On Teaching Fashion: Running Wardrobe.

A career pathway for students with fashion skills and knowledge can transcend into Costume and Running Wardrobe. I have had many students progress onto Costume degree courses from their fashion studies or wide Technical Theatre programmes. Currently working within a Production Arts department I am regularly guiding students through running wardrobe on live theatre performances. Many skills are transferable from fashion such as hand mending, alterations, fittings and garment maintenance. These basic skills- often so missed in education, but are vital to a career within this industry. A great resource of careers advice for students is the RSC webpages which have brilliant information sheets detailing all the tasks and activities from their technical theatre departments. Link to RSC resources. running wardrobe

Running Wardrobe. 

For teaching delivery of theatre arts in opposed to fashion has much more emphasis on the collaborative team development for the production. Something I do love myself, and it develops many communication and soft skills for the students. There are opportunities for students’ to hold a leadership role as the heads of technical departments, and also opportunities to work in teams in assistant positions that would be suitable for individuals perhaps not so confident to start. Meetings will be held with the creative student team, and the Production Manager/ Director who most likely will be members of staff or external professionals. I think a costume or wardrobe project is very worthwhile embedding within a fashion curriculum, because it teaches the students to work to a director’s brief; such as they would in the Fashion industry where individuals would be designing for a company or clients brief. This is also a good ability to instil in students that many a time in their career they will be designing, constructing or producing items that may not be to their particular interests.

How do you ensure students work effectively and creatively within prescribed briefs or when working to clients set parameters?

During pre-production students would need to analyse the script and complete costume plots and character descriptions. This would identify specific characters, their position in the production, movements, scenes, traits and visual appearances that may be apparent. Costume plots can then be used alongside historical research of period information to begin sourcing garments from shops, hire companies and stock belongings. Product images, such as the examples below can be taken to transfer onto the plot to show to the director for approval before purchases or hire is secured. On the internet there are many copies of simple costume plot examples, however you can adapt these to be as detailed as your students wish work to.

jacket shirt one shirt two












I always suggest costumes arrive the week before rehearsals begin in the theatre– thus leaving enough time for garments perhaps to not fit, directors to express wishes of anything to be altered and sufficient time for orders to arrive into our school. Costume parades are always a useful item to be on the production schedule, before the show enters the theatre so the Director can see the performers in their costumes. Second best to this, if time is not allowing, as it normally in education does not, I ensure the students photograph all performers in their outfits for this to be shown digitally. Students in Production Arts must be versatile and confident to search out members of staff and individuals around the school to find the answers to their questions!

Do you teach on a Costume course? How do you juggle the demands of the production process’ needs cross- curricular in your institution?

During the show, students responsible for running wardrobe collate all costumes at the theatre and distribute these to the performer’s dressing rooms ready for the dress rehearsals to begin. When the show is being performed students will need to be on hand to help ASM’s with any quick changes to cue, as well as any rips or mending that need attending to very quickly.

This weekend I went to the ‘Dressed by Angels’ costume exhibition at the Truman Brewery, which is on until the 3rd January 2016. This a wonderful exhibition with first hand examples of costumes from stage productions, such as ‘Wicked.’ TV productions such as ‘Doctor Who’, ‘Downton Abbey’ and ‘Only Fools and Horses’. Also there are examples of costumes from films such as ‘Gladiator’, ‘St Trinians’ and ‘Chitty Chitty Bang Bang’. It was brilliant to see such a wide range of examples from Angels, including design drawings, photographs and artefacts from the company such as measurements books, a great time-lapse video of millenary construction and historic information about how the family developed their wonderful business.

What experiences do you have of teaching Costume? How do you find students develop their autonomy within this working setting?

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