Freshman starts madrigal costume business


Eric Rhinerson

Amelia Rhinerson made this costume for her Madrigal choir performances, but she never got to wear it due to COVID-19. She has since made many more outfits by hand and has started her own business, Madrigal Threads.

Katarina Rothhorn, Features Editor

One of Amelia Rhinerson’s dreams throughout high school was to don a Renaissance nobility style gown and sing acapella songs with her friends. In her senior year, she was given the chance to do just that. 

Rhinerson, who is now a freshman biology major, was selected to be a part of her high school’s madrigal choir group in 2020. The 16 students in this choir dress up as madrigal nobility and sing at various events. When Rhinerson found out she had gotten into the group, she immediately started thinking of the costume she would get to wear at performances.

“I really wanted to make my costume since I had gotten on to the head table of madrigal singers,” Rhinerson said. “I wanted to make my costume because I wanted it to be something that I could keep and I didn’t want to pay for someone else to make it.”

Since Rhinerson had never made a costume before, she started researching patterns and collecting materials. Almost all of her materials, including her sewing machine, she found secondhand. The fabrics for her project she collected at thrift stores and even sacrificed some of her own clothing. 

“When I was first starting it was really hard to understand the directions,” Rhinerson said. “Figure out which stitch you’re supposed to use and how the stitches actually work together.”

To help her figure out the intricacies of sewing, Rhinerson’s mother connected her with a local crafting group where she met her “fairy sew-mother,” Kathy Tutcher.

“To be honest, I was afraid they wanted me to make it for her,” Tutcher said. “We met and when I found out she wanted to do it herself, I was both relieved and excited to help a young sewer start her journey.”

Rhinerson’s full outfit took her about three months to complete but she never got the chance to wear it on stage. The COVID-19 pandemic closed her school soon after she started her project, but she completed her costume anyway. 

One of her friends who had also made it into the madrigal group saw her outfit and requested a costume as well. This second dress only took Rhinerson a month to complete and they were able to do a photoshoot in the costumes to commemorate their high school experience. 

Shortly after her first commission, Rhinerson started receiving requests to make outfits for other people in her community. 

For Syttende Mai or Norwegian Constitution Day, Rhinerson helped fix up the bunad worn by the princess of Syttende Mai.  

“[The bunad] is a traditional Norwegian outfit that we use at festivals, and … we have Norwegian royalty for Syttende Mai or Norwegian Constitution Day,” Rhinerson said. “I finished her family’s costume and fixed up some parts.”

Rhinerson is also in the process of creating a bunad for herself, complete with hand embroidery. Her other projects include a Belle inspired gown from Beauty and the Beast and a line of gowns from various Disney movies.

“I would love to take some pictures of them around campus once they are done,” Rhinerson said. “I am hoping that Belle is done by the time that the snow comes so that I can get some pictures of that.”

Over the summer, Rhineron created her own website, Madrigal Threads, where she posted photos of her creations and provided a link for commissions. She has also recently started to partner with other small businesses to create more complicated additions and props for her costumes.

“I’m continually impressed with Amelia’s sense of adventure and bravery. At her age, I would not have tackled complicated construction,” Tutcher said. “And now she has made a business and partnered with other inspiring young makers.”

While Rhinerson considers her work to be more formal costume centric, she would also be willing to create more durable everyday outfits. Her creation process starts off with sketches of each unique design before she starts considering materials and undergarments. 

“I’m going to be sketching at least three different ideas of what it could look like. For a commission I’m going to show them those, see what they need to change and make those changes on sketches and keep making more until they’re happy,” Rhinerson said. “If it’s for me, I’m just gonna keep sketching until I see something that I like and I want to make that.”

Most of Rhinerson’s work comes from modified patterns that she finds and alters to fit her own designs. She makes sure she has a clear idea of what she is creating before she even starts cutting her fabric.

“I try to add as many lines and details that would be on the end dress or garment as possible,” Rhinerson said. “Right now, I’m not skilled enough where I can create my own patterns from scratch, but I can adjust other existing patterns and find a basic one and change it as needed.”

Rhinerson is constantly working to improve her own skills and experiment with her designs.

“The hardest part is probably finding the time for me,” Rhinerson said. “It’s just finding the time to actually do the things and get better at them.” 

Rhinerson will have more time to perfect her craft after accepting a position with the costume department at Forest Roberts Theatre. She will be making costumes for one of their upcoming shows, “Above the Timberline,” and hopes to find time to finish her own projects as well.

“I love the process of [sewing]. Doing it and making things is very fun for me,” Rhinerson said. “Also getting to see it on myself or someone else, and seeing it in action is really, really cool. To look at your work and see it functioning and looking really cool.”