Dressing history: Georgia Gwinnett College English professor uses her expertise in film

Person fixing costume on set

Jennie Stearns makes a quick repair to an actor’s costume on location in Mooresville, Alabama. Photo credit: Austin Hammock 

By Jackson Gann, Class of 2020

Dr. Jennie Stearns has a teacher’s heart. Originally from Lake Charles, Louisiana, Stearns, who now lives in Suwanee, has spent more than 28 years as an educator and is currently an associate professor of English at Georgia Gwinnett College (GGC). However, like many, she has more than one passion in life. For Stearns, it is costuming. 

Stearns currently works as a costume supervisor for Super Science Showcase, written and directed by Lee Fanning.

The collection offers more than nine different series on a variety of different platforms such as films, books, comics, short stories and games for their stories. Each platform tells exciting, character-driven adventure stories that aim to teach the viewer. Super Science Showcase has become very successful and is now being streamed on Amazon Prime.   

“I started off as a volunteer for the first year, but was hired on for the second,” said Stearns.
Stearns has worked on several different segments within the anthology series, including the popular Tom Sawyer & Huckleberry Finn and Shocklosers segments, which recently filmed on location in Alabama.

Dr. Jennie Stearns

Dr. Jennie Stearns

As costume supervisor, her responsibilities include creating and maintaining the costumes on the set.

“I would go to different thrift stores or other local stores and piece together each costume that I made,” Stearns said.
Working with more than 30 people who needed as many as five costumes each, was a demanding job. Each costume had to be perfect for each shot and most importantly, had to look identical in each shot. Stearns had to be ready for anything, as costumes can get damaged or dirty during a production.

“My job on the set was to repair or clean any damaged costumes, and to also realign any mask or costume to maintain the correct appearance throughout the show,” she said. 

Stearns said that experience as an English instructor more than prepared her for the rigors of costuming work.
“My knowledge of the 19th century and other genres has helped me recognize the correct types of clothes worn in different time periods and how to accurately create each costume,” she explained. 

Stearns’ knowledge proved valuable, once particularly when she was reviewing costumes and quickly noticed one outfit included a plaid shirt that was not consistent with that time period. Her knowledge of different fashions of the period helped preserve the authenticity of the show.   

In the future, Sterns plans to continue fulfilling her teaching responsibilities at GGC and contribute to the entertainment industry through additional projects. She says there’s a lot going on in film and television. She hopes to inspire students to participate in what continues to be a lucrative industry, which generates more than $9.5 billion and supports 92,000 jobs in Georgia.

“My daughter, Piper Collins, is a first-year film major at GGC and a working, SAG-eligible actor who plays the character Madison in Super Science Showcase,” she said. “It was her interest in film that piqued my interests and I’ve found that there are plenty of opportunities out there to use your expertise in a fun and unique way.”

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