s gonna be this nice dichotomy of modern and period.

What’s the most challenging show you’ve costumed so far?

I would say Oklahoma! Jr. at Matthews Playhouse. Just because it’s a lot of kids, more people. And because they’re kids they have all this energy, and they don’t understand the concept of, “when you’re dressed, please be still” [laughs], “you can’t roll around on the floor anymore once you’re in your costume, okay? And no, you shouldn’t eat, okay?” It’s all these things – it was legit forty-three people, and they all had their own costume, it was a lot going on. But we got through it!

What else do you have on the docket?

Witch, If Pretty Hurst Ugly Must Be A Muhfucka. We’re running Ma Rainey back, National Black Theatre Festival the first week in August. There’s a lot going on in August, I’m gonna be all over the place for all three of these productions, but it will quiet down a bit. Looking forward to going back to Winston. That’s where I grew up and I was surrounded by National Black Theatre Festival, and I always wanted to be a part of it! So, I’m finally getting my opportunity.


IF PRETTY HURTS UGLY MUST BE A MUHFUCKA runs July 27 – August 20 at Actor’s Theatre of Charlotte. You can get tickets here.

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