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 “First time I got a professional gig I was introduced to the dresser and I was like I don’t need help getting dressed then I saw my costumes and I was like oh.”

An acting friend once said this to me and she's not alone. How often do you hear the phrase “they’re newbies we can get them in line” or “we trained them good” or “we’ll whip them into shape by the end of this show”. Most drama schools don’t make a point of teaching actors what happens behind the scenes or what people working backstage actually do. And often the size of the backstage team is scaled down. They learn to use radio mics and how to find their light inadvertently. Actors engage with stage management during their shows, but they’ll never understand what a dresser does if they never have dressers. So here's some top tips for performers that drama school doesn’t teach you.


  1. The Wardrobe Department are your allies. We’ve got your back.

  2. Wardrobe does not mean laundrette. We are not the Dot Cottons of the theatre world. We ensure the show looks as the designer and producer intended. Washing is a very small part of what we do.

  3. We care. We want you to be comfortable in your costume. And we care if you are having a bad day. Part of our job will always be emotional support – although you’ll never see that on a job description.

  4. A member of Wardrobe should never walk into an area to see you sitting doing nothing with your costume on the floor. If you have time to pick it up. PICK IT UP.

  5. If you hang your costume up properly it will last longer and frankly look better. Also c’mon now. A hanger is not complicated.

  6. For the love of GOD ABOVE, tell us as soon as you can if something is broken. We will roll our eyes for 10 minutes straight if you tell us at beginners that your opening costume has a rip in it.

  7. Speak to your company manager if you are unsure about tipping. [This is a minefield and we will be doing a whole separate article on it later]

  8. Your dresser is there to dress you. The clue is in the name. They’re not your PA. Do not expect them to do anything for you, which is unrelated to costume.

  9. If you don’t make your quick change in tech don’t sweat. We got this. By the second week we’ll be so quick we’ll have time for a chat.

  10. If we want your basket outside your room. Put it outside your room. You’re literally going that way.

  11. Put your washing in your basket. Dressers will happily take an empty basket to Wardrobe to make a point – and then what will you wear for the next show…?

  12. Don’t put anything in your basket except your laundry. Weirdly we have no use for empty sweet wrappers.

  13. Fill your own damn water bottle.

  14. It’d be great if you could spare five seconds and separate your show pants from your tights. We really don’t wanna pick that apart. Sometimes it rolls up into a pants pretzel and we have to unwind them. And it means we’re touching it for longer than we’d really like to.

  15. Also if your costume has removable pit pads, it’d be nice if you took them out and put them in your basket. We’ll happily put them back in.

  16. If you’ve had an accident – period leak or… otherwise – let us know. There’ll be no judgement. There will, however, be rage if you try and hide it by rolling it up in other costumes. If you’re super embarrassed then take it home and wash it yourself but TELL US FIRST. Some costumes can’t be washed in the usual way, so, and I can’t stress this enough; Tell. Us.

  17. You’ll get brownie points if you ask us if we want a separate laundry bag for your underwear.

  18. You’ll get even more brownie points if you do up your mic belt before putting it in your basket. Velcro gets stuck to bloody everything and fucks up tights like you wouldn’t believe.

  19. If you’ve worn some socks don’t ball them up. Who pairs socks to go in the wash? Are you okay?

  20. Find out what a hanging loop is and become crowned queen.

  21. Important people ask us what you’re like. If you’re nice we say so.

  22. Lastly because of the oppressive patriarchal society we live in, and because Wardrobe is majoritively a woman’s job revolving a seemingly “domestic” task, we are underpaid and under-appreciated. Whilst we are fighting back, it takes time, so doing these little things makes a huge difference to us. Thank you for coming to my bullet point Ted Talk.

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