A Day in the Life of a Costumer

Posted on: Oct 27, 2022

Costume department on a movie set choosing an outfit for an actor.Photo Credit: Rawpixel.com / Shutterstock

By Cat Elliott

In our latest installment of A Day in the Life, we’ll be taking a look at what goes into the world of costuming. Hint: it involves lots of early call times. Jayde Dennis, known for The Kominsky Method and Timeless, sat down with us to give those outside of her profession some insights into what a day in her life looks like. And for all the actors, Dennis shares some tips along the way on how they can work with costuming to achieve the best results together.

Jayde Dennis by Photographer Jessica Pelphrey

What’s an average day in costuming? 

We do what’s called “prep” and “wrap” before and after a shoot, but that’s only for a couple of weeks. So a normal day for me, personally, is usually on set, but my call time is different every day. Monday is usually the earliest, around 5 a.m. I’ll start off in the wardrobe trailer, looking at the call sheet and mapping out the day. I’ll always inspect the actor’s wardrobe changes for the different scenes and do any steaming, ironing or last-minute alterations required. From there, I may need to add what we call “comfort.” For example, if it’s a cold morning, I’ll set my actor with a warming jacket. Or if there’s a sex scene, I’ll set them with nude bits.

Once the first actor’s changes are prepared, I’ll set them in his or her room and then attend to the next actors. I can have 15 to 20 actors a day with multiple changes, so it’s all about preparation. Then I’ll put together my set rack, which includes any accessories that I need to bring to set for the actors.
After that, I may have a chance to grab breakfast before walking my actor to set. I’ll usually stick around while they get wired to make sure everything’s working with their clothes. Then while the shot’s getting set up, I’ll have a little break before they call for “last looks.” That’s my opportunity to jump in alongside hair and makeup to make sure the actor is camera-ready. Once shooting begins, I’ll hang out behind a monitor to watch each take and make sure the clothes are staying in place. Consistency is key, so I may have to step in between takes to reset the look. Or I might jump in to give the actor a comfort item, like a towel if they’re shooting a water scene. A lot of my day consists of making sure the actor is comfortable and babysitting the wardrobe.

When it comes to working with costuming, what on-set etiquette should actors know? 

Well, it’s usually our job to communicate with the actor and figure out their needs. So as much as they can let us know those things, the better. And one thing that makes a big difference is if they hang up their clothes after they’re wrapped for the day because I have to take the clothes to the wardrobe trailer at the end of the night and breakdown costumes. That entails sorting the wardrobe pieces by what needs to be cleaned that night and what doesn’t. We work long hours in costuming, and when actors leave clothes all over the floor, it cuts into the already-short turnaround I have before my next early call time. Plus, it’s just respectful for actors to leave them hung up. And the other big thing that actors can do to help us is to let us know if they take off a piece of wardrobe during the day, like their earrings. That way we’re not running around, trying to find something last minute.

What’s the best way for an actor to feel comfortable around costuming? 

​There’s nothing an actor can say that we haven’t already heard, so they can be upfront and honest about any of their needs, including privacy. It does make our job easier if we’re able to see the actor in their undergarments because it helps us understand any insecurities they may be feeling. Our job is to help the actor look their best, so honesty is definitely key. Giving us your actual sizes helps us find the specific wardrobe pieces that will highlight you in all the right ways.
Dennis’ insights into her world may help those outside of it understand the long hours and attention to detail it requires. But the costumer shared during her interview that even though it’s hard work, there’s still time for some fun on set. Dennis recalled a memorable April Fools’ Day on the set of Hand of God when she and the director collaborated to prank one of the actors right before a take. So next time you’re on set and see the costumers working hard, keep in mind that they may have something up their well-tailored sleeves.

This interview has been edited and condensed. Originally published at Casting Networks. Written by Cat Elliott.

Looking for your next gig in the costume department? Staff Me Up has all of the latest Costume and Wardrobe Jobs that you can apply for today!

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