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6 Things Your Costume Designer Wants You To Know

Contributed by Carmel Suchard

1. It’s totally fine to inform me if there’s a problem with your costume.

I’m here to help you tell the story of the show as best as you can. That can’t happen if your shoes are too small, your pants too big, or if you keep tripping on your skirt’s hem. I’m happy to resolve any issues, but you have to communicate with me.

2. At the same time, don’t be a diva.

Your costume might not fit your personal style, but it does fit the overall look of the show. Despite what you might think, I have spent a lot of time thinking about the way you’ll look on stage. So if you’re playing a poor farmer, please don’t come to me complaining that you don’t look “cute” enough. Also, I don’t have control over everything. Many details come from the director’s concept, so if you have an issue you’ll have to take it up with him or her.

3. I don’t care what your body looks like.

You were cast in this play because the director thought that you were the best actor for the job. Period. Besides, I’ve seen it all. So there is no need to be embarrassed about your weight, height, stretch marks, acne, etc.

4. Your underclothes really do matter.

If I ask you to wear a certain kind of underwear/bra/dance belt it’s because your costume won’t look right if you don’t. If I ask you to bring said underwear/bra/dance belt to a fitting, please do. I need to know exactly how you’re going to look on stage. Same goes for shoes.

5. It’s worth your time to be nice to me.

First of all, I’m an industry professional. The same industry that you’re trying to break into. I know a lot of other costume designers, actors, and directors, and if you’re rude your name will come up. And you really can’t afford to burn bridges. Secondly, I have the power to make you look bad on stage. So be nice.

6. You need to know that costumes take a really long time to make.

I had to buy a pattern, choose fabrics, cut out the pattern pieces, sew them together, alter them to your body … you see where this is going. The process takes a lot of time and effort. Even if I bought or reused old costumes, choosing them took many, many hours. So please treat them with respect. Every time an actor throws a costume on the floor, eats in costume, or gets makeup on a costume, a designer’s soul dies a little bit.

Are you a costume designer? What else would you like actors to know? Leave a reply below…

13 Comments

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  1. Hang up your costumes! Your mother doesn’t work here. Be sure they are hanging properly on the hanger. Pant with creases should be hung with creases. Proper hanging saves hours of ironing and let’s them air out between performances. ALso, don’t steal another actors hangs. If you remove your hangerS from the dressing room for a quick change bring them back!!

  2. Always wear deodorant! Some costumes are difficult or impossible to wash. I also may have taken the time to draft a pattern just for your body.

  3. Never mind which underwear you wear is important, WEARING ANY AT ALL is important! I don’t want your genitals in my face during a fitting or worse, during a quick change!

  4. If I am making a costume for you without you here and without measuring you, send me your REAL, ACCURATE measurements. I don’t care what size you WISH you are. If you want your costume to fit, be honest! Gussets are a pain and can really ruin the line of a garment.

  5. I like how you reinforce the cast member’s confidence and try to alleviate their self-consciousness by stating that the director chose them for a reason. This would help them become more comfortable with their body and their clothes. I also liked your suggestion on having the cast member listen to costume designer when it came to their undergarments. I imagine many don’t think about how their underwear will affect their overall appearance.

  6. I know that costumes get more wear and tear than your own clothing. If it is need of repair bring it to me right away. I won’t get mad at you.

  7. You have all said everything I agree with. Respect is paramount. Our job is difficult. We are trained professionals who spend as much time as you researching your characters, time period, social status, place, movement needs, etc. and making important decisions about the type of costume you will need. We are responsible for creating the costumes that reflect the directors point of view so don’t complain if it is not what you imagined we are following the directors instructions just as you do. Work WITH us, we are responsible for an entire show not just your costume. Our job is extremely difficult and time consuming. We want you to feel comfortable in you costume. Remember your costume is the visual picture of your character for the audience.

  8. If you are late to a fitting, bring chocolate. Expensive chocolate. None of that waxy crap. You might still get a fabulous costume, if the chocolate is good enough. If you miss a fitting, you are SOL. You will be naked.

  9. I’m costuming your character, not you. I don’t care if you “never wear” green, or orange. My job is to help the story along, not to make sure you feel that your costume is flattering.

    My time is valuable. If I call you over for measuring, please come asap and don’t fob me off while you continue your break-time conversation. I will call the next person and you will have to wait till the end.

    Don’t complain about your costume being made out of polyester. The budget doesn’t run to silk shantung. Next time, it could be wool.

    I will provide a spray bottle of vodka/water mixture. Spray your costumes with it before you go home. If I catch you drinking it, see above about the wool.

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