Wardrobe Manager responsibilities

The wardrobe manager is responsible for all the clothing/costumes worn in a production, whether hired, borrowed or made specifically for that production. In many societies, the wardrobe manager is appointed for each production, not necessarily the person appointed by the committee to oversee the wardrobe, maintain it and hire out costumes. It is important that the manager consult before any drastic modifications are made to any of the clothes in the wardrobe.

The duties of a production wardrobe manager are:

Read the play.

Discuss with the director their ideas or suggestions on costumes.

Examine the existing wardrobe to check if any costumes can be used/recycled.

Attend a production meeting and advise (or request) the amount in the budget which will be required to costume this particular production.

Prepare rough sketches and colour notes of costumes. In some cases, these may be prepared by the director or even a costume designer.

Prepare a costume plot, listing costumes and changes for each cast member. Do not forget shoes, hats, accessories.

List costumes to be made, those to be borrowed and any to be adapted from the stock wardrobe, for each cast member.

If necessary, arrange a team to assist with dressmaking, and a milliner if hats are important.

Attend first rehearsal, get measurements of cast and arrange fitting sessions.

Where period costumes or unusual outfits are an important feature, arrange for temporary substitutes early in rehearsal so cast can get used to moving etc. Appropriate footwear is a must from the outset.

Ensure that sufficient costumes are completed for the publicity photograph session, usually up to a month before opening night. (discuss with director)

Attend all dress rehearsals, and if necessary arrange dressers. Make it clear to cast that they must not alter any of the costumes and that they must not take any costumes from the theatre without your approval.

Attend all performances to check and supervise costumes or appoint a team to oversee this. If necessary clean and iron costumes between performances. Keep a comprehensive sewing kit with you backstage for unexpected emergencies.

At the end of the season, return any borrowed or hired costumes or accessories after cleaning. Return others to the wardrobe. If a wardrobe list is kept, make any necessary additions or alterations.

Costume design is a complex art which cannot be covered here. However it is important to remember that the total visual image of a production is of more importance than any individual garment.

  • The most expensive materials are not necessarily the most effective on stage, and the concentrated stage lighting can have a major effect on the material and the colours, particularly where the differing gels are used.
  • Be consistent. One elaborate silk costume can kill perfectly good costumes made of cheaper material.