Costume Shop Manager
The costume shop manager is a logistical supervisor who collaborates closely with the costume designer to oversee the fabrication and fit of all garments for theatrical productions, as well as film and television shows. This person does not participate in constructing costumes, but is responsible for overseeing the shop staff and ensuring that wardrobe is delivered on budget and in a timely manner.
In the pre-production phase of any project, the costume shop manager and costume designer meet to review sketches and lay out a plan for constructing garments to the designer’s specifications, including selecting fabric and accessories. The manager is completely responsible for achieving the designer’s vision and artistic intent. He or she establishes a budget based on the discussed plan, and hires or assigns staff to fabricate all garments. In some cases, this may include purchasing new fabric, dyeing fabric, and constructing accessories like shoes, hats, and jewelry. As costume pieces near completion, the costume shop manager will coordinate with the designer and stage manager or director to bring performers in for initial fittings. The extent of necessary alterations will determine how many fittings are required to perfect each garment. When the designer is satisfied with the finished product, the costume shop manager arranges for the delivery of the costume inventory to the designer or production location.
The costume shop manager will supervise the fabrication staff through the entirety of the build process, and will track employee hours and payroll. He or she is the liaison between the costume designer and the shop, and must keep the designer and stage manager or director informed of the progress toward the production deadline. In instances when it is more cost-effective to rent, the manager will arrange for rentals and take responsibility for returning items when production has wrapped or the show closes. During strike, the manager supervises the collection of constructed garments and determines which items to save and which to sell. He or she will oversee inventory of collected pieces and prepare invoices for the pieces that are sold to costume rental houses.
Skills & Education
A college degree in theatrical design with an emphasis on costume design and fabrication is recommended, though a major in film and television production is equally applicable to those who wish to specialize in that area. As the costume shop manager must rise through the ranks of fabricators, proficiency in the techniques of garment construction is necessary. This person should be understand with the uses and limitations of numerous types of fabric, as well methods of construction specific to the entertainment industry (for instance, breakaways). Excellent organization and communication skills are necessary in this role, and the costume shop manager should be capable of cooperating with other creative professionals in a constructive and effective manner.
What to Expect
Employment opportunities exist within resident theatrical organizations with an in-house costume department, as well as at third-party costume fabrication and rental shops that cater to the entertainment industry. To seek advancement to this role, you must first gain experience in garment construction as a stitcher, dyer, milliner, tailor, or other costume craftsperson. As the manager is a senior-level position, prior employment at the junior level on several professional projects is a requirement. On the job, you must anticipate a hectic atmosphere during the runup to production; the shop may face enormous workloads under tight deadlines, unrealistic budget requirements, and the inevitable setbacks that threaten to derail months of labor. The manager must be capable of creative problem-solving and understand how to delegate responsibility to ensure staffers have ample time to complete tasks without compromising quality.
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