# 1.8: Costumes

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## Duties of the Costume Crew

The work of costumes in theatre can be divided into two separate groups. The first group, is the costume construction crew. These artisans are responsible from turning the Costume Designers renderings in to working costumes. More to our focus of this text is the costume crew for production. Perhaps the best resource for understanding this work is to watch the video under Additional materials called “A Day in the life of the dresser at the British theatre” The head of the production crew is called the Wardrobe Supervisor. In olden days this job was termed “Wardrobe Master” or “Wardrobe Mistress.” The crew members are generally called Dressers.

The Wardrobe Supervisors supervises the dressers. He or she will also maintain a repair and cleaning schedule for all the costumes. The dressers report to the wardrobe supervisor, and generally focus on all costumes for specific groups of characters/actors. They will make sure that all the costumes are in show ready condition, including spot cleaning, pressing, and minor repair work. Dressers will assist performers with any unusual or difficult costumes. One of the other major issues for costume crew members

## Quick Changes

Quick changes are becoming a major feature (or challenge) of modern productions. As theatre pieces become more film-like, or are done with smaller casts, there are increasing needs for quick changes. A quick change is when an actor has to do a major costume change in a very limited amount of time. Generally, there is not enough time for the actor to return to his or her dressing room, and the change has to happen just off-stage, or in some instances, even on-stage just behind the set. To happen effectively, quick changes take extensive preparation and rehearsal.

In preparation for the quick change, the dresser should have all the costume pieces that the actor will need to change into. In some cases, where time is especially tight, the dresser and prop crew will need to coordinate so that the actor’s props can be brought to the place where he or she is changing. The costume pieces need to be prepared to make putting them on quickly possible. This includes any buttons, snaps or zippers that are required to be undone, to be undone, while any that can remain closed should do so. The dresser should also have a laundry basket to discard the costumes that the actor is removing. It is possible that an actor will be discarding a prop that was in a pocket or bag into the laundry basket, so it is important to keep a look out and return those props to the prop crew.

As the actor exits the stage, any large items should be taken from them by an appropriate cue member. The actor should proceed directly to the quick change area, unbuttoning, or removing any items that they can safely undo. Once they get to the booth, the dresser and the actor should work together according to the plan they rehearsed. After the change is complete, the dresser should give the actor one final look over to make sure everything is correct.

After the actor has moved back to the stage, the dresser should clean up after the change, hanging up the costumes, and preparing for the next change.

The costume designer and the wardrobe supervisor will have worked out the quick change details, and will run it with the actor and dresser several times. If either the actor or the dresser has some suggestions of how to make it faster, they should voice them. Of course, the final call of how to do it should be that of the costume designer.

To see some efficient quick changes, watch the videos linked in the additional materials section.

## Costume Breakdown

To find quick changes, the costume designer relies on the costume breakdown. This breakdown also indicates what costumes are needed for each actor, and on what page they are referenced on. The process of doing the breakdown is the same as doing any of the breakdowns we have done already. Generally each character is listed along the top, with act/scene/page number as needed listed down the left side. This allows notes to be organized by characters and location.

 BOX AND COX Scene Page Character Costume Notes Box Cox Mrs. B Box Cox Mrs. B i 2 X X Dressed as a hatter. He does not wear his coat or hat, but does wear a dressing gown. His hair is very short Landlady, Reserved attire. Dark dress, white appron i 3 X X Tries on several hats Finishes getting attired (add coat) i 4 X X (NOTE: Mrs. B puts dressing gown in closet) ii 4 X X Dressed as a printer coming home from work. Basic suit, with a cap ii 5 x x Threatens to remove pants. Ask director if he will. iii 6 X X iii 6 X x iii 7 X X X iii 8 X X X Gets pipe out of pocket iii 9 X x iii 10 X X iii 11 X X iii 12 X X iii 13 X X iv 13 X X X iv 14 X X Takes dice out of pocket iv 15 X X Takes coin from pocket takes coin from pocket iv 16 X X X takes letter from pocket iv 17 X X iv 18 x X x iv 19 x x x iv 20 x x x

You will notice that this includes who appears on each page. This provides information about costume changes if needed.

This page titled 1.8: Costumes is shared under a CC BY 4.0 license and was authored, remixed, and/or curated by Christopher R Boltz.