Ability to sew is essential. Also desirable is the ability to design clothes with or without a pattern; to copy from pictures when necessary. A creative imagination is needed for seeing new possibilities in a piece of material or an old garment. Knowledge of the history of styles and fabric is helpful, as well as having a good sense of colour coordination. Be ready to spend money where necessary but also to save money where possible.
BEFORE A PLAY
- Read the script, know the story and characters THOROUGHLY. Know setting, time of year, of day, weather, etc FOR EACH SCENE. Know each character’s personality, nationality, social status, education, profession or job, as much as is possible to understand from the script.
- Read script again marking all places which refer to costumes and accessories. Again, mark all places (in a different colour) which refer to mood and emotions, both in general and of the moment.
- Discuss with the director your ideas regarding the above. Director may have different ideas than yours. Remember he or she has the final say in how the character is to be presented, and unless you know there is a distinct anachronism, you should accede to the director’s wishes.
- Make a costume plan. This is not always necessary if the play has a small cast and not many costume changes. In a play with a large cast or several changes it is VITAL. This plan lists ALL PARTS of EVERY COSTUME worn by EVERY ACTOR in EVERY SCENE of the play. It helps you to know when your costumes are complete, and helps the actors know when they have to change, relieving them of considerable worry.
- After making plan, check again with director for changes, and with set designer regarding colours.
- As soon as the play is cast, take complete measurements of each actor. This may be done at a first reading if the director agrees, and if it can be done without interrupting the reading. Otherwise it must be arranged at a time suitable for each actor. It is helpful to have an assistant for this process, especially if it is a large cast.
- Keeping in mind the date when all costumes must be finished, you and your assistant can now start buying and making necessary clothes. You will have been given a budget ‑ don’t overspend. Keep all bills, to be given to the producer or treasurer.
- Arrange fitting times with individual actors and make adjustments when necessary. Remember that nerves cause some actors to gain or lose weight prior to showtime.
- Have all costumes complete by pre‑arranged date, which may be tech day or before.