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On a call, the Wardrobe Department is under the Job Steward like everyone else, but since they are usually working away from the stage area, in practice the department reports to the Wardrobe Department head upon arriving.

Wardrobe crew should be dressed in black, and arrive early enough to be checked in, coat put away, and ready to go by 5 minutes before call time. Typically, the wardrobe room is in one of the rehearsal halls (at the Peoria civic center), so dressers need to be up there BEFORE the call time.

All wardobe crew should have a black apron with pockets, a collection of safety pins, and either a bitelight or headlamp for hands-free lighting. You will also be working in very close contact with the actors; you may also want to bring hand sanitizer and breath mints.

If you are on the wardrobe load-in, you can usually expect a wardrobe show call.

On a load-in or continuity hour, duties can include:

  • Unpacking the Gondolas (large travelling wardrobe racks full of costumes)

  • Inventory and Sorting of clothing

  • Ironing clothing

  • Steaming clothing

  • Some fabrics should never ironed, some should never be steamed. Make sure you know what to do with the fabric or ask.

  • Laundry - There is usually an assigned laundry person from our local crew. You may be that person, you may need to deliver or pick up from laundry, or you may need to hand wash certain items.

  • Some costumes have pit pads or dress shields to protect the inside from perspiration

  • Shoes - painting, polishing or repair using a special glue called Barge

  • Deliver make-up or costume jewelry to dressing rooms

  • Minor repairs

  • Delivery of costumes to or from repair shop - There may be one or more local Seamstresses/Seamsters working on repairs throughout the run.

  • Setting up quick change areas
  • Going over your Dresser Track (cue sheet) to learn your cues for the show. Usually the wardrobe heads will go over it with you briefly.

Presets in the hour or half hour before show will almost always include:

  • Checking your inventory

  • Collecting from any last minute repairs

  • Presetting costumes on the actors chair in the proper order for either their first costume or the change into their second. The actors may Under-dress several costumes.

  • Presetting baskets for your first few sets of quick-changes

During the show your tasks include:

  • Putting down or moving a Drop Cloth for actors to change on that will protect the costumes

  • Hanging up Discards (clothing taken off by the actor) and Dead Costumes (clothing not used again in the performance)

  • Presetting chairs for the next change

  • Assisting with Quick Changes - This can include helping unsnap, snap, unzip, zip, unbuckle or tie shoes, put on gloves or hats, or just catching items.

  • Delivering items to either side of the stage, to other dressers, or to the dressing rooms

  • Carrying the actors water bottle or personal items around for them

  • Emergency repairs

When ironing a man's dress shirt, it works best in this order
(rule of thumb is go smallest to largest):

  • Iron both sides of the Collar.

  • Cuffs and sleeves (in either order).

  • The yoke (the area from the bottom of the armpits in the front, over the shoulders onto the back, again to the bottom of the armpits).

  • Front and Back, starting on one front side, continuing under the sleeve to the back, then under the other sleeve to the other front panel.


Steamers turn distilled water into steam for delicate fabrics like dresses.

You may steam all clothing for time reasons.

Never run your steamer completely dry or overfill it; this can cause damage to the heating element. 

Make sure your steamer isn't pointing at yourself or out into a walkway where someone can walk into it.


Wardrobe Pieces and Parts

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Running Stitch

The running stitch or straight stitch is the basic stitch in hand-sewing and embroidery, on which all other forms of sewing are based. The stitch is worked by passing the needle in and out of the fabric. The needle is always pushed through both layers of cloth starting on the side it is on and ending on the other side. A running stitch runs through the fabric. Running stitches are most often not visible as they are used to close seams.

Back Stitch

Backstitches are sewn opposite to the overall direction that you’re sewing. They’re used in embroidery and stitching to form lines, outline shapes, or add detail to an embroidered picture. Because backstitching creates an unbroken line, it's especially suitable for creating fine lines and details, as well as forming a foundation for combination stitches. You can backstitch by hand or with a sewing machine.

Sewing Machines

A sewing machine is meant for sewing together the various cut-out pieces of an article of clothing into a finished costume. It will do straight stitches as well as several others: zig-zags, mending stitches, and sometimes decorative stitches.

A serger is a specialized machine meant primarily for simultaneously trimming the edge of a piece of cloth. It produces a semi-finished edge which can be used as a hem, but more often helps keep fabric from unraveling before and after it is sewn together on a regular sewing machine.

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