How to Costume a Play

Suggestions for Making Characters Come to Life

Costuming a show can be simple or complex, inexpensive, or through the roof! The costumer has the task of cooperating with the writer's and the director's vision to bring the characters to life on stage, within the budget and time allowed. There are some excellent references online about costuming for theatre and musical theatre. I highly recommend The Costumer's Manifesto as a resource. In particular, I embrace Tara Maginnis' statement of Purpose and Ethics for costumers. Paraphrased, it sounds sort-of like this:

"As a costumer, I honour the larger esthetic of the production, to help the audience understand the play, to create a character, to create costumes that fit the actors' bodies, no be non-judgemental about those bodies, to embrace the physical differences that people have, to work collaboratively..."

Basically, it sets out a way to 'be' as a costumer, which helps many people who have never had the pleasure of working with a professional, so that they have a role model.

Costuming is one of the most creative jobs in theatre, and is sometimes sadly overlooked, especially in amateur productions, where costumes are more likely to come from the local thrift store than they are to be built by hand specifically for the show. Having to pull costumes and have an eye for fit and appropriateness is still a big job, with a lot of responsibility and normally very little thanks. Many costumers will never receive congratulations for their creative efforts, and will feel unappreciated. The trick is not to take anything personally, and remember that actors want to look good on stage, and the goal is the production.

Here is a costume navigation page with links to our tutorials and articles about designing, building, and fitting costumes and pieces of all sorts.

Follow the links on this page to get information about various aspects of getting the costuming job done, including costume care for actors, and:

Online Suppliers

Hamilton Supply (Ontario)
Theatre House (Kentucky)
Don's Hobby Shop (Alberta)
Mavis Theatrical (Ontario)
Stage and Screen (Ontario)
Motions 1 (Ontario)
Hollywood Tickle Trunk (Ontario)
Farthingales (Ontario)
Trimmings Dressmaker (Ontario)
R.Hiscott Beauty and Theatrical Supplies (Ontario)

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