SMU Graduate Student Wins National Costume Design Award

A Southern Methodist University graduate student and Marine veteran, Yvonne Johnson, is one of three national winners of the Judy Dearing Student Design Competition sponsored by the Black Theatre Network.

ABOVE: Johnson, left, with Ruth E. Carter, costume designer for Black Panther, in Los Angeles.

Johnson, an SMU Meadows School of Arts student won first place in the Costume Design division and will receive a $500 cash award and an exhibit of her work at the BTN conference in Winston-Salem, N.C., in late July.

She will also receive a one-year BTN membership and mentoring by a professional.

Johnson won with her designs for the Meadows Opera Theatre production of “Our Town” at SMU and “A Raisin in the Sun” at Tarrant County College.

Costume designs for “A Lie of the Mind” began six months prior to the opening show.

The competition, established in 1996 and held every other year, covers theatrical scenic, lighting, and costume design. It is presented in memory of distinguished African American costume designer Judy Dearing (1940-95), whose work covered a wide range of theatre and musical production, including the Pulitzer-winning drama “A Soldier’s Play” and Ntozake Shange’s “for colored girls who have considered suicide/when the rainbow is enuf”.

The awards were created to encourage African American students in the design field and to offer them a professional evaluation of their work as well as mentoring and networking opportunities.

Johnson said she was thrilled to learn she’d won the award and is looking forward to presenting her work at the BTN conference.

“It’s always inspiring to be recognized for the hard work and passion you put into a craft you love,” she said.

Johnson, a Marine veteran and mother of two, has been receiving recognition for her design work for several years. After earning a B.F.A. in fashion design at the University of North Texas in 2012, she worked at Williamson Dickies and designed the black shirt worn from 2016 to 2018 by “Big Tex” at the State Fair of Texas. Her work has been featured in The Real Housewives of Dallas and area fashion shows.

She entered the SMU design program in fall 2017 and debuted her costume design work professionally with Day of Absence at Metamorphosis Theatre in Dallas the following March. In summer 2018, Johnson won a prestigious internship at the Television Academy in Los Angeles, where she had an opportunity to work with Bill Hargate Costumes, the facility that builds the costumes for Marvel, DC’s “Superman,” and many other films, theatre, and television productions including ABC’s “Black-ish,” Netflix’s “Santa Clarita Diet,” Amazon Prime’s “The Man in the High Castle,” and FX’s “American Horror Story.”

Since then she has worked as an assistant costume designer on Dallas Theater Center’s production of “A Winter’s Tale” and on multiple SMU opera and theatre productions. She is currently preparing costumes for Kitchen Dog Theater’s premiere of “Reykjavik,” directed by SMU professor Kara-Lynn Vaeni, which opens in Dallas June 6. 


Keyuri Parab

Keyuri Parab is a journalism senior at The University of Texas at Arlington. She grew up in Mumbai, India and moved to the DFW metroplex for college. Keyuri found her love for writing in high school while interning for a publication. Apart from writing she loves all things media related, traveling, and hanging out at a local coffee shop! If you have a story idea for her, you can email Keyuri at For the latest news, click here to sign up for our newsletter.

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