Our partners at The National Theatre School of Canada asked us to develop a system suited to their particular needs. They found that some of the design students had a tendency to draw a stylized figure taller and thinner than the actual actor. A second dilemma was their tendency to “fill the page” with their costume illustrations. This gave the false impression that each actor appeared to be the same height and of the same proportions when the series of illustrations was seen as a whole. Given that one of the goals of a costume design illustration is to show the director what the costumes will look like on the actor, this was an area that needed to be addressed.

We were asked to design a system that would adjust the proportions of an existing illustration to the scale and proportion of an individual actor. We created the Changing Proportions Guide to fill this need. This guide uses a few skills that go beyond the basics of Photoshop, but our user-friendly instructions cater to designers of all skill levels.


There are many additional uses for this system. We have transformed proportions from period references, such as an illustration from Harper & Bazaar Summer’s 1896 issue and adjusted the image to see what it would look like on our modern actress playing a part in Oscar Wilde, The Importance of Being Earnest, presented at McGill University in 2008. In this case we went beyond a simple transformation, since we grafted together two period references, using the front view of one, and the skirt silhouette of another. We then adjusted the style so that it would better suit our actress who did not have the same proportions as the Victorian ideal.

The same technique can be used in high-end dressmaking to create wedding dresses or red carpet gowns for clients who have proportions that differ greatly from those of a model. The dress used as inspiration can be digitally transformed using our method and shown as it would look on the actual proportions of the real woman. The experience of being able to see what a particular style would look like on their own body shape for someone who is outside the standard size range, or for someone who is physically challenged would be remarkable. It might also contribute to making women of all sizes and proportions feel more accepting of their own shape.

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