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Catherine Kodicek: Fittings, food and thanks – my costume resolutions for directors

Photo: Shabthai/Shutterstock Photo: Shabthai/Shutterstock
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It would be so easy to write a list of new year’s resolutions for costume professionals: we want to be better at our job, make the best costumes and work on the best shows. We should strive for dexterity in our problem-solving, flexibility with our outlook and generosity with our time.

No doubt we’d also love to work fewer hours, earn more money and occasionally spend time with our families. But more often than not in our professional lives, our resolutions mean nothing if the captain of our ship has decided to chart a different course. I am speaking, of course, about the director.

So, rather than talk about what costume professionals should do in 2018, I’m throwing open a challenge to theatre directors. Experienced or not, jaded or not, employed or not – these resolutions are for you.

1. Costume people, like all humans, require food to function. A lunch (or dinner) break is quite normal and improves productivity. Don’t fill our breaks with stuff. And if you do want to hold meetings or fittings in lunch breaks, recognise that we need time before or after to consume food.

2. If actors are wearing costumes in your production, they will need to be fitted. Factor these fittings into your rehearsal schedule now and don’t look shocked if the stage manager asks you to give the actors time for them.

3. If your scene isn’t working, don’t fixate on a piece of costume and decide, ‘It’s all that scarf’s fault.’ But at the same time don’t forget that your costume designer might have some ideas that could genuinely help.

4. If there are quick costume changes during the show, they will need to be practised during the technical rehearsal. ‘During’, in this instance, is the usual dictionary meaning: at the same time as lighting, sound, stage management and stage; not somewhere else or when everyone else is on a break (see resolution 1 above). Remember the haunted eyes and furrowed brow you see on your dressers’ faces? It’s the panic setting in as they prepare to go into a preview with a costume change they’ve never done before.

5. Don’t yell “dresser” or “wardrobe” at a passing woman wearing black unless you would also shout “sound” or “sparks” at a passing man dressed in cargo trousers or carrying a screwdriver.

6. At the press-night party, being the recipient of genuine and heartfelt thanks makes a surprising amount of difference to all of us. Being appreciated means so much and it’s free. But please don’t embark on a long list of thank yous and namecheck every human involved with the show but somehow forget the costume department. This genuinely hurts. Nothing screams ‘you are unimportant’ more than being forgotten publicly.

So there you are. Six easy-to-follow resolutions to make your experience with costume better and more productive in 2018. And a very happy, creative and prosperous new year to us all.