I’m hopefully going to be helping with the wardrobe for a local Theatre company. I’ve never done so before. Does anyone have any experience and tips?

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  • 985f0154fdefdf284531d76b36fbffee7a42548e_large

    Jul 31, 2012, 06.38 PMby katexxxxxx

    Everything needs to be washable or dry cleanable, and done immediately after the show closes. Between shows it need moth-proofing and to be kept in the dark.

    Wigs will also need washing. Hats should be hoovered, any make-up or sweat sponged out of them, and then moth proofed and kept in the dark.

    Make things PROPERLY! Nothing flung together. Make it TOUGHER than normal clothing if you can! You should see the heavy duty work that goes into Royal Opera and Royal Shakespeare Theatre Company kit! Almost bomb proof, especially historical stuff. Theatre costume gets heavy use: it’s expensive to make and will therefore be used a lot in many different shows.

    For a small local group, I always advise making things adjustable so people of several sizes can wear each costume.

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    Aug 1, 2012, 01.54 PMby TheGreatMuldini

    It’s very important people can move around easily in costumes and put them on/take them off quickly and easily too. If they have to change in the wings, there is no time for fumbling around and creating tripping hazards for everyone else working on the production. Velcro (other hook and eye tapes are available), poppers and elastic are your friends!

    I remember reading somewhere it’s sensible to use massive stitches, or ones which are easy to unpick. This means that basic adjustments can be done very quickly.

    Kate makes a very good point that costumes will need to suit a variety of people, shows and eras. If you’re designing, it’s probably a good idea to keep the question “how can this be used again?” in your mind. Hope that helps!

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    • 985f0154fdefdf284531d76b36fbffee7a42548e_large

      Aug 1, 2012, 02.54 PMby katexxxxxx

      Oh, and never EVER use zips! Zips fail. Hook and eye tape is much better.

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    Aug 1, 2012, 03.09 PMby bjr99

    Let me add my 2 cents worth here.

    Always make the costumes so that they are adjustable. Make all the seams wide. An inch is a good width. This will allow for making alterations if the garment is too tight and will make the costume more serviceable for multiple sizes. Be sure to keep clipping seams to a minimum. Clipping seams will defeat the whole purpose of making wide seams for alterations. Also, serge/overlock the raw edges of each piece of the costume. This will help to extend the life of the costume.

    Attach as much as you can to the costume. A scarf falling off in the middle of a scene is not acceptable. Take the few extra minutes to tack it in place. A piece of velcro or a snap can also help to hold something down.

    Remember that the costume just has to look like what it is suppose to be. If you need a shirt cuff and collar it might be easier, better, cheaper to sew a collar and cuff on to the outer garment rather than having a whole shirt underneath.

    Step back 20 to 30 feet when looking at a garment. What shows up when you are next to the garment may not be noticeable from the first row. Bolder is many times better. Subtle is often lost.

    These are just a few things that immediately come to mind from my years as a costume designer.

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    Aug 4, 2012, 11.54 AMby Sabrina Wharton-Brown

    Wow, there certainly is a lot to think about! Thank you for all your help.

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    Aug 9, 2012, 09.27 PMby ellens

    Sabrina, all the advice above is very good, especially if you are dealing with a company that has an established wardrobe with storage and/or does period pieces, especially if they are working in a large house. However, I have also worked with a number of small companies with very limited budgets and no “stock” that carried over from one show to the next, that do realistic contemporary plays in tiny theaters, either in-the-round, environmental, or with audience seated on the stage floor. In situations like that, you cannot cheat the realism by using dickies,velcro etc. Here you would be more likely to use a combination of the actors’ own clothing and items purchased from Goodwill, and the most important wardrobe considerations would be regular laundry service and keeping track of what belongs to whom, by sewing in name tapes and keeping good records. Not to discount any of the excellent preceding advice, but it just depends on the type of theater you are doing.

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    Aug 13, 2012, 07.14 PMby lonelynortherner

    I agree with ellens. The past two years I have worked with a small theatre company with a limited budget. Thrift shops, ebay and other theatre companies (in other city centres or within your own city) are your best friends. We did Sound of Music last year with the children double cast (with 14 different body types) and apart from the uniforms and the curtain clothes every thing else was sourced from elsewhere. I had to be less of a seamstress and more of shopper.

    1 Reply
    • 985f0154fdefdf284531d76b36fbffee7a42548e_large

      Aug 13, 2012, 08.11 PMby katexxxxxx

      Oh, this, too… Time was I denuded most of North Kent’s charity shops of suits in smaller sizes for a school production of Bugsy Malone!

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