The actors are cast, the crew is ready to get to work, the sets are being built. But what about the costumes? A vital part of any show, costumes can often be a major drain on financial resources if they’re left to the last minute. However, there are a variety of strategies to deploy to complete robust and eye-catching costume design on a limited budget.

Do Your Research

If you plan to create costumes in-house with a small budget, ensure you’ve done your research before the sewing machine and fabric scissors come out. From period-typical dress to recreating the looks of major Broadway productions, the right outfit will take time to study and complete. 

Take your measurements early. Print out plenty of inspirational photos. Get on websites like Pinterest to improve your DIY skills and get the juices flowing. Bottom line: ensure no materials go to waste in your excitement to make the first cut.

Thrift, Thrift, Thrift

If you’ve never set foot inside a thrift store, it’s time to realize the potential of these hidden gems. Whether you’re looking for a specific piece of clothing for a certain character or need to bulk-buy simple pieces for your ensemble, the thrift store is an excellent place to start. 

Not only are you saving needed cash for the rest of your production, but simple staples can stay in your department for years to come. Win-win! 

Rent the Hard-to-Make Pieces

Maybe the costumes you’re looking for require more technical skills than you or your design department possesses. Not to worry – costume rentals are a great way to achieve the look without committing to pieces you may require for just one show.

A quick Internet search will yield a variety of costume rental businesses both in your area and nationwide. Be sure to compare pricing, inquire about bulk rental discounts, and ensure you’re getting the best deal possible. If you need a bit of extra cash to get the rentals taken care of, On The Stage can help with fundraising strategies

Ask for Donations

Don’t be afraid to use your theatre world connections to join up with those in your community. A variety of partnerships with local businesses and individuals can help you on your quest for great costumes. 

These community partners can provide you with in-kind donations, monetary assistance, or further exposure in your search for particular pieces. If you’re looking for ways to create and foster these community partnerships, On The Stage has some tips to help. 

Get Tech-Savvy 

There’s an app for just about everything now – and assistance with costuming is no exception! 

Apps run the gamut of topics and include: budget help; fabric width calculators; pattern organizers; virtual inventory assistance; and apps filled with helpful tutorials for just about any sewing endeavor. Hop on your phone, head to the app store and let technology take the lead.

Talk to Your Cast/Crew

Perhaps your best asset when it comes to nabbing those hard-to-find pieces? The people involved in your production! You may be surprised at how many needed items are just laying around at someone’s home.

Before any major purchases are made, create a list of pieces you need and send it out to your cast and crew. If you’ve got the time, hold a meeting about it and go down the inventory requirements together. Collaborative, money-saving and creative – what else could you want?

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