Bringing to life the fashions of a place of fantasy

In addition to thrilling rides and amazing festivals, what makes Korea’s largest theme park Everland unique is its staff. They make the Everland experience more colorful with their talents for things like singing and dancing. Also, if you look closer at what they wear, each outfit contains unique characteristics of the area of the park in which they work and of their roles.

The theme park refers to the clothes that the staff wear as “stage costumes.” This is because Everland considers the entire park to be a huge stage and each staff member as a member of a cast.

From the park’s five themed zones to Everland zoo, Caribbean Bay, and its Home Bridge hostel, Everland has around 90,000 costume items in 1,000 different varieties, and all of them go through the park’s costume designer Kim Ji-yeon.

Kim Ji-yeon, costume designer for Everland, shows off some of her work.

A unique job

Kim joined Everland as a costume designer in 2001 from the fashion design industry which she got into after majoring in clothing design. Expectations that she could work at the theme park she had great memories in as a child led her to take the job.

She explained, “Stage costumes should consistently imply themes, which should be expressed visually and artistically. The pride that I do something very unique and specialized is what has made me work until today with a sense of responsibility.” The fact that she can easily see her main clients, the cast, wearing the costumes every day and see the reception that they get also gives her joy in her work.

Everland costumes match in theme, style, and tone with the areas of the park.

Harmony is key

A theme park is a place of dream and fantasy, an escape from our daily lives, so it is easy to think that theme park costumes would be very fancy and standing out. However, Kim emphasized harmony. “I went to a business trip to an overseas theme park for inspiration and realized that stage costumes are also the most beautiful when they are in harmony with the surroundings rather than when they make the wearers stand out. It later became the basic philosophy of my design.”

The greeters’ costumes for the Global Fair are a good example. Consisting of various buildings from different eras and regions, the area is where the park’s main entrance is located, so it is where visitors form their first impressions. Kim said that she focused on three points when designing – the backgrounds and themes of the area, the building color schemes, and clothes that go well with the roles of the cast members that greet visitors.

After a long work, new costumes were created with the concept of a classy and stylish globetrotter who cruises around the world. Kim said, “I was wondering if I could come up with a better design than the previous costumes that represented Everland for many people. But they are now my favorites as I put the most time and effort into them.”

Greeters’ costumes from 1996 (left) and 2014 (right) show the evolution of the costume.

Reading the invisible

To Kim, stage costume design is “the work of reading the voices of minds that are invisible,” because it requires eyes that can read the meanings and functions of costumes as much as the appearance. Theme park costumes are work uniforms in the end, so the characteristics of work and activity levels of wearers should also be taken into consideration. In the case of Everland in particular, weather is an important factor as many cast members work outside. Kim said, “If we do not adopt different functionalities in fabric, there are lots of complaints that the costumes are too cold or too hot. Therefore, coming up with a new design is important, but improving the inconveniences of existing costumes is also important.”

Now she is working on combining the functionality of hiking clothes while retaining the durability necessary to endure frequent washing.

To take it to the next level

Theme park costume design requires out-of-the-box imagination to express unique and varied concepts. For inspiration, Kim always stays curious and observant about even the smallest changes in her everyday life such as the changing scenes of her commute, rays and colors that vary according to seasons, and the different textures of the clothes of her colleagues. She also keeps herself updated on the seasonal collections and fashion shows of various fashion brands. 

Kim said, “Long-loved fashion brands have their own auras. I am also striving so that Everland’s stage costumes have their own auras too. I will keep doing my best to take costume design a step further.”

Kim Ji-yeon (front center) makes heart-shaped hand signs with her team as they pose for a group photo.
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