Building the Costume Team

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Finding the right mix of people is a hard job. There are people that you like, and there are those that you like working with. There are people that you may even like working with, but you know their personality isn’t a good mix with some other personalities on your team. When hiring, you have to know your Designer well and you need to know your crew. When you’re on a show, you spend more time with your crew than you do your own family.

You can’t choose your family, but you can choose your crew. Choose wisely.

Of course the first priority is who can best get the job done, but who wants to do the job when you’ve got to work with a know-it-all who can do it all and tells everybody and anybody who will listen. How about the crew member who disappears when it’s time to do the heavy lifting but then suddenly reappears to pal around with the actors in between takes? Then, of course there’s the brown-noser who is constantly under the Designer or worse, the Director or Producers, spilling the tea about what’s going on behind the trailer door in Costumes. No one wants to deal with all of that.

A great team starts from the top. Your Designer and Supervisor set the atmosphere. Leaders are not afraid to jump in, roll up their sleeves and get to work. They’ll unload trucks, roll racks, hang clothes or sweep floors when needed. And they’ll hire a crew that will minimize the number of times that needs to happen.

Good leaders think strategically about who they are hiring. When I’m hiring, there are several things that I try to emphasize.

  1. Treat your co-workers with respect. Shouting, cussing, fighting is not going to be tolerated.
  2. Do your job. If you don’t do your job, that burden just falls onto your teammates’ shoulders.
  3. Be thorough. Work in excellence.
  4. What happens in Costumes should stay in Costumes. We shouldn’t hear about it in the makeup trailer.
  5. Don’t date the cast members and really, you shouldn’t even date other crew. #whenrelationshipsgosouth
  6. Admit your mistakes. When you mess up, fess up.
  7. Be responsible. #whathappenedtotheactorsshoes?

The Key 

Your Key Costumer/Key Set Costumer is your lifeline. They should make it their business to be buddy buddy with the AD department so they can get all of the insider information. A great communicator in this position will know to have a friend in every other department so as to never be caught off guard. They will know the script at least as well as the Supervisor and Designer but will especially be dialed into when things are happening on set – what has been shot, what is up next, where is the next move, which direction they’re shooting in, etc. The Keys are leaders themselves, leading the Set Costumers so they have to be communicative and fair within their own departments.

The Set Costumers

They work directly with the actors so your set crew should have a good personality, someone the actors trust and feel comfortable with but will still remain professional in the line of fire. The set crew also needs to understand that their only job isn’t to just make sure the actor is in the right clothes on camera. They should help set and wrap rooms, be responsible for articles of clothing once they’re off the actors’ bodies as well, not leaving pieces behind on sets. They need to know the scripts and where the actor is coming from and going to in a scene so the clothing is properly prepped. They have to keep an eye on continuity, take good notes and photos and jump in to do quick repairs while the weight of 60 sets of eyes impatiently bore holes into the back of their skulls because camera is waiting on them to finish… #underpressure


If you don’t have good PA’s, your department is going straight to hell. I mean that with all honesty. A lazy PA will be the death of you. A good PA is worth their weight in gold. Let them know, they are the lifeblood of your department. Don’t let anybody disrespect your production assistants. Don’t you do it. When a PA is properly trained, they understand that they will be asked to do a million and one things and they will work their butts off to get it done.

Teach them the priorities – camera first – anything that is needed for camera, is the most important thing of all, designer’s needs secondary, then whatever else needs to be done. A properly trained PA is always looking for the next task and doesn’t stop someone in the middle of something they’re busy with to ask for it. And please, please, please, please, please! For the love of God, teach them the importance of a receipt! Since they’ll probably be spearheading the returns and helping the shopper(s), and Supervisor or Coordinator, organize them.

Oh, the poor, lonely, lost receipts of the world…

Of course there’s more but I’ve reached my max for now. Come back soon and maybe I’ll talk about the shopping or the aging and dyeing! Good times!!

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