When I helped to costume my first student play, I had a very hard time keeping up with all the costumes. (Did you know that the play “White Christmas” involves over 100 costumes?). I had a hand written list in a spiral bound notebook, and did a decent job, but because I did not have a good system, I was a bit frazzled. Without a system, I was instead relying on my memory and insticts which begin to fail as tech week (or hell week) approaches. The following tips will prevent you from having to ‘wing it’ when preparing costumes for your amateur production .
Start with a spreadsheet. Your spreadsheet can be done in Microsoft Excel or a similar program. I like to use a word document and inset a table. Use the colums to write the names of each character (and the actor’s name). Use the rows to write in the scence from the show.
List their outfits. After meeting with the director to discuss their vision for the costumes, from colors, to periods, to specifics for the main characters, you can begin to determine what each character will wear and write it in the appropriate box for each actor and each scene. Sometimes the same outfit will be worn by one or more characters for the entire show. Other characters may make full costume changes from scene to scene. Your spreadsheet should reflect this.
Make sure the costumes make sense. Read the play and watch rehearsals to make sure the actor has time to change and consider simple and fast changes when a different look is desired for the next scene with little time off stage. Consider layered costumes, and quick shirt and jacket changes. Make adjustments to your plot as necessary.
Don’t forget accessories. List sock colors, shoe types, belts, suspenders, and foundation garments in addition to jewelry, broaches, and loud and garish touches that need to be added to the costumes.
Create a code key to label items on your plot. When you start making and assembling the costumes you will need system for marking your costume plot. I suggest using highlighters and pencil marks that you will quickly understand. For example, you could color everything the actor is supplying out of his own closet in yellow. Things you have to sew could be highlighted green. Things to be purchased retail can be highlighted in pink. Items you plan to borrow could be highlighted in blue. You can place a P next to an item that is in progress, an check mark for items that are completed, purchased, and in inventory. Once your code system is determined, put the key (what color or mark means what) in the upper corner of your costume plot.
Add additonal pages to your costume plot. You will need additional notes and information to help you in the costuming process. Additional pages in your costume plot might include photographs, sketches, sketches, actor measurements, brainstorming ideas, and assignments for helpers.