Amalgamation of Life, Costume Designer

When you can’t dress them

When you can’t dress them…

Do you let them go on stage naked or whatever they want to wear? Sometimes, you have to let things go. I have tried many times to have actors wear wigs, different make up and jewelry, and not wear a beanie (a type of hat) or certain type of jacket. I don’t make these decisions lightly and sometimes I don’t make these decisions at all–it’s the director who wants actors to look a certain way. When an actor disrespects a directors vision and production style, how does a costumer respond?

I learned very early on to provide actors with a user-friendly costume plot. See–not too hard to follow, right? I don’t think it is, at least. Granted not every show is like The Laramie Project with pretty simple get-up but a majority of other shows I work on are usually outlined similarly. There are very few times when I do not provide everything a character might need for their costume on this sheet. Granted, I miss items in the script and sometimes the actors want to wear something that they feel really brings out the character for them–fine, that’s all well, to me.

But then there are people who go rogue.. or, I guess in the theatre world, go diva. I know a couple of true Divas–the difference is in the capitalization. Diva’s are intentional and almost always worth it (despite being their own kind of headache) whereas divas are a waste of my time and breath. I don’t want to divulge too much on this topic at this time, so I’ll go refocus back onto the topic at hand and into the differences in an upcoming post. Just know that Divas are usually worth the trouble and divas…not so much.

Costuming divas comes with it’s very own conundrums. It’s one thing to have preferences but it’s another thing to blatantly ignore a Costumer or Stage Manager, Prop Master, Choreographer, and sometimes the director all in one production. These are the people who who refuse to wear two tone shoes provided to them or ignoring the above costume plot, not discussing it with Costumer, and showing up to rehearsal in whatever they want. It sort of makes the production staff feel useless and infantile–divas take away an autonomy that staff members feel within their sect of a show.

But how do you proceed? I wish I could shrug this one off but you can’t and you shouldn’t. My suggestion would be to let it go the first time, trying to remember that you don’t know every one’s fully story and how they’re surviving (if not thriving) in the world today. But if it happens again? This is where I struggle with the divas that I know–it’s a small theater world in my community and I can honestly say the taste in my mouth is not worth the potential aggravation.

No one should ever feel like they don’t have the ability to make a decision, neither staff nor actors. Together, they should have a conversation, a team plan, to proceed in bringing the true character to fruition on stage. ‘Til next time.

3 thoughts on “When you can’t dress them”

  1. It blows my mind that anyone would refuse to wear a costume piece they were told to wear. Unless it was totally ill-fitting or something, in which case I’d think the costumer would notice/fix that. I’ve had costumes or pieces I really didn’t care for, but I’d never even say anything, much less not wear it!

    Liked by 1 person

    1. It’s mind bottling to say the least—it puts us in an awkward position because we have an aesthetic in mind and that we’ve interpreted to the director. When it’s not there…what are we supposed to do or say?


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