5 minutes with Jabulile Maselani

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Jabulile Maselani is a self-taught seamstress whose 20-year career has seen her work on popular movies and television shows. She shares what her job entails, and why she enjoys it. By: Kwanele Mathebula Pictures: Supplied

I began sewing when I was in high school. I was born and bred in Jabulani, Soweto. When I was growing up, my mother worked as a seamstress for the Sun City Extravaganza Show where she made costumes for the dancers. The show was a series of song and dance items that saw the dancers wearing extravagant costumes made with materials such as beads, silk and feathers. When I was in high school, I would go to work with my mother during school holidays. I helped make the outfits, and learnt how to sew, fix zippers and tears, and make clothes from scratch. Though I enjoyed doing all of this, I had no desire to become a seamstress; I wanted to study law. But, after I matriculated in 1983, I couldn’t afford to pursue a tertiary education, and started seeking employment.

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My career as a seamstress took off in an unexpected way. The Extravaganza Show offered me a job, which I accepted. After a year, it came to an end, and I was unemployed again. A lady from the show offered me a job at a clothing factory she had opened. I spent 14 years at the factory until I heard about a production company, Peakviewing Transatlantic that was looking for a seamstress. I applied for the position, and got the job in 1998. I worked in their costume and wardrobe department for their local and international movie and television productions. These included Hoodlum and Son, Racing Stripes, Diamonds and The No.1 Ladies’ Detective Agency. After nine years of travelling the world, I wanted more stability in my career because my children were growing up, and I was missing out on raising them. Luckily, the head of wardrobe at e.tv soapie Scandal! Corlene Furstenberg told me she was looking for a seamstress. I decided to take the job in 2008.

My job is to ensure that the cast looks their best on screen. To achieve this, I make and alter the clothes they wear on the show. I am also involved in the process of making clothes for the show’s significant moments, such as weddings. Another aspect of my job is catering for the cast’s different body sizes and shapes. I accentuate their bodies while making sure that they feel comfortable. It’s always comforting when they are pleased with the clothes, which I can tell from the way they carry themselves when wearing them.

Transitioning from the film industry into television was easy. The film industry had very tight deadlines because they shot over a short period of time. This resulted in me often having to work under pressure, which isn’t ideal for a seamstress. While I was able to complete the tasks on time, it was overwhelming to work under that kind of pressure. Television has been easier as the deadlines are not as hectic. This has also allowed me to pay more attention to detail.

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