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Breaking down the designs of the 2024 Tony Award nominees for Best Costume Design of a Play

The artists behind “An Enemy of the People,” “Appropriate,” “Jaja’s African Hair Braiding,” “Purlie Victorious” and “Stereophonic” reveal storytelling details in the colors, cuts and fabrics of their conceptions.

(Clockwise from top left) Costume design sketches and corresponding production photos from “Purlie Victorious”, “Jaja’s African Hair Braiding,” “An Enemy of the People” and “Stereophonic.” (Credits below)

“What you wear is how you present yourself to the world, especially today, when human contacts are so quick,” fashion designer Miuccia Prada once said. “Fashion is instant language.” If that’s the case in everyday life, the stakes are that much higher in theater, where artists have limited time and space to convey characters as full people and communicate a compelling story. 

The 2024 Tony Award nominees for Best Costume Design of a Play understand this. They consider how every choice they make regarding costumes impacts a story. These designers use costumes to communicate time and place as well as individual character traits, the relationships between characters and the arc of the play as a whole. Here, four Tony-nominated costume designers — Dede Ayite (dual nominee), Enver Chakartash, Emilio Sosa and David Zinn — analyze the overarching idea behind each play and illustrate how it translates from sketch to stage.

Responses have been edited and condensed for clarity.

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