Pre & Post Production > Costume

Costume Designers

Don’t print every script you read

Consider readings scripts electronically, to cut down on paper waste. If you do have to print a script that you’re reviewing, print double-sided on post-consumer recycled content paper.designing

Cut down on printing when researching and drafting preliminary costume designs

There are a number of digital tools that can help cut down on printing when costumes.

  • Consider using photo sharing tools like Pinterest—a website that allows users to collect images on digital bulletin boards and share with other users—to collect and share costume ideas and inspirations digitally instead of printing hard copies for collaborators (such as set designers and production managers) to review.
  • Consider using design programs (like Photoshop or SketchUp) to draft costume collages digitally instead of drafting on paper.
  • Use file sharing programs like Dropbox to share photos and design files digitally.  Designers can create a shared folder and share with collaborators to review digitally instead of printing out hard copies to review during rehearsals.  Designers can also use shared folders for shopping sheets with measurements and materials instead of printing out copies of lists, which will also make changes or additions easy to update.

Choose materials that are durable and easy to clean

By purposely selecting fabrics for costumes that are more durable and easily cleaned, your costume designs can help reduce toxic cleaning procedures.

  • Favor materials that can be water-washed rather than ones that require dry cleaning to help minimize the use of toxic cleaning chemicals.  See the Wardrobe section for more information about toxic chemicals involved in dry cleaning.
  • Minimize the use of bleaches and dyes and choose non-toxic products to the extent feasible.
  • Avoid very delicate materials, such as silk, that will break down quickly and need to be replaced.  Favor more durable blends and smart textiles that will last longer.

Use sustainably harvested and rapidly renewable products and materials

Consider specifying greener fabrics such as hemp, bamboo, organic cotton, and wool for costume designs. Visit NRDC’s Guide to Greener Fibers and Clean by Design: Fiber Facts for more information about greener textiles and fabrics. Also consult NRDC’s Clothing Label Lookup for explanations of environmental clothing standards.

Shop for used items and materials instead of buying new

Browse vintage shops and thrift stores, online materials exchanges or local clothing reuse organizations to find used clothing, costumes, and materials. Ask shops to make mock-ups from thrift-shop sheets instead of new muslin.  The BGA now has a “closet” at ReFashioner.com which will store any donated costume pieces for re-use.  Also, the BGA occasionally has cast-off costume items collected in advance of textile recycling that may sometimes be used. Learn more by following these links: Global Organic Textile Standard and Better Cotton Initiative.

Reuse, Recycle, and Donate Costumes and Textiles

When the show ends, work with the Wardrobe crew and reach out to actors to see if they want to keep costumes.  Sell or donate unwanted costumes or textiles to rental companies, local organizations, or regional theatres. Review the resources below for more information about donating costumes for reuse in New York.

Costume donation resources

The Theatre Development Fund’s Costume Collection program will pick up any usable costumes or costume pieces from closing shows, and provides discounted rentals to nonprofit theatres.

Material for the Arts accepts donations of costumes, fabrics, trim, and other accessories.  Shows can either drop off donations at their Long Island City warehouse, or donations over 250 pounds and/or over $1000 in value will qualify for a free pickup.  Pickups should be scheduled 3-4 weeks in advance.  Donations can also be shipped. Contact them at donations@mfta.nyc.gov or call 718-729-2065.

Wearable Collections has many drop-off locations throughout New York, including a collection barrel at the BGA office, Actors’ Federal Credit Union, and Local 764 Wardrobe Union year-round. The BGA also hosts semi-annual textile drives in Times Square (March and September) to collect used costumes, clothing, accessories (such as shoes, handbags, belts, and hats), curtains, linens, towels, and other textiles for reuse and recycling by Wearable Collections.

 

Greener Costume Shop Practices

Reuse materials and reduce waste

There are many ways to reduce waste and reuse materials in your shop:

  • Make mock-ups from thrift-shop sheets instead of new muslin.
  • Consider keeping a swatch library in your stock for designers to check out fabrics (instead of designers getting individual swatches and disposing of their unwanted ones).
  • Collect trim (sequins, beads, other ornamental items) and scraps for stock. Collect old mock-ups and unused/unusable textile scraps from your shop and donate to organizations like Wearable Collections or Material for the Arts to be recycled or upcycled.
  • Browse materials exchange websites or local clothing reuse organizations to find used materials for costumes.

Create costumes with materials that are durable and easy to clean

By purposely selecting fabrics for costumes that are more durable and easily cleaned, your costume designs can help reduce toxic cleaning procedures.

  • Favor materials that can be water-washed rather than ones that require dry cleaning to help minimize the use of toxic cleaning chemicals.  See the Wardrobe section for more information about toxic chemicals involved in dry cleaning.
  • Minimize the use of bleaches and dyes and choose non-toxic products to the extent feasible.
  • Avoid very delicate materials, such as silk, that will break down quickly and need to be replaced.  Favor more durable blends and smart textiles that will last longer.

Use sustainably harvested and rapidly renewable products and materials

Consider specifying greener fabrics such as hemp, bamboo, organic cotton, and wool for costume designs. Visit NRDC’s Guide to Greener Fibers and Clean by Design: Fiber Facts for more information about greener textiles and fabrics. Also consult NRDC’s Clothing Label Lookup for explanations of environmental clothing standards. Learn more by following these links: Global Organic Textile Standard and Better Cotton Initiative.

Use safer chemicals in your shop

Costume shops use a variety of adhesives, dyes, solvents, plastics and foams, which often contain toxic materials that can harm the environment and human health. Favor non-toxic or less-toxic products where possible. Visit the Safer Products and Chemicals for more information.

  • Keep MSDS (material safety and data) sheets on all chemicals used in all of your shop and make sure all staff members know where they are located.
  • Use the least toxic material for each job. Favor non-toxic, water-based products instead of solvent-based products when choosing aerosol spray products, leather and textile dyes, permanent marking pens, glues and adhesives. Minimize the use of bleaches and dyes.
  • Choose products that don’t create a dust, mist, or vapor. Use proper ventilation to reduce airborne chemicals. Use lids, doors, and covers to contain chemicals.
  • When distressing materials, hazardous fibers may become airborne—fibers may have been treated for permanent press (which uses formaldehyde), or with fire retardants, stain guarding chemicals, or even mothballs. Proper ventilation like table hoods should be used, or the costume or prop should be contained inside a box or bag while being distressed.

Reuse, Recycle, and Donate Costumes and Textiles

When a show ends, and/or costumes or mock-ups are no longer needed, reach out to actors to see if they want to keep costumes, and sell or donate unwanted costumes to rental companies, local organizations, or regional theatres. Review the resources below for more information about donating costumes for reuse in New York.

Costume donation resources

The Theatre Development Fund’s Costume Collection program will pick up any usable costumes or costume pieces from closing shows, and provides discounted rentals to nonprofit theatres.

Material for the Arts accepts donations of costumes, fabrics, trim, and other accessories.  Shows can either drop off donations at their Long Island City warehouse, or donations over 250 pounds and/or over $1000 in value will qualify for a free pickup.  Pickups should be scheduled 3-4 weeks in advance.  Donations can also be shipped. Contact them at donations@mfta.nyc.gov or call 718-729-2065.

Wearable Collections has many drop-off locations throughout New York, including a collection barrel at the BGA office, Actors’ Federal Credit Union, and Local 764 Wardrobe Union year-round. The BGA also hosts semi-annual textile drives in Times Square (March and September) to collect used costumes, clothing, accessories (such as shoes, handbags, belts, and hats), curtains, linens, towels, and other textiles for reuse and recycling by Wearable Collections.