Tag Archives: theatrical costuming skills

Costume Shop Stories: An Unexpected Use for Costume Skills

Woman’s Home Companion cover, October 1936.

I wrote some time ago about the ways that costumers can change an actor’s appearance. A few years ago I met an old friend, [let’s call her Daisy] who discovered a wonderful use for this skill. I first met her when she managed the costume shop for me — very well indeed — on productions of West Side Story and Romeo and Juliet which opened on the same weekend and played in rotating repertory. It was quite a challenge for a community college, but thanks to her, everything was done well and on time!

After she semi-retired, “Daisy” sometimes did clothing alterations for private clients. One was a woman who had recovered from cancer, but whose arm and shoulder had been amputated. Clothes shopping was a nightmare for her, because every dress or shirt sagged crookedly without a shoulder to support it.

At first, she hired “Daisy” to alter her clothes to make them hang better. But Daisy had a bright idea. Used to making washable padding that can turn a thin actor into a fat Falstaff, or an athletic man into “Crookback” Richard III, Daisy decided to make a washable pad shaped exactly like the missing part of her client’s shoulder.

She made several prototypes, and ultimately came up with one that made her client’s body look more symmetrical. It was light-weight, washable, and attached to a scoop-necked camisole. The cancer survivor could now buy clothing off the rack and wear it without shoulder alterations.

I am filled with admiration for “Daisy,” who saw a need, filled it (and re-purposed her costuming skills.)

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