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A costume attendant is a professional that works in the fashion, textile and theatre world organizing costumes for the performing arts. In shows that have multiple, extravagant costume changes, costume attendants are responsible for the flawless costume changes that multiple performers make during the length of the stage show.
Costume attendants hire cast dressers and tailors to help with their many responsibilities. They must make sure that costumes have all of their necessary pieces to make them authentic to the time period they represent, as well as ensure the costumes look as fabulous on stage as they do on the sewing table, with enough time to make changes if necessary.
Costume attendants are extremely organized workers with strong attention to detail and a love of making the stage come to life with fantastic, detailed costumes, and do not mind putting in often long hours to do their jobs. Ideal candidates for this position are creative and artistic with a flare for design and a love of the performing arts.
Costume attendants have many duties and responsibilities. They hand out costumes and props to each performer, and keep detailed records that state where wardrobe pieces are at all times. They also return pieces of wardrobe to rental facilities or storage when the production is complete. During show times, costume attendants carefully arrange all costumes in the order they will be worn to facilitate fast, flawless costume changes. They must also assist performers in putting the costumes on properly, or hire cast dressers that can do the job properly in their place.
Some costume attendants work directly under a costume designer and make, alter and repair costumes for the shows, or send the costumes to a seamstress or tailor in time to be ready for the performances. For pieces that cannot be made on site, costume attendants will travel to the appropriate shops to rent or buy costume pieces required for the performance.
Before show time, costume attendants check how the costumes look on stage under the lights with the set pieces, and how they contrast with other costumes on set. If the effects they hoped to see from the costumes are not present, costume attendants redo the work until they get the look that is desired for the performance.
Other duties of costume attendants are to create organized spreadsheets that detail dressing and costume lists and checks, assign lockers and dressing rooms to performers, and see that all costumes are in the dressing rooms before show time with every piece accounted for.
Costume attendants work side by side with the producer, director and costume designers to establish the details of costuming for each individual production. Finding the right costumes could require reading the script and doing research about a specific time period to fully achieve the desired look. This could involve studying old books, photographs, and period clothing for details that must be carried over into the costuming.
Hiring is another duty of costume attendants. Finding and hiring cast dressers, seamstresses and tailors that have a high quality of work is an important part of the job. Costume attendants must train, schedule, and supervise these employees. They must also carefully monitor outside vendors that are brought in to take part in costume preparation. During performances, costume attendants must carefully direct their team to ensure everything goes off without a hitch.
Costume attendants typically work with performing arts companies. They work backstage, ensuring every aspect of costuming is taken care of before a performance begins. They wait in the wings to make sure costumes are ready for changes during the show, and they travel to costume shops and storage to return costumes to their appropriate place after the show is complete. Costume attendants work long hours on days when shows are performed, and typical work hours in the weeks leading up to performances.
Costume attendants should be able to think creatively to come up with many ideas for wardrobe and costumes. Creativity and vision are a large part of the job, as the feel of a play often largely comes through the detail of the costume and props. Costume attendants must be critical thinkers with strong attention to detail, and possess knowledge of the fine arts. They must be coordinated, and be able to easily follow directions.
Theatres hire costume attendants with experience within the theatre and other similar job expertise. Though theatre knowledge is preferred, attendants could be hired who have the experience the director or producer finds helpful, such as experience in alterations or design, or an appreciation for fashion and costumes.
Many costume attendants enter the field with a high school diploma or GED; however, there are some companies that will require an associate’s or bachelor’s degree. Degrees in theatre or fashion design from a fine arts college are two of many options.
After being hired, the attendants will receive extensive training that can last from a few months to an entire year of working closely with experience attendants to learn how to properly do the job.