Costumes don’t just make your actors look good—they can have a big impact on how the audience understands the production as a whole. These tips will help you design and create stellar costumes.
THE 10 COMMANDMENTS OF COSTUMING A SHOW
1. Thou shalt read the script A costumer’s biggest mistake is not being familiar with the source material. A script has both direct and indirect information about costumes, and the costume team needs to read for both early in the production process. Even little details can help the audience understand a character’s development. Professional costume designer Shirlee Idzakovich shares some specific clues to look for in this interview with EdTA.
Read between the lines for clues that characters give about their appearances. For example, Vivienne in Legally Blonde cannot wear heels, since another character observes that “both her hair and shoes are flat.”
2. Thou shalt not costume alone Costumes need to be a cohesive part of the production, so consult with other members of the team. Attend production meetings and listen for any decisions that might change the design of the show: notes about setting (especially time period and place), styles of music, hair and make-up design, and even set color. Your costume design needs to work well with all the show’s details, and reinforce the show’s key themes.
Also think about how the actors will move. Does choreography affect what the actor can (or can’t!) wear? Will the actor be using props that might affect their movement, or need to hide a prop in their costume?
3. Thou shalt anticipate costume changes Your script study should include notes about if and when actors will change from one costume to another. Observe how long they have to do so. If they have plenty of time, their costumes can be a bit more elaborate. But if they don’t (i.e., the actor has a “quick-change”), you’ll need to design a costume that’s simple and easy to change.