Librarian by day, costume designer by night


Photo courtesy of Cynthia Skelton

Paying homage to the aesthetic of the ‘70s, Brandy Fleming and her costume crew worked together to create colorful and show-stopping looks for the spring musical “Disaster!”.

Ruby Rosenquist, Staff Reporter

As an elementary school librarian and drama costume designer, Brandy Fleming is always “paying it forward” — fostering love and compassion in her students.

Before becoming a Burlingame elementary school librarian, Fleming traveled to Europe in search of unique libraries and different places to learn. During her travels, she fell in love with reading and had the opportunity to explore her calling as a librarian.

“I have a library card [from] every place I have lived in, including Tokyo,” Fleming said. “You can learn empathy from exploring how people different from you live.”

As a librarian, Fleming aims to create a safe space for students to learn to advocate for themselves and fall in love with reading — just like she did. 

“[Reading] is where I learned some Japanese,” Fleming said. “Wanting to learn and try something new is what gives me an accomplished feeling.”

In Fleming’s eyes, succeeding at her job means building community and getting involved locally, she said. In recent years, she’s found another way to achieve the same goal: costume design. 

Fleming’s daughter participated in theater at Burlingame before she graduated in 2021, motivating Fleming to volunteer with costume design.

“‘I can sew, so I can help’ is the mindset that got me started,” Fleming said. “Now I have the creative responsibility of leading a team of costume crew for the productions [at Burlingame].”

As she has grown more comfortable with needles and fabric, Fleming has pushed herself to conceptualize more “off the wall” designs — especially for this year’s spring musical, “Disaster!”.

“These students on the costume crew amaze me all the time,” Fleming said. “I feel so privileged to be able to nurture and lead them.”

For Fleming, all of it is a learning experience. Just as she learned some Japanese from reading books, she has learned a lot about collaboration while working on “Disaster!”. 

Currently, Fleming is expanding her work beyond the Burlingame theater department to accommodate a wider demographic of students. For instance, she is altering a prom dress for a special needs student by adding wider criss-cross straps to keep the dress on her narrow shoulders.

“It has opened my eyes to designing for students who have different shaped bodies and need adjustments to feel [comfortable],” Fleming said.

 If she were to look back a few years, Fleming said, she could never have imagined herself working on such a complex design. 

“Who you are today — what you love and crave — will always be different in a few years,” Fleming said. “You’ve got to pay attention to what excites you and realize that it’s not a fad… Evolve. Embrace it!”