Wardrobe Mistress – Job Description
As the Wardrobe Mistress it is my job to organize and acquire any costumes that are needed
for the performance. Like any job within Production Arts Events/Productions there is a
distinct process a Wardrobe Mistress must follow in order to maintain and implement their
role. It runs from Pre Production right through to Post Production and the show has
completely finished. In the following essay I am going to discuss the process, skills and
requirements needed to be an efficient and skilled Wardrobe Mistress.
Previous experience of the role, preferably within a similar-sized venue or production company
Demonstrable ability to perform the duties listed above
Proficient in the use of sewing machines
Competent in hand-sewing
An organised yet flexible approach and calm under pressure
Demonstrable ability to work as part of a team and under your own initiative
Ability to be creative and resourceful in problem solving
In the planning stages of any production it is important first to familiarise yourself with the context
and content of the Production. If there is a script or play book it would be good to read and make
notes from this so you can understand and prepare fully for the exact types of costumes you will
need to source. It may also be necessary to discuss the director’s requirements for costume as they
may have their own personal preference as to what they want the costumes to be. They may want
the time period of the costumes to change. For example they could be doing a Shakespeare play
which is usually set 100 years ago and they may want to present the play as a modern day piece.
Hiring the right costumes can be a time consuming process as the finest detail could alter the
meaning or style of the characters expression or mood. Therefore it is important to have an acute
eye for detail and also a distinct creative flare for creating costumes that reflect the characteristics
of every character.
Before hiring the costumes it may be necessary to measure the actors for their costumes. You will
need to keep a register of these measurements as you may need to refer back to them at a later
date. As a Wardrobe Mistress you will need to know how to measure your actors properly so you are
able to get accurate measurements which will ensure that mistakes aren't made in the crafting or
hiring of the costumes which in turn could result in mismanagement of the budget.
It is also important to have knowledge of where you can hire costumes and accessories. For example
you may need to hire out costumes from other theatre companies which would require signing
maintenance forms that insure you will look after the costume and what the implications would be if
anything were to happen to the costumes while they were in your care.
These may include;
Example from Theatrical Costume Hire.com
Bookings are not considered to be confirmed until we receive a signed booking form and the
agreed security deposit.
Customers should be advised that we require both measurements and exact costume
requirements well in advance of a show or event.
Failure to supply the required information with ample time to spare may result in the order
not being undertaken by us or an excess charge being applied due to the limited timescale.
Terms and Conditions of Hire
Example of A requirements Sheet
In addition to this the Wardrobe Mistress will receive a budget from the Stage/Event Manager or the
Finance department or your production company. You will then need to manage this budget, which
will require experience in working with spread sheets so you can keep track of what you can spend
on each characters costume.
It also may be necessary to ensure that you maintain and launder the costumes during any dress
rehearsals that take place as clothes may become dirty or need mending. Therefore you will need to
have competent skills in sewing or may need to know how to use a sewing machine to repair the
In the lead up to the show you will need to make a note of when the dress rehearsal will be so you
can rehearse your costume changes with your dressers. This is an essential part of the process and
you will need to make sure you're able to cope efficiently in a stressful environment such as this will
be. For example you will have to manage your dressers and make sure they have a clear
understanding of what they are required to do for the show. Therefore the dress rehearsal is
essential in preparing for this.
During The Production
A distinct requirement for being a Wardrobe Mistress is organisation. Every second in the
performance must be planned meticulously in terms of costume changes and maintenance.
You will need to create a highly detailed plan of every costume change or alteration that takes place
before and during the performance. This is done so you are organised and have a plan of what
you’re going to do on the night and what order this will go in. There are a number of ways to do this
depending on your own personal preference to how you will be able to best manage your
team/dressers. So I have attached some examples of running orders.
Example of a Running Order for The King and I.
You will also need to have skills in team management as a Wardrobe Mistress will usually be in
charge of a number of dressers to aid them in their maintenance of the costumes on the night. A
Dresser or stage-hand is involved with maintaining costume quality at each performance. They are
hired by the director. They report directly to the wardrobe supervisor or stage manager. Dressers
are responsible for assisting cast members with costume changes backstage, when necessary. They
are often used to assist primarily with quick costume changes, where a character exits and must
enter again very quickly wearing a different costume. You will need to hold meetings with your team
so you can go through and discuss the running order of the costume changes with them and
delegate who will be in charge of what change and how each one will differ from the next. This will
be very important as you will need to time each costume change as you may have a matter of
seconds to change the actors costume before they are on stage again. It will be the Wardrobe
Mistresses job to oversee and control manage the team on the night so they know the running order
for the costumes that are needed and the precise time they are needed in the performance.This part
of the Wardrobe Mistresses job can be extremely stressful as many changes can be happening at
one time and backstage must be kept clear at all times to prevent any health and safety regulations
Communication is a considerably important skill to have for a Wardrobe Mistress as you will have to
communicate with your team/dressers and the Director/Event Managers effectively so you can
arrange and negotiate on concepts and role delegations.
Post production is also a very important part of the WM job role as you will now have to clean or
repair all of the costumes and return any costumes that you have hired in the condition they came
in. This part of the job will require you to be extremely organised and well planned as there could be
a number of ways that you will need to return the costumes like in the post or take them back